Profound it ain’t, but immensely readable and very charming in its own messy, undisciplined way.

THE OWL AND MOON CAFÉ

Four generations of strong-minded women battle each other, their individual insecurities and life’s many ups and downs in this overstuffed latest from Mapson (Goodbye, Earl, 2004, etc.).

The author gives her characters plenty of obstacles to overcome before the mostly happy ending. When we meet Mariah Moon, inching along in traffic on California’s Highway One, she’s just lost her job as assistant sociology professor at a local college. How will she pay for that fancy school attended by her brilliant 12-year-old daughter Lindsay? Waitressing at the Owl & Moon, her family’s Pacific Grove restaurant, is the short-term solution, but it means dealing with her cranky, ultra-religious grandmother, Gammy, and her maddening mother, Allegra. Mariah is mortified by Allegra still dressing and acting like a hippie chick at nearly 50, and she’s never forgiven her mother for refusing to identify the man who begot her 34 years ago. (Mariah at least told Lindsay the name of her absent father, even if the girl’s never met him.) Not to worry: When Allegra has a fainting spell that sends her to the hospital, the doctor who hands her a diagnosis of leukemia is none other than Alvin Goodnough, the Vietnam vet en route to med school with whom she shared a sleeping bag back in the Summer of Love. Will they finally get together for keeps? Can Mariah get over her eternal adolescent snit with the help of a handsome Scottish customer at the café? Will Lindsay’s science project win her a scholarship, or land her in jail? Mapson’s plotting is as over-the-top as it was in the Bad Girl Creek trilogy—Phoebe DeThomas’s daughter Sally turns up from that series to befriend Lindsay—and the twists are often blindingly obvious, poorly motivated, or both. What saves the story is the characters: broadly drawn, but utterly human, full of querulous life and irritatingly believable. The author loves the people she creates and draws in readers to share her affection.

Profound it ain’t, but immensely readable and very charming in its own messy, undisciplined way.

Pub Date: July 4, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-6641-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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