Diane Yeager, ""pushing thirty,"" is an ambitious N.Y. jounalist--a business reporter for the Times, a freelance-interviewer who yearns to cover show-biz, a woman who ""believes in great things for herself."" Then Diane meets interview-subject John Bradley, who seems to be the embodiment of many of her yearnings: at 38 or so he's rich and famous as a bestselling pop-novelist; he dallies with Beautiful People and film folk; his father is a legendary literary pundit (whom Bradley hates, and whines about ad nauseam). Moreover, after Diane and Bradley become lovers, he offers her an actual opportunity to live the life she thinks she deserves: he gives her a check for $50,000, to do with what she pleases. So Diane embarks, together with Bradley, on a weekend of hedonism--spending $1000 at Zabar's, partying in Paris, disco-ing and snorting cocaine in N.Y. Indeed, ""Diane had never experienced such pleasure in things."" And the sex is super. (""The universe trembled, exploded outward into billions of stars."") But, finding herself falling seriously in love with footloose Bradley, Diane soon becomes disenchanted--envying his freedom, feeling betrayed (Bradley is secretly engaged to a jet-setter), going home for a while to the Midwest. . . where her mother is dying of cancer. Here, predictably, Diane rediscovers her faith in some old-fashioned, anti-Big-Apple values: ""It seemed to her, that afternoon, that she had exchanged authenticity for illusion."" Her ""desire to marry and have children had intensified since the trip home."" She has an adoring potential husband in old-friend/new-lover Alan--who's nice, if unexciting. And, after her mother's death, Diane decides that ""the kind of success that Bradley epitomized. . . existed on a distinctly inferior plane."" So: will Diane settle for Alan? No, not at all: in the drippy/simple fadeout here, she Has It All--once Bradley (whose ""passion spoke to her heart"") reappears to reveal his more tender, old-fashioned side. (""When she closed her eyes, there was nothing in the world except Bradley's touch."") First-novelist Paulson does a solid, engaging job with Diane's visit home: her mother's dreadful yet inspirational dying, the family tensions, the Midwest/clan atmosphere. Diane herself, however, remains a shallow, self-involved bore throughout; Bradley is equally unappealing; their relationship emerges in talky stretches of limp repartee and dim psychobabble. And the basic scenario--learning that success is only skindeep--is obvious and tinny, especially when compared to novels like Elizabeth Benedict's Slow Dancing (above), which treats a similar growing-up-at-30 story with depth and subtlety.