Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman is a modern Everywoman's tale. It is the funny, heartfelt, and sad—but definitely not tragic—story about love and how it touched forty-seven-year-old Rose Lloyd. As a college student, Rose fell in love with a man. His name was Hal and he loved her but also wanted to roam the world. Then she met Nathan, who wanted to marry her and raise a family. Rose loved Nathan, too, although for different reasons. She made a decision.
One wedding, two children, and twenty-five years later, Rose is a book editor for a weekly London paper where husband Nathan also works as the deputy editor. Rose is at peace in her life, happy and secure in the knowledge that she has successfully balanced the often conflicting demands of home and career. But when Nathan announces that he is leaving her for another woman, the stability she has always relied upon is unexpectedly gone.
Nathan laments, "I feel imprisoned by the walls I've built around me," just before he tells Rose that he's leaving her for Rose's own trusted twenty-nine-year-old assistant, Minty. Young, attractive, and incredibly ambitious, Minty has designs on more than Rose's husband. The same day that she loses her husband, Rose discovers that she is going to be replaced on the job by none other than Minty, who promises to bring a younger look and tone to the book section.
Out of a job, a marriage, and soon to be ousted from the cozy home and garden she's lavished with care, Rose is suddenly alone with too much time on her hands. While her friends and children rally around her, Rose is dealt a blow by her mother, who implies that it was Rose's selfish decision to work outside of the home that destroyed her marriage. Rose sinks into despondency, begins to drink a little too much, and wonders if her mother is right. But when in the midst of her mourning, her beloved cat, Parsley, dies, Rose realizes, "I had had enough. I wanted my grief dead." She decides to live—and that's when the fun really begins.
With the complacency and safety of her married life and career gone, Rose remembers how a long-ago trip to Rome showed her that most people lived, not in the radiant semitransparent envelope that writers described but in a plain brown one with which they had to make do but it was better than nothing: "I was sixteen . . . and in love for the first time—with being there, out of England. Rome was noisy, filled with smells—coffee, exhaust, sweat, hot buildings—and its flux of life, noise and sensation flowed through me, intensely, luxuriously felt." As Elizabeth Buchan weaves the narrative back and forth between Rose's youth and middle age, we see Rose once again reach out for the meaning in life and to courageously explore the life-altering decision she made long ago. What she discovers is sweet revenge, indeed: the promise of better days ahead, no matter what age we are.