Lenora Stone is a thirty-eight-year-old photographer who has worked for Baltimore Scene, a magazine about local events and personalities, for the past ten years. Her demanding boss, Dawna, is getting closer and closer to saying the “f” word — fired — because Lenora has lost interest in her job and has been habitually tardy and inattentive. But Lenora can’t afford to lose her job because her decade-old car needs numerous repairs and is on the verge of failing her completely and her small condominium’s market value has plunged below the principal balance of the mortgage. Worse, the mortgage’s adjustable interest rate has recently caused the amount of her monthly payment to increase, and she has a stack of credit card bills that she cannot pay.
For the past three years, Lenora has been dating Gerald, a steady, dependable, and hard-working professional who is struggling to make his new public relations firm a success despite the economic times. Two years ago, Gerald had an affair with an old flame, but Lenora forgave him. Lenora wants to marry Gerald, but he is unwilling to make a permanent commitment to her. Their relationship has become comfortable, predictable, and less intimate than in its early days. And lately Gerald has been spending a lot of evenings away from Lenora, claiming that he is in meetings or having dinner with potential clients.
While Gerald remains singularly devoted to his business, Lenora finds herself uncontrollably drawn to and daydreaming about Raymond Slater, a husband, twenty-something landscaper she photographed for the magazine. When Ray approaches her about creating a promotional brochure for his company, Lenora cannot turn down an opportunity to spend more time with him, telling herself that their relationship will be purely professional.
Lenora’s life changes the instant she realizes that her weekly habit of buying a few lottery tickets has finally paid off. Not only did she win the jackpot, she was the only winner which means that she will collect the entire five million dollar prize! Suddenly, Lenora is able to indulge all of her fantasies — and she does, purchasing a new BMW, mansion, and photography studio in short succession. But Lenora soon realizes that her financial status isn’t the only thing that has changed. Gerald is miraculously ready to settle down, Ray also pursues her, and she is welcomed into social circles where she was previously shunned.
But for Lenora, the things that really matter seem to still be beyond her reach. With her life falling apart, despite her seemingly good fortune, Lenora has to evaluate whether the changes in her lifestyle are worth the toll they are taking on her life.
Author Connie Briscoe puts a modern spin on an age-old question: Is wealth a blessing or a curse? Money Can’t Buy Love is a fast-paced, highly entertaining and ultimately poignant exploration of that question.
Lenora Stone has struggled financially for years. Like so many Americans, she was finally able to purchase a home, only to see its value plummet more rapidly than the principal balance of the mortgage, and short-sightedly agreed to an adjustable interest rate never expecting her monthly payment to increase to its current amount. Worse, because of the economic climate, in past few years she has not received the raises or bonuses she counted on when she bought the condominium. Every month, she has to decide which bills she can pay and which she can ignore a while longer.
Her boss, Dawna, is surly, demanding, manipulative, and thoroughly fed up with Lenora’s lackadaisical attitude toward her work. The only reason Dawna hasn’t terminated Lenora’s employment is because she is a talented photographer — one of the best in the area. But Dawna and Lenora’s relationship is growing increasingly tempestuous, as Dawna demands steady, timely attendance at work from Lenora, while Lenora resents the belittling and condescending manner in which Dawna speaks to her.
Of course, Lenora never really believed that she would win the lottery’s biggest prize, the jackpot. Although Gerald told her that she was wasting her money on tickets each week, she persisted with the hope of winning just a small prize that would bring her a slight respite from her financial woes. When she realizes that she has won the five million dollar jackpot, her reaction is thoroughly believable: She is shocked, excited, and then becomes ill for several days as she contemplates the way in which the money will change every aspect of her life.
Briscoe’s depiction of a woman who is suddenly transformed from having virtually no assets to being a millionaire is compelling, entertaining, and compassionate. Lenora is human, flawed. Naturally, the first thing she buys is her dream car. Next she contemplates the purchase of her dream house, even as Gerald warns her to consult a financial planner and reserve at least half of her winnings to be wisely invested. Gerald frequently tells Lenora that she is making decisions and spending her winnings too rapidly, especially when she leaves her job and is determined to open her own photography studio despite her lack of business plan or a tangible vision for the enterprise. Lenora is like the proverbial kid in the candy store with regard to material items, as well as her relationships. Headstrong and empowered by her new financial independence, Briscoe crafts a believable story of a woman clearly headed for financial and emotional ruin.
The story moves quickly, as Lenora discovers that her friends’ attitudes toward her have changed, she has been too open in her dealings with the media, and long-lost relatives appear seeking charity. When Lenora’s friends tell her that she has also changed, she does not believe them. As the action pulses toward the book’s conclusion, readers will want to know if Lenora will ever realize just how much she has changed in such a short period of time and, more importantly, what she will do when she comes to appreciate how she has evolved — in both good and bad ways — since becoming a millionaire.
Lenora, so desperate for love, acceptance, and security, is frustratingly selfish and self-centered, yet empathetic, as are the other characters in the story, including Gerald. Money Can’t Buy Love is a thoughtful exploration of values, ethics, and priorities. Briscoe’s lucky-yet-unlucky protagonist eventually discovers that she must decide what matters most to her, and will bring her true happiness and peace: Money and the things it can buy or life’s intangibles upon which no price tag can be affixed. Money Can’t Buy Love is a fast-paced, sometimes humorous, heart-warming morality play that will have readers hoping that Lenora finally finds the kind of love than no amount of money can buy.