Authors: Phoebe Fox
Tags: #dating advice, #rom com, #romantic comedy, #chick lit, #sisterhood, #british chick lit, #relationships
Praise for The Breakup Doctor Series
HEART CONDITIONS (#3)
“Delightful, witty, and chock full of warmth, I loved every page of this novel. Each character’s journey was incredibly engaging and real…Reading this series is like taking a trip to see your best friend, therapist and love guru all in one. Phoebe Fox writes her heart out!”
– Amy FitzHenry,
“As heartwarming as they are humorous—Fox’s books offer more than the usual chick lit fare, with a lot of heart and a smart, relatable heroine in Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden.”
— Sarah Bird,
The Boyfriend School
“Just the thing to put a smile on my face and I would heartily recommend a dose of this when you’re
– The Book Magnet
BEDSIDE MANNERS (#2)
“Love this humorous chick lit that highlights how our own adversities and challenges can create opportunities and passion for helping others—I so related to the Breakup Doctor!”
— Kimberly Seltzer,
Dating & Makeover Expert and Recovering Therapist
“Phoebe Fox has given us characters that are lovably fallible, funny, and frazzled, and has proven that when it comes to love and relationships of any kind, even the sanest of us get a little crazy.”
— Elisa Lorello,
Bestselling Author of
Why I Love Singlehood
“A fantastic addition to The Breakup Doctor Series—I highly recommend this novel!”
— Jill Knapp,
We’ve Always Got New York
THE BREAKUP DOCTOR (#1)
“A heartwarming and funny story about friendship, romance, and the heart-wrenching reality of breakups—while busting out some spot-on dating advice along the way.”
— Liz Tuccillo,
Executive Story Editor of HBO’s
Sex and the City
“A pleasure from beginning to end.
The Breakup Doctor
is as wise as it is funny.”
— Sherry Thomas,
Bestselling Author of
The Luckiest Lady in London
“Well-paced, entertaining and easy to get into…a thoroughly enjoyable, light chick lit read; perfect to pick up when you’re going through a breakup or some relationship trouble yourself, because this story will undoubtedly put a smile on your face.”
A Spoonful of Happy Endings
“Humor, romance, and wonderful breakup advice…I was expecting a lighthearted chick lit story, which it is, but it is also so much more…delightful…sharp, snarky, funny, and fast-paced.”
“Fascinating, funny and sometimes heartbreaking…Brilliantly written (and with some cracking advice if you find yourself experiencing relationship problems of your own…), this is a warm, witty, light and hugely enjoyable read.”
Books in the Breakup Doctor Series
by Phoebe Fox
THE BREAKUP DOCTOR (#1)
BEDSIDE MANNERS (#2)
HEART CONDITIONS (#3)
OUT OF PRACTICE (#4)
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The Breakup Doctor Series
Part of the Henery Press Chick Lit Collection
Trade paperback edition | February 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Copyright © 2016 by Phoebe Fox
Author Photograph by Amber A. Novak
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Related subjects include: romantic comedy, rom com, chick lit, dating advice, relationships, sisterhood.
Trade paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-53-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-56-4
Digital epub ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-54-0
Kindle ISBN-13: 978-1-943390-55-7
Printed in the United States of America
For Brinks, my first soul mate.
And for Joel, my forever one.
Maybe other authors can turn out their stories in total isolation, but—literally—not in my book. For me, each book is a result of the trusted, indispensable advisers who generously help push me to create the best story I can. Here’s how that happens:
My magnificent critique group are the first eyes on anything I write. John J. Asher, Kelly Harrell, and Amber Novak—all talented authors in their own right who grace me with their insight and abilities—are like human X-rays, looking deep into my first draft and showing me exactly where the bones are broken or missing or utterly misaligned. Pennies, I don’t think I could ever write without you, and I hope I never have to.
Next is my indefatigable agent, Superagent Courtney Miller-Callihan of SJGA. Some writers are lucky enough to have an agent who believes in them and their writing and will tirelessly champion it into publication. I have all that, plus a beta reader with a sharp, keen eye who will read my revised draft and, with great charm and diplomacy, point out places where it’s still not quite there yet.
Finally, the ridiculously supportive, hardworking, enthusiastic team at Henery Press reads over my final (hahaha!) draft. My editor Erin George not only offers tactful yet unflinchingly honest feedback about what’s not working, but she’ll brainstorm with me ’til we figure out how to fix it…in yet another revision (or three). She pushes me to the limits of my abilities and then beyond, so that with each book I feel she not only makes the story the best we can make it, but helps me grow as a writer. Editor Kendel Lynn and cofounder/EVP Art Molinares have created a happy Hen House full of knowledge and experience, support, enthusiasm, and a ton of fun, where a lucky writer like me feels she’s found the perfect publishing home.
When I was an actor, I was always stunned at the talent and dedication of the crew on film and commercial shoots, in theater productions, etc. These unsung heroes get none of the glory of the folks onstage, yet they’re there long before the actors arrive and long after we leave, making everything possible. I feel the same way about all the people who make it possible for me to pursue a career I love so much: my genius crit partners, insightful agent, and keen-eyed editors; the book bloggers, reviewers, and kind fans who help get books into readers’ hands; and always, readers, without whom books never come to life.
My family—of origin, marriage, and my family of friends by choice—offers so much love and support, they make it pretty well impossible for me to be a tortured artist. Our dearly loved dogs, SecurityDog and GiantLapdog, are the direct inspiration and models for Jake and Winston, and add bottomless love, laughter, and Zen wisdom to my life every day.
And of course, last and never least, my husband, Joel. The faith, love, and support you show me—without falter or fail—humble me. And you are one funny mother—Shut your mouth! None of this means anything without you.
Every time, I hoped this would be the day it wouldn’t happen. But when I caught sight of the tall, lean figure standing near the picnic tables and grills of Lakes Park, a familiar ache shot through me.
I sighed. Clearly not today.
Ben looked great in a button-down oxford in a light green I knew from memory would bring out the deeper tones in his hazel eyes, and dark-wash jeans clung to his legs with an attentiveness I could understand. Next to him, Jake was straining the leash in every direction, sniffing all the scents the park offered him like a junkie in a crack den.
Jake saw me before Ben did, his vaunted Pyrenees hearing catching the sound of my car door as I stepped out, and the dog nearly pulled Ben off his feet trying to get to me. I lifted a hand to Ben as we walked toward each other.
“Hi,” I said when I got closer.
Ben was better at conjuring a smile than I was. “Hi.”
I braced myself for the giant dog’s greeting, but to my surprise he didn’t plunge his nose between my legs, as was his usual delicate way, but sat at my feet, only his furiously swishing tail giving away his excitement.
“Good, Jake,” I said, looking into his eyes instead of Ben’s.
The dog’s tail wagged so hard I worried he’d leave a fan shape indented into the asphalt, and I couldn’t contain myself any longer either. “How’s Jakie?” I crooned, dropping to a crouch to ruffle his ears. “How’s my boy?” I wrapped my arms around him, hiding my face for a moment in his long fur as Jake shoved a nose into my neck and then pulled back to gaze at me with a joyful open-mouthed smile, and for just that second everything felt right.
“Thanks for this, Brook,” Ben said above me. “With Mom gone, I wasn’t sure what to do with him.”
The moment was over, reality bursting back in. I stood and finally met his eyes. “How’s Adelaide doing—have you heard from her since she left?”
“I got an email from her yesterday. She met two women at a poker tournament onboard and they’ve already gotten pretty tight, it sounds like. Last I heard they were headed to go dancing in the ship’s club.”
“That’s awesome. I’m so glad she’s having fun.”
He looked at me, familiar smile lines crinkling beside his eyes, and I had to look back down at the dog. “You know she credits you for this, right? She says if you hadn’t ‘stayed all over her back’—her words, not mine—about dating again, she’d never have done a singles’ cruise.”
“She’d have dated eventually,” I said with a shrug.
“Well, she didn’t ’til she started hanging out with the Breakup Doctor. So thanks.”
Adelaide and I hadn’t “hung out” for quite some time. The last I saw her, her face had been drawn into tight lines of disappointment. “I hope she has fun,” I said.
Ben reached to hand me the leash and our fingers brushed. For a heartbeat there was only that warm touch, the shushing of the palms in the February breeze, the whirring coos of mourning doves, the distant sounds of traffic from Gladiolus—and the steady gaze of those familiar hazel eyes.
Jake’s ear-piercing bark shattered the moment, and we both followed the dog’s alert focus on Ben’s truck, where a willowy redhead now stood in the open passenger door, shielding her eyes against the yellow sun, waving when she saw us looking.
“Well…I guess we need to get going,” Ben said. “I’ll get you Jake’s things.”
I made another smile happen across my lips. “I’ll come get them. I can say hi to Pamela.”
Ben’s girlfriend was the kind of woman you never, ever want the ex you still have very complicated feelings for—despite the fact that it was you who torpedoed the relationship—to date. The perfect height—an inch or two above average, but not so tall that men were threatened by her. Slim as a prepubescent boy, but with the full, perfect round breasts of a Madonna. Long red hair with a slight curl. Vivid green eyes and teeth so perfect, you would have asked for the name of her orthodontist, except that you already know she never wore braces a day in her life.
You know this only because you actually
ask for the name of her orthodontist the first time you met her, because your blabbering tongue wouldn’t stay in your mouth with your nervousness upon meeting the perfect specimen who replaced you, and you vomited out a number of inane comments like this, and she answered with a disarming smile so appealing that you yourself felt a little stirring of attraction to her, despite the fact that you are solidly heterosexual, and she said with charming self-deprecation, “Believe it or not, I never had braces—my parents have these ridiculously straight teeth they passed on to all us kids.”
And you liked her. Despite how much you desperately, desperately wanted to hate her.
Oh—and it turns out she’s
a brain surgeon
. For real. On kids. A pediatric brain surgeon with a supermodel’s body and the soul of Mother Teresa.
“Hi, Pamela!” I called out as we approached her, my tone overly enthusiastic in the quiet morning.
But of course she didn’t point that out. “Hi, Brook. Nice to see you. Looks like Jake is thrilled to see you too.” She flashed her perfect teeth.
“He’s the best,” I said over the stupid lump in my throat, tangling my fingers into the ruff at his neck.
“We need to get going,” Ben said, clearly uncomfortable. In his defense, with our history he had every reason to expect me to be a loose cannon. He opened the back hatch. “Is this enough food? I can leave you some money if you need to—”
“We’re fine.” I waved him off, accepting the bag of Jake’s current favorite toys—he went through them pretty quickly with those piranha fangs of his—as Ben picked up half a thirty-pound bag of dog food.
“Let me carry this to your car for you,” he said, but I reached for the bag with my free hand.
“No, you guys go—you don’t want to miss your flight.”
Pamela glanced down at her watch and made an adorable little mew of concern in her throat. On me it would have sounded like hawking up a loogie. “You’re right.” She stepped gracefully back into the car with a wave. “Have fun, Brook!”
guys have fun, Pamela!” I sang.
She must’ve thought I was manic, but Pamela never showed it.
Ben gave me a warm smile that for a while I’d feared I’d never see again, and something uncoiled in my stomach. “Thanks again, Brook. It eases my mind to know Jake’s in such good hands.”
“I’m glad to do it.”
I meant that. Even though helping Ben out meant sending him off on what I was sure would be an über-romantic getaway to New York City with a goddess.
“Okay…well.” He patted his pocket for his keys, a gesture so like my dad I wanted to hug him.
But we weren’t there yet—if we ever would be—and I was grateful the food and leash I held literally took the awkward decision out of my hands.
“Get going, you,” I said lightly. “I’ll see you Thursday night.”
Ben gave one last pet to Jake’s smooth head, and a small wave to me, and then I watched their taillights turn left onto Gladiolus toward Six Mile Cypress and the airport, grateful to let my tired face muscles relax from their perma-smile. It would get easier.
For all that Ben and I were finally beginning to knit together a fragile sort of friendship after almost six months of total radio silence, it was hard to see him, knowing that we’d lost the closeness we’d once had. Harder still to see him with Perfect Pamela.
I rolled down the windows so Jake and I could both breathe in the orange blossom-scented air as we pulled onto Gladiolus, letting my anxiety recede. It was typical February weather for Florida, about seventy-three degrees and cloudless, with not a drop of humidity. This was why snowbirds flocked here when the Northeast got socked in by winter.
As soon as we pulled into my neighborhood Jake’s tail started swishing madly, and I buried my fingers in his fur with a smile. Having him back, even for a short time, made up for some of what I’d lost with Ben.
Inside I scattered the dog toys, filled Jake’s water dish, and let him outside to frolic around in my fenced yard, where he eagerly proceeded to deepen the impressive hole he’d started digging so many months ago—when I used to keep him during the week while Ben worked a job in Cedar Key—as if he’d never been gone.
I wished I could be as adaptable as Jake.
The sound of the doorbell drew me back inside. Sasha and Stu had taken to bringing over breakfast on weekends more often than not, and helping me with the endless renovations my extreme fixer-upper of a house required. Glad to be distracted from my own agitated thoughts, I left the sliding glass doors open as I crossed to the front door and pulled it open with a welcoming smile.
And came face-to-face with the main reason I’d screwed everything up with Ben.
Michael. The man I hadn’t seen since he’d dumped me by phone two years ago.
A month before we made it to the altar.