Guessing at Normal

Fiction - Womens
314 Pages
Reviewed on 09/07/2015
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Gail Ward Olmsted was a marketing executive and a college professor before she began writing fiction on a fulltime basis. A trip to Sedona, AZ inspired her first novel Jeep Tour. Three more novels followed before she began Landscape of a Marriage, a biographical work of fiction featuring landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, a distant cousin of her husband’s, and his wife Mary. Her latest book is Miranda Writes, a contemporary novel with a legal twist. Watch for it 9/8/22!

For more information, please visit her on Facebook and at

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy Slowiak for Readers' Favorite

What woman hasn't fantasized, at least when they were a teenager, of being the girlfriend of a rock star? I certainly have. In author Gail Ward Olmsted's new novel, Guessing at Normal, we get a taste of that exact scenario. When sexy rock star James Sheridan stays at the hotel where quiet Jill Griffin works, she's surprised to find that he's stolen her heart. Before she knows what's happened, she's on tour with James, living the life of a rock star's girlfriend, and not quite sure if she's fitting in. Jill's secret passion, that of writing poems, finally pays off for her when James uses some of her best work in the songs in his next album. She realizes that her life has changed forever as she becomes a successful songwriter in her own right. But when James' drinking gets out of control, his eye definitely seems to be wandering, and more and more starts to happen that is well outside of Jill's comfort zone, she begins to wonder if love is really enough in the crazy world of rock stardom.

Guessing at Normal was a truly great read. I picked it up planning to just read a few chapters before bed, and instead found myself reading through to the absolute end. Author Gail Ward Olmsted has done a wonderful job at creating interesting and intriguing characters that the reader will really care about. If that isn't the hallmark of a great author, I'm not sure what is. Any reader who enjoys fiction, romance, or just a good read will love Guessing at Normal, and I recommend this book. This was the first book I've read by author Gail Ward Olmsted, but it most certainly will not be the last.

Gail Olmsted

I am so happy to read such a positive review by someone who really 'gets' me! My first novel, JEEP TOUR is also a romance, but the main character is totally different from Jill, but I think she is equally interesting and intriguing. My goal is to write authentic characters in real-life situations!

C. Earl

Guessing at Normal (5 stars)

Two Words: I cried.

This is not your typical "rock star romance"! This is so much more then the typical rock star falling for the sweet innocent fan girl. As a reader you're taking through the journey of James and Jill as they grow together as a couple and individually.

I loved Jill through her whole story. The transformation for that sweet girl into someone who stands up for herself and will do everything she can to continue on the path that's laid out before. She goes through so much and many times has a point where she could simply give up and stop fighting. But instead pulls her self up and shows us the strong woman that she is.

James takes us through his own journey as he grows and becomes a better man. At times I just wanted to smack James. Then he would show his charm and his love for Jill. You could feel his love for her while reading their tale. You could feel just how much he couldn't live without Jill so every little bump they hit you stayed rooting for them to push through.

At one point I honestly thought to myself that this can't be all made up. This feels like it could be based on a true story. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go cry off my book hangover.


Who hasn't thought, "What would it be like to date a Rock Star" ?
It always seems so exciting and glamorous, everyone would envy you and others would want to be you.

Well for Jill Griffin this was now her reality. She goes from working in a run down motel day in and day out to meeting rock star James Sheridan the next.
It all began at what looked to be a one night stand and turned into something more.
James was sweet, charming, and seemed to be in love with her...what more could she ask for?
Then the day that James asked her to come on the road with him changed her life forever...Should she go? Can you quit her job and live her life on the road?
The rock star life is not all it's cracked up to be by any means - sex, cheating, drugs, fights, prescription pills - it's not the life for everyone. Jill endured it day after day - doing things along the way that she wasn't proud of. A journal became her outlet along the way and little did she know that later that would become her livelyhood.
The twists and turns, ups and downs, will have you craving more till the end!
What will come of Jill and James? With their love stand the test of time? Will she find somebody else? Will he? As the case with any rock and roll romance, you never know what may happen.
The characterizations are detailed and exciting, the writing intense, perfect for a story of this nature. Enjoy!


A chance encounter brings together Jill and James. Jill works as the night clerk at a hotel and James is the lead singer of an up and coming rock band. Guessing At Normal follows their journey from first love to lasting love making stops along the way at heartbreak and betrayal. I enjoyed the natural flow of the story and the more realistic look at being in love with a musician (it's not all award shows and grammy nominations). I will definitely be buying Gail's first book, Jeep Tour.


Once upon a long ago time, I briefly dated a drummer in a band. The attraction was instantaneous, I think, because we were both passionate about being on stage and feeling the adrenalin rush of applause. We were keenly aware of the demands of rehearsals, the challenges of the creative process, and the rewards of putting on a successful, crowd-pleasing show. And, of course, having come from a conservative upbringing made my being seen with a sexy “bad boy” a source of envy among my girlfriends.

There are downsides, however, to dating a drummer. For one thing, you always have to find someone to dance with you because the drummer is – well, sort of critical to whatever the band is playing. Secondly, you’re not only shoehorned into a small car with his full drum set if you ride to a venue with him but also told not to touch anything. Thirdly – and this is what ended the relationship – it’s deflating to plan a romantic New Year’s Eve dinner and hear the words, “Sorry, babe, we got a gig that night. But hey, we can celebrate on the 2nd or 3rd. Are you cool with that?” I was definitely not cool with ringing in New Year’s any time other than December 31st. I looked into the future and realized this could just as easily happen on my birthday, our anniversary, our children’s birthdays. Further, there dangled the possibility that the band would eventually start taking their show on the road; would I be expected to drop what I was doing (even if I was in the midst of rehearsals) just so he’d have company? My drummer – cute as he was – did not function on a calendar that resembled anything near normal.

All of which makes author Gail Ward Olmsted’s new novel, “Guessing at Normal,” such a compelling, relatable, and resonating tale about the dark side of celebrity and loving someone who selfishly wants to keep the entire spotlight on himself. From the very first page, Olmsted brings her readers into the scene so vividly that you can practically smell the cigarette smoke right off the page. The dialogue is smart, sassy, edgy and reveals volumes about the characters’ respective vulnerabilities and self-perceptions of what makes them tick. We can understand Jill’s obsessions with James and her tendencies to be an apologist for his self-destructive behaviors. It is, after all, the maternal nature to want to fix someone that’s broken, to unflinchingly believe that if only the right dosage of love and loyalty is dispensed there will be a chance of living happily –and securely - ever after.

Complicating Jill’s world is the temptation of James’ twin brother, Alex. Although it’s not going to cost Olmsted one of the five stars she completely deserves, I have to be honest and say that I abhor stories about twins. I think that this plot could just as easily be delivered if the lads had been a year or two apart; enough family resemblance would already be in place to create sexual tension for the conflicted heroine. That said, a great deal of thought has gone into the development of the premise that we’re products of our environment and our childhood. Tableaus of dysfunctionality can invariably be traced to parentals that were either too absent or too smothering. It also goes without saying that heroes are not entirely good, nor are villains entirely evil. For women of any age who are still looking for Mr. Right, it’s that conundrum of determining what behaviors one is willing to overlook and which ones will ultimately be the deal-breaker. This story will resonate as well with anyone who has given up something they loved – especially the pursuit of a cherished dream - for someone dreamy they thought they could love more.


Wow! What a perfect story to read on a Summer day!! I found Gail Warm Olmsted's, Guessing at Normal, in one of the groups I belong too. I am so glad that I one clicked. A rock n roll love story that spans 20 years. This story is filled with ups and downs. Good times and bad times. It truly read like a real love story. Jill is in her early twenties and working the front desk at a local motel. Not too exciting, but it's a job in a dead end town. One night, James comes in looking for change so he can purchse a pack of cigarettes. He flirts and wants her to go to back to his room. When he tells her he is in a band, Jill realizes that he is the lead singer for a group she likes. One night turns into a few. A couple of weeks goes by and she hears from James and he invites her to go on the road with them. What follows is their epic love story. This book captured me from the moment I started reading until the very last page.