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 The author of The Secret Lives of the Edmonts (1989) takes another slash at the double standard's bombazine curtain. Again the heroine's home base is turn-of-the-century New York City, but she will smolder and perform mighty deeds in Greenland, London, and the South Pole. The story of Viola Lambert alternates with that of Beatrix Tremaine, the great-granddaughter of famous explorer Byron Tremaine. In the contemporary framing narrative, Beatrix gradually discovers--as she becomes involved with three lovers of varying appeal--the other woman in Byron's life: Viola, whose picture was hidden beneath that of his docile wife. Armed with a degree in paleontology, the pioneering Viola shocks everyone when she accompanies Byron on an expedition to Greenland. Before long, Byron and Viola steam with lust among the fossils. However, traditionalist Byron is appalled by Viola's frank description of The Act as ``two tigers mating''; worse, she refuses the confinement of marriage. Throughout their post-Greenland relationship, tumultuous coupling is preceded by or winds up in screaming arguments. A frustrated scientist, Viola will join London's women's suffrage battles, suffer, have a miscarriage, and eventually marry gentle giant Ian Crosbie, an Arctic veteran with past mental problems. Byron will not take Viola along to the South Pole, so she goes on her own with a team of inexperienced women in pursuit of her dream: ``To stand on the Antarctic ice plateau in the January sunshine.'' In their race for the Pole, Byron and Viola meet both wild triumph and terrible betrayal. Back in the present, erstwhile Byron-worshipper Beatrix must decide how much to leave buried in the permafrost. A broadside, however worthy in intent, for rugged female independence, with a sledgeful of implausibilities. Still, an inventive yarn--even if it is made out of whole cloth.

Pub Date: March 13th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93815-X
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995