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 The story of a sixtysomething woman's wished-for summer love affair--an affair that never quite comes to pass but does let author French (Our Father, 1994, etc.) enter a rich Alice Adamslike world of middle-aged social and romantic relationships, with verve. Divorced, sophisticated, cynical Fifth Avenue romance writer Elsa Schutz--known to her readers as Hermione Beldame, author of 87 bestselling titles--meets a dashing, slightly younger, seductive southern man at a party given by her friends, the Altshulers, on their magnificent estate. George Johnson is a bright-eyed, sandy- haired newspaper editor, currently unmarried, whiling away the summer at Columbia University. The sight of George makes Hermione's ``mind, or maybe my heart,'' stop, she admits--with lust and longing. Although she has been married four times (divorced twice, widowed twice) and has settled into a satisfying social whirl of concerts, plays, dinner parties, and foreign trips with her scores of accomplished women and married friends, most of them artists and writers, love is not yet through with Hermione, alas. At least when George asks her to lunch in the city, she begins furiously to fantasize that they'll spend the rest of their lives together. But George, unlike the characters in her books, is neither hero nor villain, exactly--he's ``a master of mixed signals'' who says he will call and doesn't, admires Hermione extravagantly and then never lays a finger on her. Finally, he goes home to Louisville. Meanwhile, stalwart Hermione has been remembering her girlhood and adolescence, sadly lacking in romance, and she's been discussing her feelings for her various husbands and George over fancy restaurant meals with her friends, many of whom have enlightening or hair-raising romantic stories of their own to tell. Thus Hermione learns to embrace a long and fairly triumphant life, while French tells us her opinion on everything from braised lamb shanks to the heart's undying longing for romantic love. A modest pleasure. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44774-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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