FIRST BORN by Doris Mortman


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Unlike Lawrence's Satisfaction (above), Mortman's hardcover debut is a more than usually vacuous quartet novel in which four women with identical first names mill around in great, passionate confusion. Once upon a time, there were Frances Rebecca, Frances Rebecca, and Frances Rebecca, all cousins named after their sainted Polish grandmother--but, fortunately, the girls have nicknames, and thus we can tell Cissie, Frankie and Becca apart. Imagine their surprise, then, when another Frances Rebecca shows up, this time Frances Rebecca Elliot (or Jinx), who is not only the cousin of Cissie and Frankie, but the half-sister of Becca (their father, advertising mogul Ben Ross, sired Jinx when he was sewing some wild oats in Berlin after WW II, and then kept it a secret from the wildly jealous Becca, who is the villainess here). As the book opens in the late 60'S, Jinx marries Harrison Kipling, the owner of a resort chain, which she helps build into a massive empire before Harrison dies after an accident. Along the way, she has set out to ruin Ben Ross, who absolutely refuses to admit that he is Jinx's natural father. Cissie and Frankie don't figure much in any of this, but they are, respectively, shrewd high-fashion businesswoman and model-turned-bimbo-actress. The real action is between the pathological Becca and Jinx: Becca tries secretly to take over widow Jinx's hotel empire, and when that fails, literally attempts to blow up her half-sister. But all ends well as Becca admits her perfidy and is led away by the police, and Jinx finds happiness in the arms of the man she loves. In all, clichÉd characters, farfetched plotting, and just plain old-fashioned bad writing (""The day. . .started out perfectly as the sun rose over Mexico, spreading its xanthic brilliance over a slumbering earth like golden wings"").

Pub Date: July 1st, 1987
Publisher: Bantam