A California housewife’s new affair promises, and delivers, disaster.
Clea Howard’s not exactly unhappy with her husband, Ronnie, or her 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, or her Orange County home or her BMW or her circle of girlfriends. Ever since her boss’s retirement ended her job as a paralegal, however, her world seems to have shrunk, and now she craves more than another round of gossip with her buddies or Ronnie’s tales of the insurance business. Novelty arrives with a thunderclap when she falls instantly and hard for a stranger whose shopping cart she collides with in the supermarket. “His eyes capture me in a way I never thought possible,” she confesses in the first of many romance-tinged passages. In no time at all, she and the stranger, whom she knows only as Lancaster, are bedding down in an obliging motel, meeting at an out-of-town bar for dinner, and sneaking off for a weekend of the passion she remembers with Ronnie but can’t kindle with him anymore. Readers who aren’t totally besotted with Lancaster, a consistently sparkling conversationalist who leaves a rose on the motel bed, makes love like Sir Lancelot, and always leaves Clea smiling in remembered pleasure, will be complacently certain that things will go wrong. And they do: Clea’s spotted at that bar by the father of one of Kelly’s friends, and her weekend away ends badly enough to satisfy the most vengeful spirit. Still, she’s determined to run off with Lancaster until a messy accident and a final twist put paid to that pipe dream.
Neiderman (Garden of the Dead, 2011, etc.) tricks out this familiar fantasy with domestic details, overwrought reflections, and prophecies of doom. The domestic minutiae, which create a fine sense of low-grade fears that never rise to the level of paranoia, work the best.