British novelist Rayner has a talent for turning domestic tragedies (widowhood, infertility and, in this latest, adultery) into something quite special—amusing and astute studies in human resilience.
Maggie wants another baby, and why not? She and Jamie have a lovely Georgian house near London; Jamie has recently been promoted to publisher at a magazine company; their 6-year-old, Nathan, is a dream; and her own freelance writing career makes few demands. But Jamie bristles at the idea, and he isn't sure why. Chloë has her own kind of baby in mind: A features editor at Jamie's company, she wants to launch her own women’s magazine, something edgy and smart. When Chloë approaches him to pitch her special project, their business meeting turns into drinks, then a meal, then some public groping before they head to Chloë’s apartment for sex. Jamie assures Chloë he’s never done anything like it before (well, just that one other time), and the two fall into a passionate affair. He takes Chloë to New York for a conference—they get to play house for a week while Maggie stays behind taking care of the drudgeries of a real home. What distinguishes Rayner’s novel is that Maggie and Chloë, both lovely and worth cheering for, get equal attention—there's no demonized woman, no nagging wife or opportunistic vixen (though Jamie is not what he first seems). Maggie begins to suspect something is awry and confides in her friend Jean (Chloë’s former boss, who knows too much); meanwhile, Chloë feels guilty and desperately in love but is warned against hoping for a happily-ever-after from her flatmate, Rob. Eventually, Maggie confronts Jamie, but what are a wife and girlfriend to do when the man in their lives can’t choose between them? And what does a novelist do to give her heroines the endings they deserve? Rayner plays it just right in the war zone of love.
An engaging, insightful portrait of infidelity, told with charm.