The four women who bonded in Bad Girl Creek (2001) and dealt with complications in Along Came Mary (2003) return for the allegedly final volume of Mapson’s trilogy.
As the action begins, only Phoebe and Nance are working at the California flower farm that first brought them all together. Wheelchair-bound by her heart condition, Phoebe struggles to cope with her strong-willed six-year-old daughter Sally and lingering grief over Juan, dead in a car crash before his baby was born. Nance, now married to Phoebe’s brother James, has had a series of miscarriages but is again nervously pregnant. Beryl, ditched in Alaska by her mysteriously wealthy boyfriend Earl, yearns for her girlfriends but is too ashamed to phone home. Ness is in Arizona, nursing her dear friend David through the final stages of AIDS, but she drives him back to California to see the ocean one last time and moves back in with Phoebe after he dies. The storyline isn’t exactly taut as Mapson’s characters mull over menopause, lost loves, and life’s nasty turns while making fancy Easter baskets or wondering whether the new men in their lives will cause less suffering than the last. Nance and James give Sally a horse, over Phoebe’s outraged objections; Beryl has a casual affair while wondering what the hell happened to Earl; Ness meets a handsome antiques dealer who turns out to be her half-brother. The book closes with a couple of life-changing events and a lot of unanswered questions. Will Ness ever meet the mother who abandoned her? How will spoiled-rotten Sally cope with the arrival of baby cousin Savannah? Can ornery Phoebe be happy with any man, even a courtly southerner who’s also in a wheelchair? None of this seems as charming as it did in Bad Girl Creek, perhaps because the author’s prose and plot development have been sloppier in each installment.
Enough loose ends for another three novels, but only readers seriously in love with overstuffed plots and feisty middle-aged women will hope for more.