A CERTAIN SMILE by Judith Michael


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A Summertime-like romance between older lovers, set in modern-day China, from perennial bestseller Michael (Acts of Love, 1997, etc.). Novice designer Miranda Graham, 40, has come to Beijing from Boulder, Colorado, to discuss the production of her cashmere clothing with Chinese manufacturers. As she waits for a cab in the shoving airport crowd, she’s rescued by Yuan Li, 55, the head of an important construction company who has come to see off a friend. Overcoming Miranda’s reserve (and honoring the venerable tradition of overseas romances doubling as travelogues), half-American Li spends a week showing her around Beijing, introducing Miranda (and the reader) to contemporary Chinese life and a mouthwatering feast of its cuisine. The two draw closer, cook a meal together at Li’s courtyard house in Beijing, and finally consummate their love at a hotel in Xi’an, where they have gone to see the 6,000 terra-cotta warriors built for the tomb of the first Emperor. But the villainous Chinese state security bureau complicates their wonderful relationship. It views Miranda as a courier of ’subversive— literature because she agreed to deliver a letter to the parents of a Boulder acquaintance, and her lover is under suspicion as a result of their affair. Used to such scrutiny, Li carries on as if it were not there. But Miranda decides she can—t live in such a society, and Li decides he can—t go to America. Instead of continuing an enriching international relationship, which would not be too difficult since Miranda begins a partnership with an older Chinese designer, the pair decide to part forever, keeping their memories and that “certain smile” of perfect love. Besides the excellent food, the authors create believable conversations between intelligent people, a rarity in romance fiction. But after a humdinger of a first half, the ending seems forced. (Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild selection; ad/promo)

Pub Date: May 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-517-70325-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999


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