Excerpt + Guest Post: The Whole Package by Cynthia Ellingsen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Whole Package
The Whole Package by Cynthia Ellingsen
Publisher: Penguin/Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction (Comedy)

Life has thrown childhood friends Jackie, Cheryl, and Doris a few curveballs. Widowed and broke, Jackie returns home after an extravagant life in Paris, Doris is reliant on anti-depressants, and Cheryl’s plans for a corporate take-over are replaced with walking papers.

But after a drunken night sampling the delights at strip club for women, the ladies stumble upon a genius idea and decide to open up The Whole Package—the world’s first restaurant staffed exclusively by very attractive men. Armed with Jackie’s connections, Doris’ ambition, and Cheryl’s business sense the ladies set out to make their mark in the world.

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French is a sexy language. Except, of course, if you are standing in line at a French café and the French you hear is a nasal, drawn out, “Fat American.“ Unnecessary, especially if you are simply trying to buy a chocolate croissant to dip into the first cappuccino of the day.

Jackie - and yes, it was Jackie and not Jacqueline even though she was closing in on forty instead of the throat of the snickering girl behind her – whirled around.

A French girl stared back at her. The girl had the audacity to cock her head. A yes.

Jackie was stunned. Okay, fine – and a little hurt. Such a judgment was the last thing she expected in this cheerful neighborhood cafe with its brightly painted walls, kitschy produce art and erratically placed wildflowers. Even the French sayings on the wall, written in such careful, scrolling script were meant to inspire good cheer, not snappy little insults.

“Well, I am not fat!” Jackie said. And this was not in French, because after two years in the country she spoke French perfectly and proving it was no longer important. “I am sexy.”

A mustached host had been writing out specials on a blackboard with squeaking chalk. At this, he paused and took a look. Jackie ran her palms over her curvy hips and considered giving a slight shimmy. The man gave a nod in agreement and went back to the specials.

The French girl sniffed. She was dressed all in black, a total cliché. She was holding a sniveling, trendy dog. Its shaky face was framed by a bejeweled collar and its droopy eyes stared, along with everyone else in the cinnamon scented café.

“Perhaps you should order something to eat,” Jackie said, pointedly eyeing the girl’s bony frame . “You’re probably just suffering from low blood sugar.”

Jackie’s jaw dropped. Drawing herself up to her full height of 5’3” (5’6” with her three inch pumps), Jackie said, “If you want to live off of cigarettes and red wine and ignore the delicacies your country has to offer, you go right ahead. But I would rather get chased out of Le Bon Marche by a firing squad than strut around in a body that looks like it was stolen from an eight-year-old boy.”

“I am going to embrace my sensuality,” Jackie said. “I am going to improve upon it. And,” she stood a bit taller, “it is gonna happen with a chocolate croissant.”

Reviews for The Whole Package

"The friendship between the women is realistic, the characters funny, and the premise well-executed. Readers will giggle and grin from start to finish, and will surely be eager for Ellingsen's next novel."

“The Whole Package is a delightfully frivolous romp. An excellent beach read, this light but enjoyable fare will have you chuckling (and likely blushing!) throughout...”--RT Reviews

Guest Post

What Magic Mike Taught Me About the Book I Wrote

Thank you so much for hosting me. I’m delighted to be here to discuss my debut novel, The Whole Package.

The Whole Package is about three women, friends for life, who get hit with some unexpected life changes and embark on a saucy business adventure. This saucy business adventure just happens to be opening a restaurant staffed by scantily clad men.

As the author of The Whole Package, it was a no-brainer to go see the movie Magic Mike. If you’re not aware, Magic Mike is the story of a listening, earnest stripper (Channing Tatum) who wants something better out of life.

Here are five things that I noticed while watching Magic Mike:

1. Hot Guys Can Inspire Prayer
When I attended the opening night of Magic Mike, the theatre was packed. And boy, oh, boy, did these women get crazy! The woman next to me, who was fifty and dressed in spangles, kept praying to God when Channing Tatum came on screen. I thought she was joking at first, but as the “Thank you, Jesus” was repeated again and again, I knew that her verbal tithes were sincere.

2. On-site Stripping Injuries Happen
One of the best scenes in Magic Mike (spoiler alert) is when the rugged, gorgeous and aged Fireman stripper picks up a woman, holds her over his head and consequently, throws out his back. Hilarious.

3. Plot is (Apparently) Overrated
As the author of The Whole Package, plot is the center of my world. Yes, the characters in The Whole Package open a restaurant staffed by super hot, scantily clad men, but they are also dealing with weighty issues in their friendships and personal lives. However...

In Magic Mike, the storyline was apparently a hindrance. This was proven by an audience member who stood up and bellowed, “Too much plot!” when the stripping stopped and the story started.

4. Archetypes are Sexy
In The Whole Package, the women attend a male strip show in Chicago. This is where they get the idea to open the restaurant staffed by scantily clad men. I had a lot of fun describing the strip show as it unfolded onstage.

One thing that stands strong in both my book and the movie is that male strippers follow certain, male archetypes. The cowboy, the rebel, the Navy Seal, the policeman, the firefighter, the UPS man... Ultimately, women are attracted to a certain type of man and it often has to do with the uniform he’s wearing.

Or not wearing, as it were.

5. Do Women Like the Fantasy or the Reality?
After the titillation of Magic Mike ended and women exited the theatre, I overheard something that struck me as interesting. A woman said, “Well, that was fun. I wouldn’t want to see a strip show in person but on the screen, it was a nice fantasy.”

As the author of The Whole Package, I found myself nodding. In the book, the restaurant staffed by scantily clad men fails. Ultimately, I think it’s because women like the idea of the sexy, archetype of a man but in the end, we’re looking for something permanent. Like love.

On the other hand, the woman who said this earned a saucy look from her friend. “Uh, speak for yourself, sister. I’ll take a stripper any day of the week.”

It takes a village.

About Cynthia Ellingsen

Cynthia Ellingsen is a fiction writer and screenwriter. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband.

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