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 teacher’s 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 how 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 emotion such events 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 just 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 arena 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.
Also available hardcover and ebook.