The torments of living and loving in high society are the focus of this elaborate debut from ex-corporate counsel Magida, who revels in the ambiance of old money and Connecticut estates as he probes the divided heart of a young man born to rule. On the occasion of his 28th birthday, John Newland has come into his own, receiving his portion of the family fortune held in trust since the death of his parents 13 years before. Devastatingly handsome, he has never lacked for companionship--whether in boarding school, at Yale, or when running the gauntlet of the New York club scene as the acerbic cultural observer for a trendy Manhattan magazine--and while his previous escapades have given him a reputation as one willing to go to bed with anything that walks, he has finally become engaged to the perfect mate: the incomparable daughter of the banker managing the Newland funds. But the prospect of a respectable and well-managed future notwithstanding, Jack is desperately unhappy until a new friend approaches him, not with another smooth proposition, but with an escape from the burden of family expectations--and from his fiancee. Whisked away to the Connecticut hills and to the town where their families summered together, Jack falls instantly in love with his friend's sister, who has shown her independence of mind by becoming a physicist; and with her help he is able to cope with the tragedy that launched him, as a teenager, into a perilous orbit of self-negation and absolute acquiescence. The view of America's social elite is vivid and not uncritical, if somewhat convoluted, but as a love story the lack of solid female characters here is a fatal flaw. Even so: a promising first novel--sure to attract those for whom upper-class antics, real or imaginary, are a source of endless fascination.