Compromising Positions

( 9 )

Overview

Thirty-four, bright and bored, Judith Singer knew something intriguing was going on in Shorehaven. After ten years, she was sure it wasn't her marriage.

What was going on was a crime . . .

The victim: Dr. Bruce Fleckstein, gum specialist and stud - who kissed the girls and made them smile for his camera.

Now their faces were red. The movies were blue. The dentist was dead.

...

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Overview

Thirty-four, bright and bored, Judith Singer knew something intriguing was going on in Shorehaven. After ten years, she was sure it wasn't her marriage.

What was going on was a crime . . .

The victim: Dr. Bruce Fleckstein, gum specialist and stud - who kissed the girls and made them smile for his camera.

Now their faces were red. The movies were blue. The dentist was dead.

And solving the murder became Judith's hobby - then her passion . . . when she met Sharpe, the sexy lieutenant . . . and when her deep-buried, dazzling. sensous self burst into the light, breaking out of her own . . .

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Wonderfully funny, deliciously mean." — New York Times "Clever, deft...and very funny." — Washington Post "Wickedly subversive wit...Great fun." — Cosmopolitan
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425216194
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 407,612
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Isaacs

Susan Isaacs is the New York Times bestselling author of Long Time No See; Red, White, and Blue; Lily White; After All These Years; Magic Hour; Shining Through; Almost Paradise; Close Relations; and Compromising Positions. She is Chairman of the Board of Poets & Writers and President of Mystery Writers of America.

Biography

Susan Isaacs, novelist, essayist and screenwriter, was born in Brooklyn and educated at Queens College. After leaving school, she worked as an editorial assistant at Seventeen magazine. In 1968, Susan married Elkan Abramowitz, a then a federal prosecutor. She became a senior editor at Seventeen but left in 1970 to stay home with her newborn son, Andrew. Three years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. During this time she freelanced, writing political speeches as well as magazine articles. Elkan became a criminal defense lawyer.

In the mid-seventies, Susan got the urge to write a novel. A year later she began working on what was to become Compromising Positions, a whodunit set on suburban Long Island. It was published in 1978 by Times Books and was chosen a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Her second novel, Close Relations, a love story set against a background of ethnic, sexual and New York Democratic politics (thus a comedy), was published in 1980 by Lippincott and Crowell and was a selection of the Literary Guild. Her third, Almost Paradise, was published by Harper & Row in 1984, and was a Literary Guild main selection; in this work Susan used the saga form to show how the people are molded not only by their histories, but also by family fictions that supplant truth. All of Susan's novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Her fiction has been translated into thirty languages.

In 1985, she wrote the screenplay for Paramount's Compromising Positions, which starred Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia. She also wrote and co-produced Touchstone Pictures' Hello Again. The 1987 comedy starred Shelley Long and Judith Ivey.

Her fourth novel, Shining Through, set during World War II, was published by Harper & Row in 1988. Twentieth-Century Fox's film adaptation starred Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. Her fifth book, Magic Hour, a coming-of-middle-age novel as well as a mystery, was published in January 1991. After All These Years was published in 1993; critics lauded it for its strong and witty protagonist. Lily White came out in 1996 and Red, White and Blue in 1998. All the novels were published by HarperCollins and were main selections of the Literary Guild. In 1999, Susan's first work of nonfiction, Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women Are Really Doing on Page and Screen, was published by Ballantine's Library of Contemporary Thought. During 2000, she wrote a series of columns on the presidential campaign for Newsday. Long Time No See, a Book of the Month Club main selection, was published in September 2001; it was a sequel to Compromising Positions. Susan's tenth novel is Any Place I Hang My Hat (2004).

Susan Isaacs is a recipient of the Writers for Writers Award and the John Steinbeck Award. She serves as chairman of the board of Poets & Writers and is a past president of Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle, The Creative Coalition, PEN, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the Adams Round Table. She sits on the boards of the Queens College Foundation, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Association, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and is an active member of her synagogue. She has worked to gather support for the National Endowment of the Arts' Literature Program and has been involved in several anti-censorship campaigns. In addition to writing books, essays and films, Susan has reviewed books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Newsday and written about politics, film and First Amendment issues. She lives on Long Island with her husband.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Isaacs:

"My first job was wrapping shoes in a shoe store in the low-rent district of Fifth Avenue and saying ‘Thank you!' with a cheery smile. I got canned within three days for not wrapping fast enough, although I suspect that often my vague, future-novelist stare into space while thinking about sex or lunch did not give me a smile that would ring the bell on the shoe store's cheer-o-meter."

"I constantly have to fight against the New York Effect, an overwhelming urge to wear black clothes so everyone will think, Egad, isn't she chic and understated! I'm not, by nature, a black-wearing person. (I'm not, by nature, a chic person either.) I like primary colors as well as bright purple, loud chartreuse, and shocking pink. And that's just my shoes."

"I'm not a great fan of writing classes. Yes, they do help people sometimes, especially with making them write regularly. But the aspiring writer can be a delicate creature, sensitive or even oversensitive to criticism. I was that way: I still am. The problem begins with most people's natural desire to please. In a classroom situation, especially one in which the work will be read aloud or critiqued in class, the urge to write something likable or merely critic-proof can dam up your natural talent. Also, it keeps you from developing the only thing you have is a writer -- your own voice. Finally, you don't know the people in a class well enough to figure out where their criticism is coming from. A great knowledge of literature? Veiled hostility? The talent is too precious a commodity to risk handing it over to strangers."

"Writing is sometimes an art, and it certainly is a craft. But it's also a job. I go to work five or six days a week (depending how far along I am with my work-in-progress). Like most other people, there are days I would rather be lying in a hammock reading or going to a movie with a friend. But whether you're an artist or an accountant, you still have to show up at work. Otherwise, it is unlikely to get done."

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    1. Hometown:
      Sands Point, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      Honorary Doctorate, Queens College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Compromising Positions


By Susan Isaacs

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1978 Susan Isaacs
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-1967-6


CHAPTER 1

As they would murmur at his funeral, Dr. M. Bruce Fleckstein was one of the finest periodontists on Long Island. And so good-looking. But as he turned his muscular, white-coated back for the last time, he had no notion that he had shot his final wad of Novocaine, probed his ultimate gum. No, he simply turned for an instant, perhaps out of boredom, perhaps to hide the slight smirk that passed over his thin, firm lips. It was an unfortunate turn; his companion seized the moment to withdraw a thin, sharp weapon and plunge it into the base of Fleckstein's skull.


That was on the evening of Valentine's Day. My children lay on the floor of the den, watching television, unusually amicable; they were probably too engorged, too leaden, with the day's excess of Valentine's confections to raise even a whimper, much less a clenched fist. I sat alone, waiting for my husband, my finger tracing hearts pierced with nonlethal arrows on the frosted window near the kitchen table.


Fleckstein lay on the floor of his office. It must have been quiet there too, for his murderer stayed only ten minutes, taking time to make sure there was no tell-tale twitch of life, to grab a few tissues to wipe off the weapon and to search the office. Of course, even if Fleckstein had been able to give one last shriek of protest, one last howl of dismay, I would not have heard him. His office, Suite 305 in the Shorehaven Colonial Professional Building, was ten minutes from my house, a ten-room Tudor in Shorehaven Acres. Actually, Shorehaven Half-Acres would be more precise, but the developers of Nassau County's North Shore insist on perpetuating the area's reputation as the Gold Coast, the Playland of the Robber Barons. So, minutes from F. Scott Fitzgerald's East Egg, we have Shorehaven Estates, split-levels on sixty by one hundred foot plots; Shorecastle, a red-brick sprawl of upper-middle-income garden apartments on the once-lush grounds of a nineteenth-century railroad tycoon; Shorehaven Mansions, a group of forty colonials, aluminum-sided mini-Taras, competing with a few sparse junipers for a place in the sun.

I learned of Fleckstein's death about two hours after it happened, as I listened to an all-news radio station broadcasting from Manhattan, thirty miles away.

"We have a report from Duke Gray, our Long Island correspondent," the voice said. I listened. Bob's train might be late, the switches might have frozen.

"Yes, Jim," came a second voice, crackling over the wire like Edward R. Murrow reporting the Battle of Britain. "I'm speaking to you from the suburb of Shorehaven, where a little more than an hour ago, the body of Dr. Marvin Bruce Fleckstein, a dentist, was discovered, brutally murdered, on the floor of his office." The voice droned on, reporting that there seemed to be no definite leads, but that an official from the Nassau County Police Department would try to issue a statement later in the evening. "And that's it for now from Shorehaven, Jim."

"Thanks, Duke."

"God," I thought, turning off the radio. "I knew him." I had seen Fleckstein in line waiting for a movie and at Parents Night at school. I had even consulted with him once, about six months into my pregnancy with Joey. I had been peering into the mirror, studying my face, the only part of my body not bloated, gazing into my slightly almond-shaped eyes, staring at my high cheekbones, mementos, doubtless, of a Mongol invader who had passed through my great-great-grandmother's shtetl en route to besiege Minsk. I smiled at my reflection and saw it: tiny rivulets of blood oozing out of puffy gums. My dentist told me to see a periodontist like Dr. Fleckstein. I did.


He gave me a friendly greeting. "Hi, Judy."

"Judith," I replied automatically.

"Okay, Judith it is." By that time, I realized I had lost the opportunity to be brilliantly assertive, to establish my adult credentials. I could have said coolly, "Mrs. Singer," or, better still, "Ms. Singer," or even "Ms. Bernstein-Singer." Instead, I sat passively, mouth agape, a napkin resting under my chin, a bib to soak up my infantile dribble. My eyes darted from the word "Castle" on Fleckstein's adjustable light to his princely, large-featured face. He probed, he scraped with one of those ghastly pointed metal dental picks, stopping at intervals so I could rinse my bloodied mouth with Lavoris and water.

"You haven't been using unwaxed dental floss, have you?" he asked, although he knew the answer.

"No, but I will."

"You really should. Do you have a Water Pik?"

"Yes," I muttered, the draining tube making crude slurping noises in the bottom of my mouth.

"Well, use it. It doesn't do you any good sitting on the sink, does it, Judith?" He sounded sad and weary, a prophet unheeded by a decadent, self-indulgent people.

"No, I guess not." I felt humiliated, as I always do with professionals who catch me in my sloppy, unroutinized ways. Periodically, I remind myself that I haven't taken my vitamin-mineral supplement, that my toe- nails have grown curved and jagged, that another month has passed without a self-examination of my breasts.

But Fleckstein wasn't too bad. He gave me some medicine for my gums and told me to massage them regularly. Then, looking at my belly, he said: "Good luck."

"Thank you."

"Is this your first?"

"No, my second. We have a three-year-old daughter, Katherine. We call her Kate."

"Very nice. Well, good seeing you. Good luck."

"Dr. Fleckstein," I said, "about your fee. How much ...?"

"Speak to my nurse about it." He smiled and left the room.


Not exactly an "I-thou" relationship, but sufficient to leave me shaken at the news of his murder. Almost unconsciously, I twisted the knobs of the three doors to the house, front, back, and garage. They were locked. I turned on the outside floodlights. The grass, encrusted with a brittle February frost, was blanketed by a pale, eerie mist, but no crazed killers seemed to be lurking behind the swings or under the denuded rose bushes.

"Kate! Joey!" I called, and waited an uneasy moment until they tramped up the stairs. "Time for bed."

"Can't we wait up for Daddy? Star Trek isn't over. It's still early. It isn't fair." They protested, alternating sentences, whining louder each time.

"Shh," I hissed, and marched them upstairs to their rooms, where I tenderly smoothed back their hair to kiss their foreheads, tucked them into bed, and half-closed their doors. Then I tiptoed downstairs, accelerating as I moved through the hallway into the kitchen, straight for the telephone.

"Nancy," I breathed as she answered after five rings. "It's me." Nancy MacLaren Miller, whom I'd met fifteen years before in a Colonial American History class at the University of Wisconsin, was one of the best reasons for living in Shorehaven. Her house was about two miles from mine, and I saw her, needed to see her, at least once a week. "Did you hear the news?"

"Apparently not," she answered, her deep, husky voice thickened by a Georgia drawl, although she hadn't been back to Valdosta for nearly twenty years. "What happened?"

Taking a deep breath, I recounted what I had heard on the newscast, inhaled again briefly and asked: "Did you know him?"

"My Lord, no. But I've heard about him. Anyway, Judith, who could possibly have done it?"

I suggested a junkie, which Nancy rejected as being either unlikely or boring, or an irate patient, whose gums were still bleeding after years of treatment.

"No, no, no," she insisted. "Look, he was what my mother would have called a bounder. Most likely, it was someone he was fucking." Southern women, I've noticed, can say the most outrageous things, and even the most straight-laced listener will smile wanly, as if to say, "Isn't she cute?"

"Really?" I asked. "I mean, he didn't seem the Don Juan type."

"Judith, you wouldn't recognize it if you fell over it. You think that every guy who talks to you wants to establish a meaningful dialogue." Her voice rose. "Men do not want dialogues. What do you want them to do? Hang their dickies out of their trousers and wave them at you? Would you understand then?"

"That would be a fair indication," I conceded. "But listen, Nancy, why would one of his women want to kill him?"

"Maybe he wouldn't go down on her."

"She could have stoned him or thrown lye in his face. Don't you think murder is a little excessive?"

"No," she said firmly. "I most certainly do not."

We chatted a few minutes longer. At my urging, Nancy recalled that she had heard rumors linking Fleckstein with a couple of the local ladies, but she couldn't remember the details. "How do you think his wife will take it?" I mused. "What's her name?"

"Let me see now. Norma. Norma Fleckstein."

"Norma. That's right." She had been pointed out to me once or twice, although we had never been introduced. Tall and slender, with short frosted hair brushed back to frame her oblong-shaped face. Not pretty, but aggressively attractive, she was one of those Long Island tough-ladies, brittle and magnificently groomed, wafting a sweet cloud of Norell or Estée. With three or four silver rings on each hand. Dressed in designer jumpsuits unzipped low enough to establish the existence of cleavage, toting an outsize Louis Vuitton handbag or clutching a Gucci under a thin arm. I cannot seem to comprehend the meaning of these flawless women, why they're here.

Are they divine messengers or mother surrogates, here to remind the rest of us to do our isometrics and polish our nails? Are they the ultimate threat, a warning that if we neglect to slather on body cream and blow-dry our hair every day, our husbands will abandon us and our children will mock us? I eavesdrop on their conversations in restaurants and department stores; they're consistently discussing clothes, vacations, or who did what to whom, in the most conventional, adulterous, heterosexual manner imaginable. Yet they seem so strange, alien almost.

"I don't know how she'll take it," Nancy said. "But I'll just bet she'll open her closet and find the perfect little black dress to wear to the funeral."

We said goodbye, vowing to call each other if we heard anything new. I sat at the kitchen table, running my finger over the ridges in the polyester tablecloth that was meant to approximate burlap, pondering the fact that the body of a near contemporary—I was thirty-four, Fleckstein couldn't have been more than six or seven years older—was right then lying on a slab in the police morgue. Why had it happened? Who could have done it?

Then, hearing Bob's car in the driveway, I leapt up to stick the steak under the broiler. If we sipped our tomato juice slowly enough, the meat would be done before he noticed that the entire dinner was not arrayed before him, steaming and juicy, after he handed me his coat and dashed to the dining room table. I strolled to the front door and opened it, knowing that Bob would still be fumbling with his key ring, as if trying to locate the key to some obscure filing cabinet instead of the one to his house.

"Thanks," he said, stepping inside. "And how was your day today?" He leaned forward, aiming his lips toward my cheek for their usual greeting, but I must have moved slightly, because he kissed my right eye. He didn't seem to notice. "Boy," he breathed, "did I have a bitch of a day."

"Happy Valentine's Day," I replied. I reached into the closet and took his present from the top shelf, a book, complete with maps and illustrations, on life in medieval France.

"Thanks," he said. "I'll open it after dinner. Look, Judith, I didn't have a chance to get you anything, and I really don't know what you need. Go out tomorrow and buy yourself something nice. Okay? Jesus," he added, "am I exhausted."

"Well, you look great." He did. Bob had just enough character in his face for him to be judged as good-looking, rather than handsome. A tall, slender man, slightly over six feet, with curly light brown hair, a long straight nose, and crinkly laugh lines in the outer corners of his pale blue eyes—which actually came from squinting—he rarely looked fatigued. His shoulders might slump a bit, his beard might appear a little scratchy, but he always looked scrubbed, fresh, healthy. Clear, bright American looks, like a Kellogg's Corn Flakes ad, contrasted to my darkness, a face in the crowd in a documentary called "New York City: Melting Pot." When his ancestors chose exogamy, they obviously went in for Aryans. "Anyway," I asked, "what happened this afternoon that was so hideous?"

"Nothing. A meeting with some new clients. A toy company. I don't even want to talk about it." Bob is vice-president of his family's public relations firm. When we met, eleven years before, he was about to begin his doctoral dissertation in comparative literature. A year later, about two months after our wedding, he opted for Singer Associates.

"What's for dinner?"

"Steak," I said, hanging up his heavy blue overcoat. Why did I do that? "Let me just turn it."

"It's not ready yet?"

"No."

"All right. I might as well go upstairs and wash up."

We sat at the long, oval dining room table a few minutes later, he at the head of the table, me on his left, facing a large painting his mother had given us, a pink and mauve and gray arrangement of rectangles painted by an artist friend of hers. It was still recognizable as the standard Manhattan skyline.

I offered him a baked potato. "Did you hear about it?"

"About what?" he asked, shaking his head, refusing the potato.

"Remember when I was pregnant with Joey, I went to a periodontist, Dr. Fleckstein?" He nodded. "Well, he was murdered."

"Jesus, a dentist. Who'd want to kill a dentist?"

I gave him my synopsis of the radio report and repeated Nancy's theory that the murderer was one of the women he had been sleeping with. "What do you think?" I asked.

"I dunno," he replied. This from a man once equally comfortable speaking French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian, a man who had once possessed a reading knowledge of Latin, ancient Greek, and Hebrew. He leaned back in his chair, a signal that he was ready for coffee. As I walked into the kitchen, he called after me: "You know, I heard something about Fleckstein recently."

I did a rapid about-face. "What?"

"I'll think while you get the coffee." I returned and poured the coffee, watching him as he twisted the lobe of his ear between his fingers. "I know," he finally responded. "I had lunch with Clay last week, and he said one of his partners had a neighbor of ours for a client." Claymore Katz, who had been Bob's roommate at Columbia, was a criminal lawyer who specialized in white-collar crime—securities fraud, tax evasion, bribery.

"Was it a criminal thing? Did Claymore say what it was about?"

"It must have been something criminal, but he didn't go into detail. Look, it had to be something interesting if he bothered to mention it to me. I'm sure he was trying to see if I knew anything about the guy." He pushed his coffee cup back an inch and stood up. "I'll meet you upstairs," he said, giving me his knowing look. "Hurry up with the dishes."

I worked slowly, patiently scraping the gristle and the remaining green beans into the garbage, carefully rinsing the dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher. Why should a suburban dentist need a high-priced criminal lawyer? Some sort of Medicaid fraud? Not likely. Fleckstein's patients were drawn from the Shorehaven community, and the community could pay its own way.

"Judith," Bob called in a hoarse whisper from the top of the stairs. "I'm waiting for you." I finished hurriedly, leaving the broiling pan to soak overnight. He was indeed waiting, I saw, as I passed through the hallway to the stairs. His Valentine present lay on the shelf where he had left it, unopened. I walked up the stairs to him. "Hi," he said softly, standing slim and naked and erect. He didn't like to waste time. "Ready?" He asked me that three nights a week.

"Bob, could you call Claymore tomorrow and try to find out some more information? Please?"

"Come on, Judith. Who cares?"

"I care. It's interesting."

"Clay probably doesn't know anything."

"But maybe he does. Or he could speak to his lawyer friend."

"How would that look?" he demanded.

"It would look like you're curious. Tell him I asked you to find out what's going on. Clay likes me. He'd do it for me."

"I don't have to bring you into it," he snapped. "Come on, Judith, it's getting late and I want to get to the office early." I stepped toward him and ran my hands over his chest and stomach, firm from his daily prelunch workout, hairy and warm. "Come on," he urged. "Let's do it in bed. Okay?"

We did, finishing neatly in our usual twenty minutes. It was fine; one hundred watts of sexual incandescence discharged, a baked potato's worth of calories consumed, a faint aura of warmth and friendliness established that lasted through the night and into the first few minutes of the morning.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs. Copyright © 1978 Susan Isaacs. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    One of my all-time favorites . . . . .

    My sister-in-law gave me this book many years ago. It is a delicious murder mystery/love story. The first time I read it I was a stay-at-home mom and identified in many ways with the main character. I have reread it several times through the years and always near Valentine's Day. It is great fun!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2007

    Mystery, Romance & Comedy

    This book has some of the greatest one liners in history. A good read on everyday life... raising children, trying to keep a marriage going while being an individual with a brain and some needs. Universal themes and a good mystery too! Great fun. Hollywood thought so too and made the movie! The author is funny and talented beyond words!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2006

    Started as a mystery but ended as a love story

    If you want a good mystery, read something else. If you want a love story based upon adultery, then this is the book for you. I thought the book started out with a lot of potential to be a good who-dun-it. It took a turn when they introduced the affair. This was the only mistake the book makes. Other than that, it was pretty good. I've read much better though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    What a dumb book!

    Okay, it was written a few decades ago so it is dated. That aside: unappealing characters, unconvincing plot, and a lame non-ending. I finished it and thought "Who cares?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2014

    WOLF

    &alpha &delta &beta &gamma &kappa &omega

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Saw the movie years ago

    Thougt it a little better than book but was still a moderate cozy except for a few grafic sex details though this was no doubt considered very on edge subject matter her friend in book was very nicely portrayed in movie

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    Loved it

    Great fluffy read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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