feel-good women’s fiction
Linda’s Midlife Crisis is a feel-good women’s fiction book about a fifty-year-old woman who decides to turn her her life around. It’s a lighthearted, entertaining read with a sprinkling of suspense, drama, humour, and more than a touch of romance.
Linda’s Midlife Crisis – what the book is about
How does a fifty-year-old woman start a new life?
Meet Linda Lockwood: fifty, fat, frumpy and bullied by her horrible husband Ron and the vile students and principal at the school where she teaches English. But her life is about to undergo a total transformation.
Linda suffers a breakdown after a traumatic classroom incident, and that brings out the worst in Ron and devious principal, Wayne Forsythe. Then she is rocked to discover her husband has a shocking secret.
With her own determination and the help of friends and family, she starts to turn her life around. She begins to succeed, but there are still some more surprises in store Linda.
A feel-good and inspirational romance for older women who love second chances and chick lit.
Here is an early review of Linda’s Midlife Crisis:
5 Stars – Reviewed By Lucinda E Clarke for Readers’ Favorite
Many women find themselves in the same situation as the main character in Linda’s Midlife Crisis by Toni Pike. They put up with an unhappy marriage, reminding themselves of the good times now past. Linda’s husband Ron is abusive, rude, and uncaring. His speech at her fiftieth birthday party shocked everyone, leaving Linda’s self-esteem plummeting even further. But there is always a breaking point and when it is reached, Linda lists the pros and cons of freedom versus the status quo. Further evidence comes to light when she finally decides to face the truth and file for a divorce. But becoming single when you are into your fifth decade may not be so easy. Starting a new life in a new city takes courage as Linda takes on new challenges.
I loved Linda’s Midlife Crisis by Toni Pike. From the moment I began, I didn’t stop. This is an easy-to-read book, and I could relate to her situation and feel her insecurities. I loved the way she deposited her husband’s possessions on the front lawn and phoned him to tell him that rain was forecast. Many readers will relate to her battles with weight loss and reinventing a whole new look in fashion and make-up in later life. This tale gives hope to those approaching middle age that life can begin again and is not only for the young. I was inspired and uplifted by Linda’s metamorphosis. Fifty, frumpy and a few extra kilos is the way Linda describes herself right at the beginning of the book. Her onward journey was a delight to follow. Highly recommended for a beach read, or as a feel-good book.
Here is an excerpt from Linda’s Midlife Crisis
Fifty, frumpy, and a few extra kilos. That summarised Linda Lockwood in a few simple words that always seemed to whirl around in her head. She was dumbfounded when her husband, Ron, suggested a fiftieth birthday party at the China Palace Restaurant. “Don’t you worry, Linda, I’ll organise it and order a birthday cake. I want people to know that I can afford to throw my wife a party. I mean, you don’t turn fifty every day. It’s taken you five decades to get there.”
Ron doing something so expensive and nice for her was so out of character. She should have been on her guard and guessed that there was more to his plan.
There were sixty guests, including her sister, Sue, who drove from Canberra with her husband, Nick, and two daughters. Sue always said that the further she was from Ron the better. They stayed in a five-star hotel in the city because they refused to ever stay in a house with him again after that awful incident eight years ago. Ron was jealous of Sue’s husband and didn’t hold back from criticising him at every opportunity. Then he told Nick that he had more money than sense because he was planning to take his family on a trip to Europe during the school holidays. Nick usually ignored him – but that day he erupted, and it was the only time Linda had ever heard him lose his temper.
Ron booked out the entire restaurant for the party and ordered a five-course banquet and plenty of wine and beer. He insisted on inviting every one of his business colleagues, but all of Linda’s friends were there as well.
That, of course, included her Tuesday Coffee Club: Jan, Debbie and Mary. Jan’s husband, Mike, received a call from the hospital half-way through dinner, and had to race off for an emergency. He apologised profusely, but everyone understood. Mary’s husband, Bill, was in a lot of pain with his back and spent half the evening pinched, drawn and in silent misery.
Ron gave a speech after dinner. He had prepared it carefully, and warned Linda that it was very funny.
He stood at the lectern at nine o’clock, cleared his throat and scanned the room. “I just want to thank everyone for being here tonight to celebrate Linda’s birthday,” he began. “I wanted her to have a big party, because it’s a good way to get everyone together and give them some hospitality. I married Linda when she was twenty-four and looked quite attractive. And of course, way back then, she wore all her eighties fashion. She was very stylish in those days.”
Everyone applauded and Linda hoped that his compliments might continue or even improve. She should have known better.
“Now,” he said. “So many years have gone by and we all look quite different. Linda, I think every year when you had your birthday it was also a celebration of the weight you gained and the way you went downhill.” He stopped to catch his breath.
Nick grimaced in disbelief and called out. “Shut up, Ron, you’re disgusting.”
That was followed by an awkward silence and everyone looked around as if wondering what would happen next. The only sounds were the jangle and clash of saucepans and plates in the kitchen.
Ron was determined to finish. “Quiet, Nick – it’s my wife and my speech,” he said, and then continued. “Linda, every year you needed new clothes so you could fit into them. There is no way you could fit into your wedding dress now. In those days you were quite confident, but every year your weight has gone up and your looks have gone down.”
Debbie, who was always sensitive, burst into tears and then heaved with deep, gasping sobs. Mary and Jan tried to calm her down but she couldn’t seem to stop.
One of his colleagues, Vince Thompson, also called out. “Have you looked in the mirror recently, Ron?” he cried. “People who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Mary’s husband, Bill, somehow got to his feet but let out a moan of pain. “Stop it, Ron – I’m warning you,” he said, trying to interrupt. But then he was in so much pain that he had to leave.
Nothing was going to stop Ron. “I just want to say that you sit around eating too much and watching too much TV. But you’re still my Linda and I hope you have a great birthday.”
Everyone stared at him in shocked silence – and then Vince called out again. “You’re dead drunk, Ron – and that has to be the worst speech in history.”
Everyone laughed, even Linda, although it occurred to her that the speech was nothing compared to the way he behaved at home.
At that moment, two waiters emerged from the kitchen singing Happy Birthday and pushing a huge birthday cake on a trolley. There were sparklers instead of candles and they headed straight for Linda. If it wasn’t for the speech, she knew that could have been one of the happiest moments of her life. She wiped away tears as everyone joined in the chorus, and then cheered as she stood up and cut the cake.
When she opened her eyes the next morning, Ron reminded her that it was now back to normal life. “No more parties for a while, Linda. You need a few more years under your belt to earn another one. But don’t keep gaining weight or we might need a crane to take you there.”
“I’m not that overweight,” she replied.
“That’s what you think.”
Linda reminded herself that it had been a wonderful party apart from her husband’s speech. In spite of his behaviour, he had organised the event and she had been surrounded by loving friends and family who truly cared about her. But nothing is ever perfect and at least right now she felt happy to know that Sunday was his golf day. He was the sort of person who brought joy whenever he departed, a feeling of peace and freedom that lasted until the moment of his return.
She could hardly believe that Ron had thought of a party. She always told herself that birthdays didn’t really matter, but now she knew it meant that she was probably closer to the end of her life than the beginning – and that was a scary thought. She was starting a downhill slide of deterioration, disintegration and falling apart as she and Ron grew older.
Sunday for her was cleaning day and then back to work at school on Monday. She loved the autumn in Sydney with the gentle sunshine and changing leaves. Gazing outside at the neat garden while she ate breakfast, she admired the flaming red leaves of the Japanese maple in the centre of the lawn.
“I’m off then,” said Ron as he walked into the kitchen. “See you later. Hope you enjoyed the party I paid a fortune for last night.” He was the same age as Linda, with ginger hair, bright red skin and a huge stomach.
“Yes, it was wonderful, especially your speech,” replied Linda.
“I’m glad you liked it. Any of that birthday cake left over?”
“Sorry, it was all eaten last night. Everyone’s appetite picked up after you spoke. I had two pieces myself.”
“Trust you to scoff half of it. I couldn’t believe the price of that thing, for a bit of cake and icing and squiggling your name on the top. It takes them about five seconds to do that.”
“I’m sure there’s more to it than that.”
“And all those sparklers stuck on it, like a firestorm when they wheeled it out. It’s a wonder they didn’t set off the smoke alarms.”
“I’m sure the staff know what they’re doing. Good luck with your golf.”
His only response was the front door slamming hard. She felt the tension ease at the thought of five peaceful hours to herself.
Ron was a builder and loved his house more than anything else. They lived in Cordonia, a new development in the north-western suburbs of Sydney. Every house in the new suburb was the latest trend, a box-like concrete-covered fortress with high energy ratings to keep the outside out and the inside in, painted all over in shades of off-white, beige or grey. Each one had automatic garage roller doors and a brightly painted front door. Inside there was a state-of-the-art lighting system, a ducted air-conditioning system and a range of gadgets and devices to keep human effort to a minimum.
She planned to be at home all day so put on a pair of black stretch pants and matching top, and wondered how nice it would be to look in the mirror and think she looked fabulous. Her face was pretty even with its slight pudginess, though she always wore make up whenever she went out. It gave her enough confidence to confront the world, but today she had no need to bother.
As Linda cleaned the house she thought about the love of Ron’s life, the two-level mini-mansion that was now four years old, built with discounts from all the tradesmen that worked with him. She cleaned downstairs first, a gleaming black and white kitchen and huge living and dining area.
As she polished the black granite benchtop, she reminded herself that she was only a few kilos overweight, despite his snide remarks. Then she moved upstairs to clean the large master suite and Ron’s study.
There were also two guest bedrooms that were never needed. Her sister Sue had two daughters and their bedrooms, in their house in Canberra, were decorated in shades of pink and blue and overflowed with life. Clothes, ornaments, posters and books were scattered everywhere. The two spare bedrooms in Linda’s house looked like something out of a real estate brochure, styled and presented for sale: a set of furniture, a lamp and a couple of artfully placed ornaments. The beds were made up, ready for the guests who never came. Sue hadn’t stayed with them since the girls were in primary school, and now they were both at university.
Linda finished cleaning by lunchtime and then watched a movie on TV. Ron arrived home at three o’clock, with a look of gloom as if he’d lost some money. “How was your day?” she asked.
“Don’t ask,” he snapped. “I played like an old woman. That bastard Ivan beat me again, even though he’s so hopeless. I might have to get a couple of lessons to find out what I’m doing wrong.”
“Never mind,” she said lightly. Linda had learned years ago not to enter into the disappointments of a golfer’s life.
“Of course I mind. I’ll be in the study. I’ve got some real work to do, working on my cashflow, not just babysitting kids at school.”
She cooked their usual Sunday night meal of steak and chips with salad coated in generous lashings of mayonnaise.
Ron made elaborate gestures as he cut up the steak on his plate. “What have you been doing all day, Linda? This steak is as dry as old boots. Couldn’t you tenderise it or something?”
She didn’t reply. He usually made comments but always managed to eat it all, and tonight was no different.
“I’m meeting the Binolli Brothers at the pub tonight,” he said as he finished.
“The floor sanders? I thought you met them last week.”
He clenched his jaw. “No, I didn’t. You must be confused. I want to talk about timber flooring for the downstairs areas. People love that these days.”
Ron was a minor property developer. He had recently bought a derelict house on a big block of land in Roseville, knocked it down and now he was building a row of eight townhouses. He hoped to make a killing, as he called it, when they were sold.
He left at seven o’clock and Linda was alone once again. She sighed in relief as if the door of her prison cell had swung wide open, setting her free for a few hours until the guards came back and locked her up again. As his car retreated down the driveway, she smiled to know the evening was hers and it was time for a reward.
She opened the pantry cupboard and stretched her arm up to reach the top shelf. Slipping her hand behind a row of cannisters, she found a small bar of peppermint cream chocolate. Now she could watch her favourite show without a constant diatribe of groans and moans. She made herself comfortable on the sofa and slit open the packet.
Linda went to bed at ten, and after reading for half an hour she fell asleep. Ron sneaked in an hour later, but made so much noise as he got undressed that it woke her up. She kept her eyes closed and didn’t move, hoping he would leave her alone.
“I’m sorry I’m late, but we talked for hours at the pub,” he said in a croaky voice. “I beat them down on price but they wanted the work.”
He must have been drunk because he never apologised when he was sober. Linda suspected he was lying about the pub and the rest of the story, but there was no point asking him for the truth. She made a gentle snoring sound and didn’t reply.
Monday morning was even worse than usual. “I’ve slept in, I’m late,” said Ron with a moan as he stomped around the kitchen. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“This is our normal breakfast time,” replied Linda, putting his mug of tea on the table and hoping he would leave soon.
“I’ve got an early meeting with the plumber on site – ten minutes ago. I told you last night.”
“Perhaps I was asleep.”
“Where’s my cereal?” he snarled, up-ending an empty box of Honey Grains into a bowl. “How could you let it run out? You know it’s the only one I like.”
“Eat some of mine,” said Linda, handing him her toasted muesli. “I’ll get some more Honey Grains on my way home tonight.”
“I hate your garbage.” He grabbed the box and dropped it, spilling the contents on the floor. “Now look what you made me do. Don’t you worry about my breakfast. I’ll buy something on the way to work, as if I have the time.” He headed out the door as Linda got out the dustpan and brush.
Peaceful stillness descended on the house. She swept up the muesli mountain on the floor and thought about how she always looked forward to the peace that came in the eye of a storm. Ron had left for work so the first half of the storm had passed, but she would soon walk into the other half, almost as fierce as his temper.
She did her makeup and put on some black trousers and a loose red and black stretch top. A few minutes later, she backed out of the double garage in her little blue car, a vehicle she trusted much more than her own husband. She waved at her neighbour, whom Ron always called the perfect Heidi King. He envied everyone who was wealthier, smarter, more successful or better looking than he was, and that was a large proportion of the population. Heidi was loading her adorable children into their SUV, and they waved back at Linda with cheerful smiles. The children looked so cute in their uniforms, seven-year-old Clarissa in her grey tunic and little Tristan in a red tie and oversized grey blazer. Heidi looked slender and immaculate in a tight-fitting suit and high heels. Linda loved them and thought how lucky Heidi was to have such a happy family. Even her husband was delightful.
It was a twenty-minute drive to Norwest High School, where Linda had taught English for over twenty years. Long ago she found it exciting to teach. Then she had been brim-full of enthusiasm, eager to arrive at school each day, keenly anticipating every class so she could help her students discover the wonders of English language and literature. Now her old-fashioned training methods were a dinosaur that belonged in the past. She had once been a great teacher, popular with students and respected by the other staff members. Every year, a little gloss had been wiped away and now only a dull, rusted undercoat was left. It was so hard to look forward to a day at school when a riot could break out at any moment and every lesson was like trying to tame a herd of wild beasts.
“Just gird up your loins and put a smile on your face, everyone. Prepare for battle.” That’s what Dave Robinson, the Head of the English Department, said to them every morning when the bell rang at nine o’clock. The staffroom was the only place of comparative peace and safety, and the main topic of conversation was always student behaviour. It was idle gossip that kept most of the teachers sane, and they all agreed that every year the students became exponentially worse, more difficult to teach and more out of control.
Linda had five English classes. Year Eleven and Year Twelve tried to make an effort because they knew their futures were at stake. They struggled, though, with the basic rules of grammar and it was so hard to give them high marks when their essays were full of spelling mistakes and sentences that made no sense. Her Year Ten class could see no reason to do any work because they convinced themselves that only the final two years of school really mattered. The students in the Year Nine Class were the smartest of all, but she struggled with their lack of motivation and constant jibes about why they needed to study English when they could all speak it so well.
Despite their faults, those classes were all manageable, at least most of the time. The real problem, her nightmare that never ended, was the Year Eight Special Class.
The Year Eight Specials were a motley crew of twenty boys and girls who struggled to learn anything for all sorts or reasons and in all sorts of ways. They were feared by everyone and obeyed no one. Linda often thought that perhaps they had been raised in some sort of terrorist training camp, brutalised and taught every possible method to undermine and destroy what was left of civilisation. Or perhaps their ancestors were Viking raiders, trained to loot and pillage wherever they went. Genetics could be a powerful force.
Whatever happened, she wondered, to the good old days? Perhaps her memory was clouded, but once upon a time, long ago, students appeared to be happy, well-adjusted children who respected their teachers and wanted to learn. The behaviour of the Year Eight Specials varied from ordinary rudeness and disobedience to wild rioting. Every imaginable type of awful behaviour could be exhibited in a single lesson. They lacked intelligence and talent, but were brilliant at appalling conduct.
No other teacher wanted them and so Wayne Forsythe, the principal, had insisted on her taking them. “Just do your best, Linda,” he told her. “You know what to do, you’ve been teaching for decades.”
There were two boys in particular whose behaviour exceeded all expectations and everyone’s imagination. Luke Timberson and BJ Hellerton had immense capacity for evil. Despite that, their parents thought they were angels who could do no wrong. They defended them against every charge and refused to support the teachers who tried to maintain discipline and improve behaviour.
Linda had the Year Eight Specials straight after lunch. She ate her sandwich and then bought a candy bar at the school shop. The bell rang to signal that lunch was over and there was no way to avoid the walk upstairs to Classroom 109.
The students, for want of a better word, wandered into the classroom one at a time, overheated and over-excited after an hour of running around the school oval. “A Year Ten boy tried to bash me up, Miss,” said Luke Timberson.
Linda ignored him. “Please sit down, everyone,” she said with a tight throat. The scuffle of chairs as they sat down went on far too long – and it was no surprise that one student remained on his feet. “Good afternoon, Year Eight,” she said. “Please sit down, Luke.”
“Okay, Miss,” he replied.
As he flopped down, she noticed BJ with his pencil case raised high over the head of Tysa Simmons, the girl forced to sit next to him. Linda took a deep breath. “Stop that right now, BJ,” she commanded. The boy lowered his weapon with the least possible haste. For the moment, she was victorious and Tysa had been saved.
Linda continued. “Just to cool down after lunch, we’ll have ten minutes of silent reading, and after that we’ll discuss the new unit of work. While you’re reading, I don’t want to hear a sound.”
They took out their devices and began to read. For a moment, Linda was lulled by the silence into a false sense of security. That lasted for about one minute.
Shouting erupted as five students jumped up and ran around the room. BJ, Luke and three of their friends ran from one side of the classroom to the other as if they were demented.
“Sit down, and behave yourselves,” she said in a stern tone.
“Yes, Mrs Lockwood,” they replied in unison. Then they fell to their knees and crawled to their seats.
“Mrs Lockwood, why do you have so many rolls of fat?” asked BJ.
“More rolls than a bakery,” said Luke. The class erupted into uninhibited laughter that continued for at least three minutes.
Linda fumed, and part of that was the same sense of injustice she always felt at home. She was only a little overweight, but was always the butt of jokes. “See me at the end of the class, Luke and BJ,” she said. “We’re going to speak to Mr Forsythe.”
“But Miss, they haven’t done anything,” said weaselly Craig O’Brien, the class lawyer.
“Enough,” she said firmly. “Everybody quiet right now. Not a single sound from anyone else or you’ll be coming with us to the principal’s office.”
END OF CHAPTER ONE
Thank you for stopping by. My name is Toni Pike, a multi-genre author who loves writing page-turning fiction for adults, non-fiction, and hilarious books for children.
I’m the author of LINDA’S MIDLIFE CRISIS, DESOLATION BLUFF, DEAD DRY HEART and The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series: THE MAGUS COVENANT, THE ROCK OF MAGUS, THE MAGUS EPIPHANY and HOLY SPEAR OF MAGUS.
The Brody Cody Series is for children aged 6-9: BRODY CODY AND THE STEPMOTHER FROM OUTER SPACE and BRODY CODY AND THE HAUNTED VACATION HOUSE.
I’m also the author of two non-fiction books. THE ONE WAY DIET is a no-nonsense guide to losing weight and HAPPY TRAVELS 101 is a short book of travel tips.
All my books can be found HERE.
Please find me online here:
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Text copyright © 2022 Toni Pike
Cover image copyright © 2022 The Cover Collection