Gidel makes her hardcover debut with a grand-scale, contemporary romantic drama that weaves together the strands of three disparate lives. In chapters told from various viewpoints (and set in various locations), Gidel charts the lives and loves of her protagonists: Lucy Clare, a small-town Texas girl who was nearly crushed by poverty and sexual trauma; Juliana Van Lyden, a Manhattan heiress whose neglectful, narcissistic parents deprived her of the love she craved; and Ellis Fielding, as an innocent boy kidnapped by his father, with whom he spent five years in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Ellis is the estranged, prodigal first cousin of Juliana; and when, after years of absence, he returns to the family fold, she becomes bitterly jealous of the way he wins over her elusive mother and, later, her stern grandfather. She blames Ellis not only for usurping her place among the Van Lydens, but, later, for her mother's violent suicide. Juliana plots a revenge that uses Lucy, with whom Ellis has fallen in love, as its instrument. The plan backfires, however, and she's driven over the edge, trying (unsuccessfully) to kill Ellis. But these events occur late in the novel; most of the story is devoted to the miserable childhoods of the three--as if the author feels the need to create convincing motivations for their adult behavior. But Gidel's technique works only up to a point and is finally undermined by the conventional, morality-play ending in which Lucy and Ellis wind up in each other's arms, and the hopelessly damaged Juliana dies by her own hand. All in all, there are enough Oedipally-charged episodes to fuel at least one Greek tragedy and a couple of Victorian melodramas. Still, a well-plotted and strongly paced debut, with a sharp narrative tug and lively characterizations.