Kendall’s debut combines romantic love and melodrama to explore changing gender roles and business relationships.
By 1965, much has already changed at John Hampton’s home in the safe, idyllic community of Agoura, Calif. Young and handsome, John has a promising career as an engineer at Nielsen Electronics, a firm that specializes in the production of security tape recording devices. After his wife’s infidelity and repeated drug abuse, John’s marriage tragically dissolves, and he and his children are left to pick up the pieces. There’s another woman in John’s world, however: beautiful, intelligent Robin Nichols, a divorced mom of two sons, who also happens to be the hardworking secretary at Nielsen Electronics. John and Robin fall in love, which causes even more problems with John’s ex-wife. The story clips along at a sprightly pace, as Kendall touches on themes familiar to those who have lived through or studied the ’60s—e.g., women’s roles, divorce, blended families, psychedelic drugs and the Vietnam War—yet it’s all from the perspective of office professionals. The minor character of John’s wife is a banal foil for his heroics; for example, John is a dependable and selfless parent, but his ex-wife, the stereotypical “hippie artist bound for destruction,” was raised by domineering religious parents. Then there’s the drama of John’s boss and his wife, a dowdy, submissive woman who struggles to find herself and a voice of her own. While the boss’ wife is a sympathetic character, her changes are predictable: She finds strength through love. Also, a few scenes are rather far-fetched, as when Robin walks into a top modeling agency on a secret errand for the boss and she’s instantly offered a modeling contract. A more complex and engaging character is the boss himself, Loren Slaton, who evolves from a cheating, womanizing jerk into a realistic version of a changed man. The dialogue flows easily, and there’s plenty of cute, witty banter between lovers. When John pretends to be shocked after Robin calls him a fool, Robin retorts: “You are an impossible, incorrigible, fool. I might point out, however, that one of Webster’s definitions for a fool is, professional jester. I do believe you qualify.”
Romance fans will enjoy this tangled web of love and work amid the tumultuous backdrop of the changing times.