A jewelry designer’s intriguing new commission expands into an overplotted adventure from mystery author Barclay (A Final Discord, 2005, etc.).
Wealthy businessman Ivan Digby, who’s purchased the Fieldingley Necklace, asks Jo Radcliff to use its stones in an updated design for his ditzy fiancée, Miri Gale. Jo is reluctant to break up the historic piece with its perfectly matched Burmese rubies, but the project excites her imagination, and she designs a delicate necklace that meets her finicky client’s approval. When she takes it to her gemologist friend Ben Webber to check it for flaws, they’re shocked to discover that the rubies, though they date from the 1800s, are man-made. A furious Ivan sues Betsy Fieldingley, a talented artist who used the money from the purchase to buy herself accommodations. Miri, meanwhile, breaks off her engagement and, encouraged by Jo’s self-centered thespian brother, attempts to leverage her Vanna White–style job into an acting career. Finding Shakespeare over her head, she moves to a new handler, who uses the publicity over the necklace to find work more suited to her talents. And Jo, not to be outdone, drifts into an affair with the devastated Ivan, who’s still besotted with Miri, even though Jo’s really attracted to Betsy’s grandson Tim. The publicity Betsy receives leads to a resurgence in popularity for her botanical paintings. But Tim, incensed about the lawsuit, accuses Jo—whose original design is being reproduced in a limited edition with semiprecious stones—of selling out for publicity. When Miri and Ivan get back together, Jo, still hoping to derail the lawsuit, designs some jewelry for the wedding. She hopes Ivan will accept some of Betsy’s paintings in return for dropping the suit. Whew.
Jo’s intelligence and talent make it hard to accept her entanglement with one-dimensional Ivan in this sexless romance.