Twelve years after their romance inspired the chick-lit bestseller Ralph’s Party, a London couple is driven apart by misunderstanding and miscommunication.
New readers won’t have much difficulty catching up with Ralph and Jem’s history thanks to Jewell’s (Roommates Wanted, 2008, etc.) capable interweaving of older events into the contemporary narrative recording the ebbing of intimacy. So what drained the passion away from this perfectly matched pair? Nothing more exceptional than domesticity, kids and slow, silent withdrawal. Ralph still paints pictures in the attic and Jem works part-time as a celebrity agent, but, despite their enduring love, this couple doesn’t talk. He’s never confessed his unwillingness to have a second child, and she’s filled with unspoken resentment at his lack of support. Plus, she’s gone off sex. Ralph takes a surprise holiday in Santa Monica and comes home strangely different. Jem, meanwhile, has befriended a local single father whose behavior arouses Ralph’s suspicions. It’s a long way round the houses back to reconciliation, and the route can seem frustratingly obstacle-strewn, but Jewell’s easy prose and storytelling ability make for a pleasant enough trip.
The not-so-happily-ever-after is neatly dissected in an engaging if ephemeral sequel.