Title: Flirting with Fifty
Author: Jane Porter
Released: May 24, 2022
It has been a while since I have read a Berkeley title by New York Times Bestselling Author Jane Porter, and I am thrilled that she has this new book, Flirting with Fifty, out now, with a follow-up called Flirting with the Beast coming in November.
I do not read many romance novels because I have not been fortunate in love and gave up hope of finding my soulmate long ago. As someone flirting with sixty, I am cynical and jaded after being hurt by men too many times. I prefer spending time with friends, attending concerts, writing visceral poetry, reading literature, and watching dark, fantasy, supernatural or period dramas on TV. I am independent, self-reliant and comfortable with being single rather than dating from the truly cringe-inducing shallow pool of uninteresting men in my age group where I live.
As a result, although I have never been married, I can relate to Porter‘s heroine in this book. Paige Newsome is a professor of math and statistics at UC Berkeley and a divorced mother of three grown daughters, each of whom lives in various parts of the US. Her best friend, Elizabeth, is always there for her, her career is fulfilling, and she has interests outside of work. Her life is full. Paige doesn’t think anything is missing in her life. Then she’s coerced into a co-teaching assignment for a semester that includes an exciting field trip to Tanzania. The other teacher is a charismatic, celebrity professor whom she had a one-night stand with thirty years earlier when she was an insecure, inexperienced student.
I had a one-night stand almost twenty years ago in Ireland that unravelled me with its unexpected, exciting perfection. If that Black Irish, early 2000s, Johnny Depp-reminiscent social worker ever found his way in front of me again, I would feel like forty-nine-year-old divorcée Paige does when she realizes that the well-known Princeton tenured professor of biology (who has a show on the Discovery channel) she will be teaching with is her long lost one-night stand from Paris.
Jack King is everything a woman like me wants in a romantic interest: intelligent, interesting, successful, confident, handsome, and comfortable in his skin. And I won’t forget to mention his Aussie accent. That kind of man would make most women’s hearts skip a beat. And I love that he “believes value comes from accomplishments and not acquisitions.” However, at fifty-five, not even perfect guys come without baggage. Jack’s career demands a lot of travel; his twenty-eight-year-old son, Oliver, is his heart, and he never remarried after his wife died of ovarian cancer. He also never committed to his longtime, on-again, off-again lover and colleague, Camille. So could he possibly commit to Paige?
What I love about Porter’s writing is that she writes so authentically for her audience and makes storytelling appear effortless. Her characters are richly and carefully developed personalities with flaws that we understand and relate to. When Paige and Jack talk about their children, the meaning of parenthood for each is evident. All of Paige’s insecurities about her body and sex are mine. Porter knows her settings and characters intimately, and readers can sense her love for them. Most of all, I love that Jane’s stories make me dream again about abandoned possibilities for later-life love. I know I have to leave Kingston for it to be possible, and Porter almost makes me believe I can do it and that true love could lurk around the next corner. Like Paige, I ask myself, “Why couldn’t she try different things without obsessing about the negatives or the future?” And could I make new friends at this stage of life who would not only have time for me but have my back? We will never know the answers to such questions if we don’t take a risk.
Sometimes we long “to be greedy and want more. More adventure. More fun. More change. More new, fresh, interesting.” And we won’t get it if we don’t start by doing something different. However, being genuinely tired, disappointed, and exhausted by life does stand in the way of risk-taking in the future. Fortunately, there is safety in living vicariously through Jane Porter‘s thoughtful, romantic books.