An aunt steps up to mother her orphaned nieces and nephew, in Steel’s predictable latest (A Good Woman, 2008, etc.).
Annie, 26, is on the verge of embarking on an exciting career, and marrying well, when her sister Jane and her husband are killed in a plane crash. With some trepidation, Annie becomes guardian of Jane’s three young children, Liz, Ted and Katie. Annie’s fiancé, not up to the challenge of a ready-made family, bows out. Cut to 16 years later. Annie has never married—she hasn’t had time, thanks to her thriving architecture firm, which caters to New York City’s wealthiest, and the challenges of raising her nieces and nephew. Her efforts have borne fruit: Ted is now in law school, Katie attends Pratt and Liz is a globetrotting jewelry editor for Vogue. After Ted’s Contracts professor, Pattie, a divorcee 12 years his senior, seduces him, he’s sexually in her thrall but knows it’s not love. An ankle sprained at a job site sends Annie to the ER, where (during the interminable wait) she meets high-profile TV-news anchor Tom. After years of bland blind dates, Tom is a refreshing change. The plot duly thickens: Katie drops out of design school to work in a tattoo parlor, and she’s besotted with her new boyfriend Paul, an Iranian/American dual national. Liz’s scruffy French lover Jean-Louis seems to be too friendly with his ex-mistress Françoise, who’s the mother of his child. Pattie stabs Ted’s hand with a steak knife when he tries to leave. Paul and Katie take an ill-advised trip to Tehran, and his relatives confiscate their U.S. passports. Just when Tom and Annie are realizing (after an idyllic stay at a private villa in Turks and Caicos) there is room for each other in their fast-paced lives, it appears that her charges may now need her more than ever.
A listless narrative not helped by Steel’s plodding prose, but her legion of fans aren’t in it for the surprise.