A conventional love story, with pretensions to something darker and more tragic, by Machlis (Lisa's Boy, 1982; The Career of Magda V, 1985). Dissatisfied with his life, his work, and the political scene in Hungary on the eve of glasnost, 50-ish columnist Stefan Nagy sees a young woman sitting outside a cafe and falls immediately in love. Though a husband and father, Stefan has not felt anything so deeply since his best friend was killed in the 1956 uprising. The woman, Ileana, is a friend of his son's, and Stefan hesitates momentarily, but cannot forget her. Ileana, in turn, is flattered by the older man's attentions. The two decide to leave Hungary and settle in America. Visas are obtained, and the two land in New York, where Ileana's cousin Nicole, a beautician, takes them in. Ileana is soon working for Nicole, where she attracts the attention of fellow ÇmigrÇ and fashion-designer Dominique, who offers her a modeling job. Ileana prospers, while Stefan struggles to find meaningful work. Their love affair stalls; and when Ileana, who has never really enjoyed lovemaking with men, finds Dominique to be the true love she's always been searching for, she finally breaks with Stefan, who contemplates murdering the two women but comes to his senses. Encouraged by political changes, Stefan decides to return to Hungary, not exactly brokenhearted, since he realizes he is now free of his love for Ileana, ``like a fever that ran its course and is now only a memory.'' The themes of May-December romance, a writer removed from his nurturing roots, and the price love exacts are little more than sketches here in an already sketchy and rather breathless book. Thin reading.