Just as the author's two previous novels (Call the Darkness Light, 1979; The Last Waltz, 1984) were set, respectively, in the 19th-century fantasy lands of a Massachusetts factory town and Brahmin Boston, Certain Kinds of Loving takes place in an upper-middle-American dream of suburban life. Neal Donovan, a contractor who insulates old houses, and a still-skittish Vietnam vet, shows up one day to measure the heating pipes of Margaret Merrill's charming Victorian house. Margaret, a well-heeled drop-out from Mt. Holyoke, has spent her entire 20s and 30s beating, raising, and thoroughly adoring her four unbelievably wonderful children. Her husband, though, has recently abandoned her, cruelly, for another woman; and from the moment Neal Donovan enters the house with his clipboard, the four children become hostile and sullen. Margaret, however, two dates later, is passionately in love, although Neal, typically male, continues to hang around his favorite Irish pub in Cambridge, savoring his freedom. Even when--much later--Margaret and Neal do consummate their romance, he shies from the possibility of commitment, of ending ""his isolation,"" and jilts her. Months of this jiltedness go by, and some really serious crises befall Margaret. When she is beaten unconscious by her drunken husband, the erstwhile sullen Merrill children find themselves turning naturally to ex-suitor Neat for help. And as Margaret lies in a hospital with her jaw wired shut, Neal, too, realizes that he has loved Margaret, loved them all, from the very beginning. Cloying and predictable.