In de los Santos’s second novel (Love Walked In, 2006), Cornelia Brown returns the as heroine, now married to handsome oncologist Teo and trying to make a new home in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Having moved out of New York City after the double whammy of a miscarriage and 9/11, Cornelia finds herself a shunned outsider among the community’s perfect blond matrons. Particularly unwelcoming is her tightly wound neighbor Piper, who is as sharp-tongued as she is judgmental about fashion, flowers and childrearing. Cornelia does begin a fledgling friendship with another newcomer, Lake, a waitress who has moved from California to enroll her genius 13-year-old son Dev in a special school after his previous school punished him for being too smart. Dev suspects there might be more to the move, that Lake may be moving them closer to the mystery father he’s never met. As much as Cornelia likes Lake, she senses Lake holding back at crucial moments and responds in kind. Meanwhile, Piper turns out to be a far more complicated woman than she seems on the surface. She drops everything (but her children) to care for her best friend Elizabeth, who’s in the last stages of cancer. By the time Cornelia succeeds in becoming pregnant, she and Piper have grown surprisingly close, each opening her heart a little to the other. Days after Elizabeth dies, Piper’s husband leaves her and she finds herself an outcast for continuing her (platonic) involvement with Elizabeth’s mourning husband and children. In another development, Dev stumbles on the truth Lake has been hiding and learns the identity of his father. The father is stunned; Cornelia is devastated; and oh-so-sensitive, intelligent Dev is furious. Needless to say, a happy ending awaits Cornelia, but readers will be far more interested in Piper, a complex, genuinely intriguing character. Pages on which she appears glow; the rest merely flicker.
Witty and intelligent but too often pat.