Thayer always writes compellingly about women's lives, but sometimes the stories feel close to the bone while, other times, they're as dazzling but weightless as soap bubbles. Here, in her tenth novel (Family Secrets, 1993, etc.), she's opted to stir up the suds again. Joanna Jones, beautiful, blond, and 40-isb, is the star of a popular television series called Fabulous Homes. Each week she explores another gorgeous house and ponders the life of the family that inhabits it. The irony is that Joanna herself lives carelessly in a nondescript apartment. She has no family, only a clandestine lover, Carter, the very handsome, very married producer of her show. But everything changes when Joanna, realizing that Carter will never desert his family for her, learns she's pregnant with his child (or, actually, children -- it's twins!) and flees to Nantucket. There, she finds the perfect old house, complete with its own legends of hidden treasure, and also manages, almost effortlessly, to hire the perfect housekeeper. Don't be fooled, though. Despite her ""rippling"" blond hair, domestic acumen, and seemingly endless financial resources, Joanna doesn't go on to lead a perfect Martha Stewart existence. She has to endure an astonishing series of tragedies on the otherwise tranquil island before she, literally, rises from the ashes, reassesses her good fortune, and rebuilds her life once again, ending up pretty much where, in the opening pages, Thayer hinted she would. Thayer's writing skill is evident here. She's especially marvelous at depicting babies in all their messy charm, and she knows how to create strong, stubborn, memorable characters like Madaket, Joanna's young housekeeper. But these flashes of talent just make you wish for more of it among the frothy scenes of parties on yachts and details of elegant interiors. Still, a good read for a segment of Thayer fans, notably those who loved Everlasting (1991). Love, money, life, death: a page-turner that's 99.9% pure formula.