Nine rather commonplace tales, most of them previously published in literary magazines, try on a couple of different voices but share a focus on loyalty, sexual and otherwise, and adultery. Albarelli's male narrators can't control their own animal urges; little else seems to explain their need to be unfaithful. A few of these lackluster pieces even take place in that hotbed of infidelity, the college campus. ``Infatuated'' pokes fun at its narrator, a visiting professor who develops a mild obsession with one of his sexy students at an all-girls' college in Virginia—she turns him down before he has a chance to betray his longtime lover back in New York. Nonsexual loyalty is at the center of stories about fraternal twins, one of whom embraces Orthodox Judaism; and of ``Honeymoon,'' in which a young IRA member must choose between his new bride and his devotion to the cause. The narrator of ``Winterlude'' is the only male in this bunch who endures a wife's betrayal, a dramatic bit of cuckoldry that sends him spiralling downward. The other cheaters are treated somewhat more heavy- handedly. In the dull ``Passenger,'' a young ferry captain, married in his teens, takes up with an older woman, a relationship that promises only uncertainty. The philanderer in the title story, a local private investigator who's betrayed his wife in the past, works a case following a man's wife who turns out to be cheating on him with the p.i.'s former girlfriend. In ``Grace,'' the husband must cope with the fact that his wife was raped while he was out playing around. And in the best piece, ``Flame,'' a young rocker who lives in the shadow of his older brother is happy to catch him on the couch with a woman, thereby betraying a higher loyalty, his Roman Catholic priesthood. Religion and ethnicity give some dimension to otherwise boilerplate narratives—a competent but unexciting debut.
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