Irish novelist Binchy’s third novel (Open-Handed, 2008, etc.)—and American debut—is a lusterless present-day version of a Cyrano de Bergerac–like love triangle involving a tongue-tied man, a pretty woman and the friend and lady’s man the shy guy employs, disastrously, to help win over his beloved.
This book by the nephew of Maeve Binchy opens at a beer-soaked party. David, a stolid and decent guy who’s hopelessly unsmooth, is instantly smitten with Camilla, but he finds himself dumbstruck as usual (“Oh,” he manages to say, and then she’s gone). So David enlists the help of glib, confident Alex, a lifelong pal who will, David imagines, be his conduit and spokesman, and he goes to chat her up. Soon Alex and Camilla are a couple, and David feels left out and aggrieved. He hurls himself back into his studies, finishes school with distinction, drifts away from Alex and Camilla and finds success in high finance. But still he can’t purge the romantic vision of Camilla from his mind, and he re-engages with the couple, spending evenings with them. He’s biding his time, only half-conscious of the fact, but Alex’s attachment to Camilla proves deeper and more enduring than David had imagined it could be, based on track record. Eventually, when Alex seems at last to grow more disaffected and unreliable, David—his confidence growing with his worldly successes—decides the time has come to quit being the emasculated third wheel, the benign, taken-for-granted friend. He makes his move and reaps the consequences, both good and bad.
A convincing but plodding and predictable portrait of romantic awkwardness.