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Better Luck Next Time

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The eagerly anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno. It’s 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the “divorce capital of the world,” Reno, Nevada. There’s one catch: they The eagerly anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno. It’s 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the “divorce capital of the world,” Reno, Nevada. There’s one catch: they have to wait six-weeks to become “residents.” Many of these wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees flock to the Flying Leap, a dude ranch that caters to their every need.  Twenty-four-year-old Ward spent one year at Yale before his family lost everything in the Great Depression; now he’s earning an honest living as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. Admired for his dashing good looks—“Cary Grant in cowboy boots”—Ward thinks he’s got the Flying Leap’s clients all figured out. But two new guests are about to upend everything he thinks he knows: Nina, a St Louis heiress and amateur pilot back for her third divorce, and Emily, whose bravest moment in life was leaving her cheating husband back in San Francisco and driving herself to Reno. A novel about divorce, marriage, and everything that comes in between (money, class, ambition, and opportunity), Better Luck Next Time is a hilarious yet poignant examination of the ways friendship can save us, love can destroy us, and the family we create can be stronger than the family we come from.


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The eagerly anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno. It’s 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the “divorce capital of the world,” Reno, Nevada. There’s one catch: they The eagerly anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno. It’s 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the “divorce capital of the world,” Reno, Nevada. There’s one catch: they have to wait six-weeks to become “residents.” Many of these wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees flock to the Flying Leap, a dude ranch that caters to their every need.  Twenty-four-year-old Ward spent one year at Yale before his family lost everything in the Great Depression; now he’s earning an honest living as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. Admired for his dashing good looks—“Cary Grant in cowboy boots”—Ward thinks he’s got the Flying Leap’s clients all figured out. But two new guests are about to upend everything he thinks he knows: Nina, a St Louis heiress and amateur pilot back for her third divorce, and Emily, whose bravest moment in life was leaving her cheating husband back in San Francisco and driving herself to Reno. A novel about divorce, marriage, and everything that comes in between (money, class, ambition, and opportunity), Better Luck Next Time is a hilarious yet poignant examination of the ways friendship can save us, love can destroy us, and the family we create can be stronger than the family we come from.

30 review for Better Luck Next Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Do you know about the divorce ranches in Reno, Nevada? This is the second or third book I’ve read in the last couple years that focuses on the “Reno Cure,” in the “divorce capital of the world, where women would travel to Nevada for a quickie divorce. Better Luck Next Time is such a fun blend of a book: historical fiction, quirky characters, lots of humor, a bit of a twist, and even some romance. But this book isn’t really about the divorces. It’s about friendship, love, and second chances and la Do you know about the divorce ranches in Reno, Nevada? This is the second or third book I’ve read in the last couple years that focuses on the “Reno Cure,” in the “divorce capital of the world, where women would travel to Nevada for a quickie divorce. Better Luck Next Time is such a fun blend of a book: historical fiction, quirky characters, lots of humor, a bit of a twist, and even some romance. But this book isn’t really about the divorces. It’s about friendship, love, and second chances and larger than life characters share their stories. Better Luck Next Time is a slower-building, character-driven story, and I enjoyed the time I invested in getting to know them all! I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    I always welcome the opportunity to read a historical fiction book that does not take place during World War 2 as that seems to dominate the genre. A story revolving around a 1930s dude ranch in Nevada where wealthy women come to stay as they await their divorce paperwork to be finalized was certainly enough to convince me to check this one out. An interesting idea and I appreciate the author's attempt to bring something different to the genre. Unfortunately, I can't say I loved the actual readi I always welcome the opportunity to read a historical fiction book that does not take place during World War 2 as that seems to dominate the genre. A story revolving around a 1930s dude ranch in Nevada where wealthy women come to stay as they await their divorce paperwork to be finalized was certainly enough to convince me to check this one out. An interesting idea and I appreciate the author's attempt to bring something different to the genre. Unfortunately, I can't say I loved the actual reading experience of it all. Way back when, Reno, Nevada was known as the divorce capital of the world. If you wanted a quickie divorce, you stayed in the state for 6 weeks in order to become a "resident", and there you go, divorce granted. In 1938, Ward was 24 years old and working as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap dude ranch. Nina and Emily are two of the guests staying at the ranch as they are both going through the process of divorcing their husbands. Nina is an amateur pilot and a frequent guest at this ranch as she is back for her third divorce. Emily left her husband in San Francisco to kick him to the curb so to speak, but it also meant leaving her daughter behind as well. The story doesn't have much action and that's part of the reason it was a slow read for me. The main issue though was I struggled with my interest level in the characters. Every single one fell flat, including Nina, who I believe was set up to be the fascinating one of the bunch. I wanted to feel more invested in their lives. Having said that, when I finally finished the book, I had a much better understanding of what the author was trying to accomplish with the story. There are complex layers to each character but it doesn't come across very well until you have the time to sit back and reflect. So while it is frustrating it wasn't that much of a fun read at the time, I do think I got something of value from the experience. Thank you to William Morrow for sending me an advance copy of this book! All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    I wasn't sure I'd like this as it looked a bit too romancey for me but I really loved it. Perhaps because my grandmother was a black-jack dealer in Reno and was divorced during this same time period? For whatever reason it worked for me in a comforting way...like watching an old black and white film. I wasn't sure I'd like this as it looked a bit too romancey for me but I really loved it. Perhaps because my grandmother was a black-jack dealer in Reno and was divorced during this same time period? For whatever reason it worked for me in a comforting way...like watching an old black and white film.

  4. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    3.75 Cowboy Stars Exploring the world of a Reno ranch in the late 1930s when women seeking divorces would stay for six weeks to speed up the process! This one is from the point of view from a young and handsome ranch hand who was asked to work as much as possible with his shirt off! There are some memorable characters with big personalities in this one and a bit of romance thrown in too. Many of the women were wealthy and some were on multiple divorces! Our narrator, Ward, is a hard-working ranch 3.75 Cowboy Stars Exploring the world of a Reno ranch in the late 1930s when women seeking divorces would stay for six weeks to speed up the process! This one is from the point of view from a young and handsome ranch hand who was asked to work as much as possible with his shirt off! There are some memorable characters with big personalities in this one and a bit of romance thrown in too. Many of the women were wealthy and some were on multiple divorces! Our narrator, Ward, is a hard-working ranch hand and frequently is called upon to drive the ladies to town and lead them on horseback rides. He sees the women fleeing cheating husbands and others that still seem to love their husbands. An interesting historical fiction tale focused on a bit if history I didn’t know much about at all! This one made for a great break in between heavier reads. Thank you to Book Club Girls/William Morrow/Custom House and NetGalley for my complimentary copy. This one is set to release 1.5.2021.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diana | Book of Secrets

    2.5 Stars — Set in 1938, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME gives a snap shot of life on a Nevada dude ranch for out-of-state wealthy women seeking a quickie divorce. They simply live there for six weeks to establish residency, and then they’re free. The story is told through Ward’s eyes, a young man working as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. He becomes entangled in the drama and shenanigans of two clients, Emily and Nina, one leaving a cheating husband in San Francisco, and the other an heiress working on d 2.5 Stars — Set in 1938, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME gives a snap shot of life on a Nevada dude ranch for out-of-state wealthy women seeking a quickie divorce. They simply live there for six weeks to establish residency, and then they’re free. The story is told through Ward’s eyes, a young man working as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. He becomes entangled in the drama and shenanigans of two clients, Emily and Nina, one leaving a cheating husband in San Francisco, and the other an heiress working on divorce number three. The unique premise grabbed my attention, because I love 20th century historical fiction, especially pre-WWII. While the book had plenty of charm, overall it wasn’t a good fit for me. Maybe humorous fiction isn’t my cup of tea? I did enjoy watching the friendship grow between the unlikely pair of Emily and Nina, though their relationship didn’t end up how I expected it to, and at times they were hard to take. The book begins in 1988, with Ward in a nursing home telling what happened the year of 1938 at the Flying Leap to an unknown character. At times I would forget that I was in Ward’s head, with him just describing what was going on with other characters. Then he would go off on a tangent about something else, which was jarring. I think this was a case of loving the premise, and not the execution. BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME has a lot of heart, and mixes comic relief into the sad & stressful situation of these characters. Maybe not as enjoyable as I thought it would be, but I know many readers will love it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    "There really is no predicting whether the person you marry will be a keeper, is there?" Dr. Howard Stovall Bennett III "Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today . . ." Tammy Wynette Once upon a time there was one way to easily dissolve a not-so-happily-ever-after marriage, and it involved establishing residency in Reno, Nevada for six weeks. So many women made a beeline for the state, that a small industry sprang up to accommodate their needs as they waited to become separated from their spouses. Se "There really is no predicting whether the person you marry will be a keeper, is there?" Dr. Howard Stovall Bennett III "Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today . . ." Tammy Wynette Once upon a time there was one way to easily dissolve a not-so-happily-ever-after marriage, and it involved establishing residency in Reno, Nevada for six weeks. So many women made a beeline for the state, that a small industry sprang up to accommodate their needs as they waited to become separated from their spouses. Set in 1938, this tale involves a small group of soon-to-be-divorcees living at a dude ranch. Two women in particular, shy Emily, and ballsy Nina, jump to the forefront, and most of the action revolves around their antics as they become fast friends and confidantes. The story is told, fifty years after the fact, by Ward, one of the "cowboys" on the ranch. Though I had my doubts going in, I gotta admit to really enjoying this one. It was the perfect combination of humor and drama, with just the right amount of quirkiness thrown in for fun. Now I've got to go looking for Johnson's first book while I wait for whatever she dreams up next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    In response to the Great Depression, Nevada did two things to turbocharge its economy: legalize gambling and reduce the waiting time to grant a divorce from the national standard sixth months to "only" six weeks. Luxury ranches sprang up in response to this, catering to wealthy women who wanted to end their current marriage. Better Luck Next Time is a love story set in one of these commercial monuments to the end of love. Not surprisingly, it isn't always a happy story, but I really enjoyed seve In response to the Great Depression, Nevada did two things to turbocharge its economy: legalize gambling and reduce the waiting time to grant a divorce from the national standard sixth months to "only" six weeks. Luxury ranches sprang up in response to this, catering to wealthy women who wanted to end their current marriage. Better Luck Next Time is a love story set in one of these commercial monuments to the end of love. Not surprisingly, it isn't always a happy story, but I really enjoyed several things about it. First, the characters are all well drawn, complex, interesting people who I enjoyed getting to know and learn about. Second, the narrator is a smart, folksy, friendly man telling this story from the end of his life, which gives the story an air of wisdom, nostalgia, and slight melancholy. Finally, one of the messages of this book is that love is hard to find and keep so grasp it when you can, but even if you can't hold it, life does go on. That's a message that is both positive and sad, poignant and true, and one I can get fully behind. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    3.5 stars. Better Luck Next Time , Julia Claiborne Johnson's new book, is a fun and poignant look at marriage, divorce, friendship, love, and finding yourself. In 1938, if women wanted a quick divorce they had to go to Reno, Nevada, where after a six-week stay which gave them residency, their divorce would be granted. Some of the wealthier women stayed at the Flying Leap, a dude ranch (also known as a “divorce ranch”), where they could enjoy pampering and companionship until their six-week time 3.5 stars. Better Luck Next Time , Julia Claiborne Johnson's new book, is a fun and poignant look at marriage, divorce, friendship, love, and finding yourself. In 1938, if women wanted a quick divorce they had to go to Reno, Nevada, where after a six-week stay which gave them residency, their divorce would be granted. Some of the wealthier women stayed at the Flying Leap, a dude ranch (also known as a “divorce ranch”), where they could enjoy pampering and companionship until their six-week time period was complete. The women who come to the Flying Leap are either completely determined to get a divorce or they’re wavering; they either have confidence or lack it; and nearly all have moments of weakness. (Some, however, seem to be repeat customers.) Some warm to and make connections with their fellow guests, but some let the strain get to them. The story is told through the eyes of Ward, a young, handsome man who works as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. He recollects this time many years later as well as his encounters with Emily, a timid woman who drove herself from San Francisco after she had had enough of her cheating husband, and Nina, an heiress back for her third divorce. The relationships among the three form the crux of the story. I thought this book offered really interesting social commentary and a fun look at women’s role in society in the 1930s. I don’t think this was necessarily “historical fiction” per se, but it was an interesting time for women in particular. There’s some romance, some emotion, some fun—it was a slow-paced but engaging read. Custom House Books provided me a complimentary copy of Better Luck Next Time in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks so much for making it available! Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html. Check out my list of the best books of the last decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robinne Lee

    First book I've read from beginning to end in over 12 months. And what a lovely welcome back to the world of fiction! I was transported to Reno circa 1938, far far away from Covid and the insurrection and everything going on in our world right now. And I thoroughly enjoyed the diversion. Julia crafts a beautiful story with delicious detail and characters that will stay with you. Ward's voice is distinct and unique, giving this tale such a lovely regional flavor. He feels very much of that time a First book I've read from beginning to end in over 12 months. And what a lovely welcome back to the world of fiction! I was transported to Reno circa 1938, far far away from Covid and the insurrection and everything going on in our world right now. And I thoroughly enjoyed the diversion. Julia crafts a beautiful story with delicious detail and characters that will stay with you. Ward's voice is distinct and unique, giving this tale such a lovely regional flavor. He feels very much of that time and place, and he kind of just sweeps you up and takes you on this ride, and I loved every bit of it. Perfect pandemic escape.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Julia Claiborne Johnson’s novels are quirky in the most fantastic way. I really enjoyed learning about divorce dude ranches in Reno. The cast of characters was vibrant and memorable and endearing. 3.5 star

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gary Branson

    Like the premise but very shallow, poorly executed. Narrator, Ward, is about the dumbest hero I’ve read in a long time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea | thrillerbookbabe

    First of all, thank you so much to Bookclub Girl, William Morrow, and Julia Claiborne Johnson for my copy of Better Luck Next Time! This was another type of book I never read, a funny historical novel about marriage, divorce, and love. It was about a ranch outside of Reno where soon to be divorced women could go and wait for it to be finalized. The story was from the perspective of a ranch hand named Ward who lost everything in the Great Depression before he came to work at the Flying Leap. He i First of all, thank you so much to Bookclub Girl, William Morrow, and Julia Claiborne Johnson for my copy of Better Luck Next Time! This was another type of book I never read, a funny historical novel about marriage, divorce, and love. It was about a ranch outside of Reno where soon to be divorced women could go and wait for it to be finalized. The story was from the perspective of a ranch hand named Ward who lost everything in the Great Depression before he came to work at the Flying Leap. He is handsome and charming, and talks about his experience with two women, Emily and Nina, two women waiting to get divorced. Thoughts: I thought this setting was very unique and this premise was one I hadn’t heard of before. I never knew about “divorce ranches” and found the premise interesting. This story wasn’t really a specific genre, just a tale about a man and his interactions with the women around him. The characters were interesting, especially Nina, and the perspective of Ward was unique. The book read like a discussion with an old man, which was a bit confusing when he went off on tangents. The part I enjoyed was more of the social commentary on women in the 1930s and the idea of women being able to survive without their husbands. The book was slow though and most of the book nothing really happened. I found myself wanting to skip to the “good parts” but when I finished I didn’t find anything too engaging. 3-stars for the unique premise.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Better Luck Next Time was a different adventure for me when going down a historical route. Mostly because every time I dive into a historical book, ARC or not, it's mostly around a war. So, I'm not going to lie - this was different and I was really excited to take the chance to dive into it. Since I've never been married, divorced, or wanted to go to a camp with people - this intrigued me. Yeah, I went to summer camp for soc I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Better Luck Next Time was a different adventure for me when going down a historical route. Mostly because every time I dive into a historical book, ARC or not, it's mostly around a war. So, I'm not going to lie - this was different and I was really excited to take the chance to dive into it. Since I've never been married, divorced, or wanted to go to a camp with people - this intrigued me. Yeah, I went to summer camp for soccer back in the day but that doesn't mean I wanted to. Or that I liked it. That being said, this was pretty interesting to see the couples go through what they went through. Each character was pretty unique and brought something fun and different to the group. Yet, I kind of felt bored while listening to the book. I wouldn't necessarily say it was a slow paced book through and through but nothing really excited me either. It was still enjoyable to see who was going to stay together or not towards the end though. In the end, I'm happy that I got the chance to dive into something new.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Renee Rosen

    Hilarious, touching--altogether brilliant. If you loved BE FRANK WITH ME (and who didn't?!) this book is for you. Hilarious, touching--altogether brilliant. If you loved BE FRANK WITH ME (and who didn't?!) this book is for you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bookloose Ela

    This book intrigued me as soon as I read the synopsis and I immediately knew I needed to put my hands on it - ASAP. It's for sure a type of story I haven't read before. I didn't know anything about divorce dude/guest ranches in Nevada before this book. Yeah, apparently that was a thing, and was for decades. So this story, alongside being original, was also quite informative for me. I was so in love with everything - narrator Ward, even more with Nina and Emily and especially their friendship, wit This book intrigued me as soon as I read the synopsis and I immediately knew I needed to put my hands on it - ASAP. It's for sure a type of story I haven't read before. I didn't know anything about divorce dude/guest ranches in Nevada before this book. Yeah, apparently that was a thing, and was for decades. So this story, alongside being original, was also quite informative for me. I was so in love with everything - narrator Ward, even more with Nina and Emily and especially their friendship, with vivid but not once too excessive descriptions, refreshing plot and first class smart-kind-of humor - the entire first third of the book. If you had asked me then about rating, I would have told you, without thinking, this one will be five out of five. I loved how the author achieved to combine humorous remarks with serious, profound messages, all within just a few sentences and with, at that moment, a perfect measure. I can very well imagine that part of the book as a good old black and white movie with all the former Hollywood stars. And then...I really don't know what exactly went wrong but Ward, in his retelling, went increasingly out of the margins of the main story (if you have the privilege of having your grandparents alive, you'll know what I mean...it's so easy for them to get sidetracked) and when all the over-the-top crazy/bizarre events and conversations started, at one point I almost cried out of anguish. I have no idea how in a few pages I came from 5/5 to wanting to skip some parts. Shoot me with Nina's revolver but I really don't know. And that end... If you crave something different, maybe a historical piece unrelated to WWII, if you don't mind slow pace and you like to collect great quotes more than you like action packed plot with classic HEA, this one is definitely for you.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christi Flaker

    3.5 stars rounded up An fun and interesting look at a 1930s divorce ranch and the 6 week stint that a group shared on the ranch. These ranches (true from history) were a place women could go spend 6 weeks at to get their Nevada citizenship which then allowed them to divorce their husband. We meet a cast of women but the two main women involved are Nina (on her third trip to the ranch) and Emily. The two pair up and become fast friends. One drives an automobile while the other an airplane denoting 3.5 stars rounded up An fun and interesting look at a 1930s divorce ranch and the 6 week stint that a group shared on the ranch. These ranches (true from history) were a place women could go spend 6 weeks at to get their Nevada citizenship which then allowed them to divorce their husband. We meet a cast of women but the two main women involved are Nina (on her third trip to the ranch) and Emily. The two pair up and become fast friends. One drives an automobile while the other an airplane denoting them both as strong women. The story is told from the point of view of one of two ranch hands, Ward. Ward is a young man from TN. The two women take a liking to Ward and manage to entwine him in several of their hijinks. Ward is telling the story to an interviewer who has been visiting him at his retirement home armed with a picture from those 6 weeks and a tape recorder to get the story. The story stops as Ward comes back to his present time to make commentary about lessons learned or about his life after the ranch. In the end this style helped the book come full circle but throughout the story it sometimes made it feel a bit jerky in pace. The book was not a fast read as there isn't a ton of action but I appreciated the story greatly by the end. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins audio for an advanced copy of the audiobook in exchange for my honest opinion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    everything is words - Diane

    Historical fiction is just quickly becoming a fan fav of mine... Better Luck Next Time taught me again about a time I have never known about. Who knew there was “divorce ranch” located in Reno, Nevada in the 1930’s? Julia Claiborne Johnson builds a slow story about this time and the individuals that run, reside, and visit the fictional(but based on fact) Flying Leap ranch. It is rich with descriptions of etiquette from that time and dialogue over the relationships that were forming. Who isn’t ca Historical fiction is just quickly becoming a fan fav of mine... Better Luck Next Time taught me again about a time I have never known about. Who knew there was “divorce ranch” located in Reno, Nevada in the 1930’s? Julia Claiborne Johnson builds a slow story about this time and the individuals that run, reside, and visit the fictional(but based on fact) Flying Leap ranch. It is rich with descriptions of etiquette from that time and dialogue over the relationships that were forming. Who isn’t captivated by a Nina that comes into their lives? The cover made me buy this book, but the acknowledgement and Author’s Notes made me want to go back and read it again! Pick this one up if you are a historical fiction fan, although it can be slow to build, I couldn’t think of a better book to stay on my mind through Valentines weekend! ♥️

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I had heard good reviews of Julia Claiborne Johnson's debut novel Be Frank With Me. I was intrigued by the cover of Better Luck Next Time, the vintage photo of women at play. I am so, so happy that I put in my name in to win an ARC. This was a bright, warm, and happy light in the midst of Michigan's dismal winter and COVID-19 self isolation. I laughed out loud, starting with the first page with the narrator's epigram, "Some men are born gigolos; others have it thrust upon them." In 1988, Dr. Howa I had heard good reviews of Julia Claiborne Johnson's debut novel Be Frank With Me. I was intrigued by the cover of Better Luck Next Time, the vintage photo of women at play. I am so, so happy that I put in my name in to win an ARC. This was a bright, warm, and happy light in the midst of Michigan's dismal winter and COVID-19 self isolation. I laughed out loud, starting with the first page with the narrator's epigram, "Some men are born gigolos; others have it thrust upon them." In 1988, Dr. Howard Stovall Bennett III (Ward) tells his story to an unnamed interviewer, recalling six weeks in 1938 that changed his life. He took any job he could find during the Depression after his family lost their wealth and home. A Cary Grant look-a-like, he leaves his manual labor work to become a fake cowboy on a Reno dude ranch that offers wannabe divorcees a six-week residency to qualify for a quick divorce. Ward was hired to perform ranch chores, provide eye-candy, and to "squire rich, brokenhearted ladies around Reno," which he proclaims was good experience for his future career as a doctor. But that career was far in the future in 1938 when Nina and Emily arrive at The Flying Leap ranch. Nina is a 'repeat customer' with all the vibe and audacity of a Flapper, and she determines to help Emily loosen up and live a little. OK, actually live it up a LOT. Like teenage schoolgirls, they go on larks and involve Ward as their chauffeur and partner in crime. Over-the-top scenes involve skinny dipping and Bottom's head and fairy wings from the theater department. I loved all the women at the ranch, and the other cowboy Sam, and the ranch owners, and even the husbands and insolent daughter; it's an ensemble that lends itself to insight and humor. The writing is so clever, the setting so unique and bizarre, the characters flawed and zany but human and lovable. Warm and generous, with a heartwarming twisted ending, this was a real delight. I received an ARC from the publisher through LibraryThing. My review is fair and unbiased.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kari Ann Sweeney

    Thank you to @netgalley and @harperaudio for the early audio copy of BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME by Julia Claiborne Johnson (PUB DATE 1.5.2021) This book was wholly unique and a breath of fresh air. The story is narrated by Ward, described as "Cary Grant in cowboy boots", as he reflects back on his time working at the Flying Leap, a divorce ranch in Reno during the 1930's. The ranch caters to a cast of independent, eccentric, and conflicted soon-to-be divorced women. It was a feel-good story full of o Thank you to @netgalley and @harperaudio for the early audio copy of BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME by Julia Claiborne Johnson (PUB DATE 1.5.2021) This book was wholly unique and a breath of fresh air. The story is narrated by Ward, described as "Cary Grant in cowboy boots", as he reflects back on his time working at the Flying Leap, a divorce ranch in Reno during the 1930's. The ranch caters to a cast of independent, eccentric, and conflicted soon-to-be divorced women. It was a feel-good story full of old-fashioned charm. I appreciated how the author created a humorous romp while blending in emotionally contemplative elements. The narration was fabulous. I felt like I was a guest on the ranch. My only gripe, which is a consistent audiobook gripe, is the voicing of the 14 yr old character. Her narration came across much younger than 14 and it pulled me out of the story a bit.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cam Kovach

    What a fun and sweet read! Set in a Reno Nevada "divorce ranch" in the 1930's, this book throws back to a time when women - no matter their wealth or their circumstances - could not easily get divorces from philandering or otherwise unsuitable husbands. The divorce ranch in laissez-faire Reno allowed a 6-week residency for women who could afford it, after which they were free to file for and receive a divorce in the state of Nevada. The characters who run the ranch, those who populate it, and th What a fun and sweet read! Set in a Reno Nevada "divorce ranch" in the 1930's, this book throws back to a time when women - no matter their wealth or their circumstances - could not easily get divorces from philandering or otherwise unsuitable husbands. The divorce ranch in laissez-faire Reno allowed a 6-week residency for women who could afford it, after which they were free to file for and receive a divorce in the state of Nevada. The characters who run the ranch, those who populate it, and those who work at the ranch are each interesting and have their own unique stories to tell. The stories are neatly yet lovingly tied up in a bow by the end of the book, with a few lovely surprises along the way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joann

    Firstly, I won the ARC copy of this rollicking comedy on a Goodread's Giveaway from the CustomHouse publishers. Thanks for the opportunity to read this book and give my honest opinion. This was a book that read just like a movie or a great television show. You can feel all the drama unfolding right in front of your eyes and picture the characters and feel right at home. The book starts out at the home of Lydia Hennessey who is hosting the Christmas dinner. I will admit that at first I was getti Firstly, I won the ARC copy of this rollicking comedy on a Goodread's Giveaway from the CustomHouse publishers. Thanks for the opportunity to read this book and give my honest opinion. This was a book that read just like a movie or a great television show. You can feel all the drama unfolding right in front of your eyes and picture the characters and feel right at home. The book starts out at the home of Lydia Hennessey who is hosting the Christmas dinner. I will admit that at first I was getting a tad confused with all the relationships but it sorted out enough for me to enjoy this book. "Better Luck Next Time" is an incredibly visual, witty novel that flows very well through one of the trickiest subjects out there – the downfall of relationships. I thought I read somewhere that it is based on the true story of a ranch for women who wanted a quickie divorce but I'm not 100% sure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Being a fan of the 1939 movie The Women, part of which is set on a Nevada ranch for women waiting for their divorces, I really wanted to read this. And I wasn't disappointed. A humorous, sometimes bittersweet look at love as seen through the eyes of 24-year-old Ward. Ward is a "cowboy" on the ranch. He and his fellow cowboy, Sam, were hired because they were competent, polite, kind and with a certain southern charm. Looking good without their shirts on to provide eye candy (no touching!) for the Being a fan of the 1939 movie The Women, part of which is set on a Nevada ranch for women waiting for their divorces, I really wanted to read this. And I wasn't disappointed. A humorous, sometimes bittersweet look at love as seen through the eyes of 24-year-old Ward. Ward is a "cowboy" on the ranch. He and his fellow cowboy, Sam, were hired because they were competent, polite, kind and with a certain southern charm. Looking good without their shirts on to provide eye candy (no touching!) for the ladies was also a plus. The story is a coming-of-age story for Ward as he observes the differences in wealth and society between himself and the residents. Even the nicest and best intention-ed heiress can be careless about sharing a sandwich with a hungry cowboy or appreciating the goodness in an otherwise clueless fellow potential divorcee. Love also comes in many guises. The ending was too pat, but appreciated. I could see the roles Paulette Goddard, Norma Shearer, and Mary Boland would play if this version were a movie. Even Joan Crawford puts in a guest appearance. Oh, l'amour, l'amour!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Thanks to LibraryThing for an advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own. I enjoyed this feel-good entertaining story about wealthy women in the 1930s who stay at a ranch in Reno for six weeks, which qualifies them for residency status and enables them to get a quick divorce. Narrated as a series of often humorous recollections by Ward, one of the young ranch hands, I found myself looking for excuses to read just one more chapter. Memorable characters, clever dialogue, romance, a Thanks to LibraryThing for an advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own. I enjoyed this feel-good entertaining story about wealthy women in the 1930s who stay at a ranch in Reno for six weeks, which qualifies them for residency status and enables them to get a quick divorce. Narrated as a series of often humorous recollections by Ward, one of the young ranch hands, I found myself looking for excuses to read just one more chapter. Memorable characters, clever dialogue, romance, and a poignant surprise ending make this a literary winner. I highly recommend Better Luck Next Time!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    This book was funny and heartbreaking at the same time. A well written, fairly quick read, recommend to just get away from it all. It was taken from another, seemingly more innocent time. I'll call it escapist fiction, gets you away from your own troubles for awhile. This book was funny and heartbreaking at the same time. A well written, fairly quick read, recommend to just get away from it all. It was taken from another, seemingly more innocent time. I'll call it escapist fiction, gets you away from your own troubles for awhile.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Better Luck Next Time is the story of Ward, a make-believe cowboy on a divorce ranch, the Flying Leap, in Reno, Nevada in the 1930s. Back in the day, a woman could live in Reno for 6 weeks and become a resident, therefore, being able to divorce her husband. The ranch caters to every whim of the wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees. Ward becomes friends with two of the divorcees, Nina and Emily and that forever changes his life! Read this delightful, fun read to find out just how Ward's life was changed Better Luck Next Time is the story of Ward, a make-believe cowboy on a divorce ranch, the Flying Leap, in Reno, Nevada in the 1930s. Back in the day, a woman could live in Reno for 6 weeks and become a resident, therefore, being able to divorce her husband. The ranch caters to every whim of the wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees. Ward becomes friends with two of the divorcees, Nina and Emily and that forever changes his life! Read this delightful, fun read to find out just how Ward's life was changed and watch out for the surprise at the end! Thank you to Book Club Girl for the advanced copy; all thoughts and opinions are my own.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Picture it - Reno, 1938. Twenty-four-year-old Ward works at The Flying Leap, a ranch where wealthy women stay to establish their Nevada residency so they can get a no-questions-asked divorce. Fifty years after leaving, the now-retired doctor is approached by an unnamed interviewer with a photo from the ranch who wants to know the story behind it. The book unfolds through flashbacks as Ward (now Howard) explains what happened over the course of six weeks that summer that changed his life. Johnson Picture it - Reno, 1938. Twenty-four-year-old Ward works at The Flying Leap, a ranch where wealthy women stay to establish their Nevada residency so they can get a no-questions-asked divorce. Fifty years after leaving, the now-retired doctor is approached by an unnamed interviewer with a photo from the ranch who wants to know the story behind it. The book unfolds through flashbacks as Ward (now Howard) explains what happened over the course of six weeks that summer that changed his life. Johnson's tale of a unique slice of history I knew nothing about is a lot of fun. The women staying at the ranch are a fabulous group of characters who will have you laughing out loud, and Ward's commentary on the lessons he learned from them and his life on the ranch is poignant. He becomes entangled with two women in particular - Nina, an independently wealthy thrice-divorced adventurer, and Emily, whose escape from her cheating husband is the riskiest thing she's done in her life - whose fast friendship and hijinks are propel the story. Johnson's writing is pithy and funny - I alternated between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook and enjoyed them both. Better Luck Next Time (which references something said to the divorcées) has heart, humor and a whole lot of secrets, but it also goes deeper than you might expect to touch on societal issues like gender roles and class disparity. While the women visiting the ranch only stay for six weeks, they make marks on each other and the staff forever. If you're looking for a good escape (and let's face it, who couldn't use one this week?!), give this book a try. I'd love to see it made into a movie or TV series, bringing The Flying Leap and all of its colorful visitors to life. Thanks William Morrow Books, Custom House Books, NetGalley & the author for an e-copy to review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Rooney

    Better Luck Next Time is set at a ranch near Reno, NV, for divorcing women to establish residency and take advantage of Nevada's divorce laws. Ward, a young male employee, because an especial favorite of two female guests and becomes entangled in their lives. The novel is Ward looking back on his life at the behest of an unknown person. I really enjoyed this book. I was able to get lost in the story and just enjoy it. I predicted a couple of the twists and felt like it lost a little steam when a Better Luck Next Time is set at a ranch near Reno, NV, for divorcing women to establish residency and take advantage of Nevada's divorce laws. Ward, a young male employee, because an especial favorite of two female guests and becomes entangled in their lives. The novel is Ward looking back on his life at the behest of an unknown person. I really enjoyed this book. I was able to get lost in the story and just enjoy it. I predicted a couple of the twists and felt like it lost a little steam when an unexpected guest arrived, but I really enjoyed the characters and setting. I still mostly prefer women doing male voices to men doing female voices, and this is no exception, but a male narrator was pretty much required. "Some men are born gigolos; others have it thrust upon them." (This is a joke, but I rather like the sound of it.)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jodie (That Happy Reader)

    This book is set in 1938 in Reno, Nevada - a state where women could stay for six weeks and obtain a “no questions asked” divorce which was quite unusual in the day. This book describes the relationships formed at the Flying Leap Dude Ranch which hosted many wealthy women who fled to Reno in order to dissolve their marriages. Told from the perspective of a retired physician, Ward reflects about his time working at the ranch at the age of 24. He particularly recalls two women Nina, a St. Louis hei This book is set in 1938 in Reno, Nevada - a state where women could stay for six weeks and obtain a “no questions asked” divorce which was quite unusual in the day. This book describes the relationships formed at the Flying Leap Dude Ranch which hosted many wealthy women who fled to Reno in order to dissolve their marriages. Told from the perspective of a retired physician, Ward reflects about his time working at the ranch at the age of 24. He particularly recalls two women Nina, a St. Louis heiress and amateur pilot at the ranch to obtain her third divorce, and Emily whose most courageous act to date was to drive herself to the ranch from San Francisco. These two women share a suite at the ranch and they develop a special bond. Not only do their personalities complement one another, but they bring out the best in one another as well. The story also demonstrates the difference in social class, aspirations and gender in 1938 - some of which have not improved much over the past eighty years. While the book was entertaining, I did not feel connected to these characters. Moreover, I felt the book lacked emotion which was not only disappointing, but a must for me to enjoy a book. Having said that, the stories and antics from the ranch were amusing - just not often enough to keep me fully engaged. I enjoyed the bit of romance in the story, which provided insight into the personalities, and differences, of the characters involved. I recommend this book to those that enjoy literary fiction. I listened to the audiobook version of the book which was narrated by David Aaron Baker who had a good performance. Reminiscent of listening to a cowboy telling stories of his past, I appreciated this quality which brought some authenticity to the book. I listened to the book at my usual 1.25x speed which was perfect for me. I would not hesitate to recommend the audiobook version of the book to those that enjoy this format. Thanks to Netgalley and Harper audio for the ARC of this audiobook in exchange for the honest review provided here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Wild and rollicking - Better Luck Next Time is told through flashbacks as a retired doctor recounts his stint as a ‘cowboy’ (read ‘eye candy’) on a Reno divorce ranch back in the 30s. An unidentified visitor has come to interview him, bringing an old picture of the soon-to-be divorcees and the ranch crew to help jog his memory. And that picture gets the story rolling, a story filled with the same kind of slapstick humor and quirky characters that made Be Frank With Me so entertaining. My one com Wild and rollicking - Better Luck Next Time is told through flashbacks as a retired doctor recounts his stint as a ‘cowboy’ (read ‘eye candy’) on a Reno divorce ranch back in the 30s. An unidentified visitor has come to interview him, bringing an old picture of the soon-to-be divorcees and the ranch crew to help jog his memory. And that picture gets the story rolling, a story filled with the same kind of slapstick humor and quirky characters that made Be Frank With Me so entertaining. My one complaint is that the story arc near the end was a little too transparent and that made it drag a little. Still, this book is loads of fun and needs to be made into a movie the minute the pandemic is over. 3 ½ stars My thanks to Librarything Early Reviewers and the publisher for the advance copy this is based on.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    An okay enough book. I admit I might have let my imagination run away with me and assumed things the author never intended, so I can’t fault it for not following through. It really seemed like it was setting up a relationship between Nina and Emily, but any potential really went absolutely nowhere. I also wonder why in the world the author decided this book set at a place majorly populated by women needed to be told with a male point of view. Overall it’s not a bad book, just not quite what it c An okay enough book. I admit I might have let my imagination run away with me and assumed things the author never intended, so I can’t fault it for not following through. It really seemed like it was setting up a relationship between Nina and Emily, but any potential really went absolutely nowhere. I also wonder why in the world the author decided this book set at a place majorly populated by women needed to be told with a male point of view. Overall it’s not a bad book, just not quite what it could’ve been.

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