A highly contrived romantic saga set in sumptuous Southern California brings together successive generations of two families after a definitive car accident.
The booze flows and the Dave Brubeck tunes wail at an L.A. party for artist Rachel Espinosa and her husband, Rudy Banning, sometime in the late 1950s. Angry and drunk, Rudy, the heir to the Banning oil fortune, takes off with Rachel in the car and slams into oncoming traffic, killing them and in the other car, famous singer Jimmy Peyton and his manager. The accident leaves Banning’s two boys, Cale and Jud, orphans in the care of their formidable grandfather, Victor Banning, who single-handedly built his fortune. Peyton’s widow, Kathryn, is left with a small daughter, Laurel; they move first into Jimmy’s mother’s home in L.A., then, when Laurel is 17, to the island of Santa Catalina, where, it so happens, the Bannings have a vacation house and boat. Now it is 1970, and the youths are on spring break—Laurel manages unsuspectingly to meet first Jud, who works in his grandfather’s business, then Cale, who is applying unsuccessfully to medical school. Cale and Laurel fall in love, though the autocratic Victor forces Cale to give Laurel up in exchange for his underhandedly arranged acceptance to med school. With his brother out of the way, Jud moves in on Laurel, and Cale feels betrayed—and holds a grudge for the next 30 years. The novel’s next section reintroduces the same protagonists in new configurations: Laurel is a chef, now divorced, with a grown daughter, while Cale is a widowed heart surgeon with two sons. The outcome couldn’t be more hackneyed, as eligible bachelor Jud courts divorced Laurel, who then turns to Cale for—what else?—heart surgery.
Pallid novel that banks on flimsy contrivance.