Deliciously funny, if uneven sixth novel by Wickham (The Gatecrasher, 2000, etc.) follows three young British career women, just girlfriends at heart, as they bond, break-up, and come happily together again through tumultuous life changes.
Candice Brewin, Roxanne Miller, and Maggie Phillips, who toil together in the editorial offices of an upscale magazine, the Londoner, meet for drinks on the first of every month. Witty and wicked, each of these charmers has a distinctive persona and a personal problem. Goodhearted Candice is the writer, laboring under the revelation that her father (after his sudden death in a car crash) was a con man, a fraud, and a cad. Roxanne is the tough, hard-drinking broad who eschews sentimentality, works freelance on travel pieces, and has been carrying on a six-year affair with “Mr. Married with Kids,” whose identity she keeps secret from even her closest friends. Maggie, the magazine’s high-powered editor, is nine months pregnant, married to a millionaire, and about to leave London for the life of a country matron, “making coffee for a series of new, vibrant friends with cute babies dressed in designer clothes.” At first, these personable and empathetic protagonists seem in control and on top. But Maggie soon finds life outside the city dreary and lonely. Then Roxanne’s lover, who turns out to be Londoner’s publisher, sends her into a tailspin when he cuts her loose without telling her he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Meanwhile, Candice runs into Heather Trelawney, a schoolmate whose family lost everything because of Candice’s father. Trying to make amends, Candice takes the girl under her wing and sets in motion a familiar but still terrifying scenario in which Heather systematically sets out to ruin Candice’s life. The friends lose patience with themselves, and each other, as misunderstandings abound and good intentions go astray.
Succeeds when it’s silly, fails when it attempts dramatic weight.