Shea’s lackluster fourth (Lily of the Valley, 1999, etc.) follows a woman’s recollection of a formative summer on a pony farm—when her best friend kidnapped a baby and stole her boyfriend.
With bland prose that expends itself in quantities far more impressive than the simple points it tries to make, Shea introduces 40-ish Robyn Panek as she returns to her Uncle Pal’s horse farm in Massachusetts to sell the old place. Uncle Pal, widowed for some years, has recently fallen ill and is intent on getting rid of it. Shea stirs memories as Robyn recalls the girlhood summer she spent on the farm, when the overbearingly named Lucy Dragon, a distant relative, showed up for a visit in the aftermath of a suicide attempt. Robyn asserts that this had been shocking for her, but Shea never really gives the reader a feel for it, aside from some stale “I remember I went to a mental institution once and it was scary” anecdotes from Lucy. Robyn had also been in love with goodhearted Frankie, the delivery boy from the local dairy, and shortly after Lucy arrived, she began flirting with him. Lucy then snatched a nearby baby and hid out with Frankie for a few days, until the three of them were caught. Robyn fled, but two decades later, Lucy herself, now an established realtor, shows up to help sell the farm. She’s in a giving-something-back sort of mood and confides to Robyn that she’d been pregnant, had been forced to give the child up for adoption, and was feeling some baby-yearning that summer. Frankie shows up, too, tells Robyn the dark secret of hiding with Lucy, and owns up to the fact that he’s still in love with Robyn. They get together, but one morning both the prized horses and Lucy go missing. Mad reenactment of a past horror? Not to worry: Lucy’s been swinging a sweet deal that leaves everyone happy.
Bleached of genuine drama or human interest, an excellent driving-in-the-car-while-looking-for-parking-place-near-the-beach read.