KIRKUS & BLUE-INK REVIEWS

A Kirkus Review – January 9, 2021 “Learning to Dance in the Rain II – Surviving Grief, Internet Dating and Romance Scams”

After the death of her husband, a woman learns to navigate grief, independence, and online dating in this memoir/self-help book. In 2000, Wagner and her husband, Bob, moved from Michigan into their ‘retirement dream home’ in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. Only six years later, Bob was diagnosed with cancer, and after 10 years of difficult treatments, the author was a widow, alone in the house that she and her spouse had built together. She moved back to Michigan to be closer to other members of her family and was faced with the prospect of reinventing her life without her beloved partner—a task that required courage, soul-searching, and getting to know herself again as an individual. As she contemplated dating in her 70s, she formulated strategies that she decided she wanted to share with others her age seeking romance and intimacy. In this book, she begins by exploring what she sees as the differences in men’s and women’s thought patterns and then progresses to explaining the nuts and bolts of dating websites. As a result, the story of Wagner’s second act quickly transforms into an intimate self-help resource for elders determined to survive and thrive. She peppers her warm, personal narrative with lists of useful questions and suggestions for those who may be emerging from long-term relationships and need help rediscovering themselves. It also explains a dating world that’s very different from the one that Wagner’s target audience navigated decades ago. She approaches her readers with understanding and empathy, offering gleanings from a variety of references. Even the shyest widow or widower is likely to be engaged by her approach to online dating, which defines email, texting, and online chat and provides exhaustive pointers for avoiding scammers. Her willingness to reveal her own experiences of being swindled by prospective “dates” is appealingly frank, as well, although it does work against the hopeful attitude she tries to cultivate elsewhere.

A lively guide for late-in-life singles. Kirkus Review
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A BlueInk Review – August 18, 2021 – “Learning to Dance in the Rain II – Surviving Grief, Internet Dating and Romance Scams”

When Shelby Wagner’s husband died suddenly, she suffered not only the pain of loss but, upon re-entering the dating world, the trauma of deceit. An update of her book’s first edition released in 2018, Learning to Dance in the Rain II is the retired teachers’ attempt to help others, especially seniors, avoid the scams that took her by surprise. The book is divided into four main sections: the loss and its immediate aftermath, transition to a new life, dating again, and cautionary words about predatory paramours. It’s essentially a how-to guide with exercises and tips ranging from hot to determine your positive traits to how to talk to grown children who object to a widowed parent dating again.

Despite the book’s easy-to-follow format, the early chapters often read like a “this happened, then this” diary. The storytelling falls flat, with mundane details about funeral arrangements and Wagner moving in with her daughter that siphon off the emotions such event warrant. “Used to my husband being around all the time, I was lonely, and I missed him,” she writes without sharing specific moments. In the next chapter, Wagner reveals her nervousness about taking up line dancing in jus a few paragraphs void of dialogue and description, especially disappointing given the book’s title.

Eventually, it’s clear that her no-nonsense style simply reflects the spunky personality of someone who would rather move forward than dwell in the past. The advice area is undoubtedly where she excels: “[The internet] gives you the chance to practice your flirting skills; “If you get a text message or email from a stranger telling you they love you, it is an automatic red flag . . .” In perhaps her most vulnerable revelation, Wagner includes actual posts from scammers with whom she corresponded online.

If you’re looking for comfort and solace, this may not be your best bet. But if you need someone to shoot it straight with big-sisterly warnings, this book should fill the bill.

Available in paperback, hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook. — A BlueInk Review

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