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Book Review: You Could Do Better by Stephanie Lehmann

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TV trivia and history fans who enjoy summer-style reading will quickly devour this story and its references to TV shows past, present, and fictional. Lehmann introduces us to Daphne Wells, a TV lover who has the perfect job: curator at the Museum of Television and Radio.

Daphne meets Charlie, also a TV aficionado, who has written several unsold TV show pilots. As their relationship develops, Charlie works as an English teacher and has the opportunity to buy his grandmother's house in New Rochelle. He decides to buy the house and propose to Daphne.

But Daphne struggles with the thought of living life like Rob and Laura Petrie in the quiet suburbs of New Rochelle, leaving her love of city life in New York behind. The move would shorten Charlie's commute, but lengthen Daphne's. Throughout the story, we watch Daphne grapple with decisions regarding the wedding, the move, and her life with stable and "good man" Charlie.

A good novel has several dimensions and in this one, we learn of the special relationship between Daphne and her older sister Billie – a bond created by the death of both of their parents in a plane crash.

Meanwhile, we follow her life at the museum and learn about the themes behind each decade of television. Jonathan Hill, the book's version of Steven Boccho or David E. Kelley and television producer of the hot and shallow TV show Supermodels, stops by the museum to look for inspiration as he's run out of creative juice.

As Daphne and Jonathan get to know each other, Daphne hopes to link him with her sister, Billie, who is in a relationship with a married man. In reading about the interactions of the characters, Daphne compares her life to TV shows and lets them get in the way of tuning in to Charlie.

Daphne and Charlie are likeable characters who sometimes disappoint the reader with their imperfect human behavior. Most of the book explores the "compromise" relationship between Daphne and Charlie, the bond between sisters Daphne and Billie, and figuring out what will happen with Jonathan Hill.

The last part of the book feels rushed in an attempt create a conflict, resolve it, and work its way to the ending. The book might do better by condensing the interactions between Daphne and Charlie and prolonging the last bit of the book.

The story contains people with professions that only a lucky few can enter; the tie-in to TV history makes the story different from your average escapist novel. I appreciated Lehmann's attention to details that you won't find in most fiction books — like a character using Spybot. Though it's a small detail, computer users and TV lovers relate to the little things that enhance the story.

The minor faults don't affect the reader's enjoyment of the story, a textbook poolside read that takes only a few hours. I don't read much fiction, and You Could Do Better satisfied my need to read a fantasy, especially since I have an interest in TV history.

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.
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