Riverside Drive

Riverside Drive

4.4 9
by Laura Van Wormer

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At New York’s most-sought-after address, passions and secrets collide, and love is destroyed, then found again in the most unlikely place.

Michael and Cassie Cochran are television's perfect couple, but the veneer of their enviable marriage is starting to crack. And only one of them is trying to salvage it.

Sam and Harriet Wyatt have spent a lifetime


At New York’s most-sought-after address, passions and secrets collide, and love is destroyed, then found again in the most unlikely place.

Michael and Cassie Cochran are television's perfect couple, but the veneer of their enviable marriage is starting to crack. And only one of them is trying to salvage it.

Sam and Harriet Wyatt have spent a lifetime getting to where they are, but they could lose it all in the blink of an eye after Sam stumbles upon a corporate secret.

Howard Stewart has the perfect job and the perfect wife—both of which are a perfect lie.

Amanda Miller has wealth, fame and a lifetime of heartache. She's given up on men—until she meets the one she can't resist.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cassy and Michael Cochran are TV news producers. Michael is a drinker and womanizer, Cassy a silent sufferer. Howard Stewart, successful (though underpaid) book editor, is the unhappy husband of Melissa, a banker who was born rich and is getting richer. Sam and Harriet Wyatt, a black couple, are well-off and happy until Sam discovers that his employer does business with South Africa. Amanda Miller, a wealthy, reclusive divorcee, is a secret voluptuary, and elderly Emma Goldblum lives with her cat at the edge of poverty. These people inhabit the gracious apartment buildings that line Manhattan's Riverside Park. The one thing that connects them is their spunky cleaning lady, Rosanne DiSantos, who lives with her drug addict husband in a seedy West Side hotel. We follow this group from cocktail party to block party, through marital and job strife. Van Wormer's prose, in her first novel, ranges from florid to indifferent, but her realistic characters and situations, combined with occasional blasts of sensationalized sex, will keep her readers turning the pages. Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild featured alternate. (May)
Library Journal
The warm, feisty cleaning lady works for families living on New York's Riverside Drive. Mondays are for the loveless yuppies; Tuesdays, for the romantic, but disillusioned, heiress; Wednesdays, for the successful black couple with alcoholism in their past; Thursdays, for the elderly and impoverished lady; and Fridays, for the married, though in crisis, TV producers. The lives of these families intertwine improbably in this fluffy, predictable, but pleasant, first novel. Ironically, one character is an editor committed to good literature; the author herself is a former editor at Doubleday, which is heavily promoting this book. But why quibble over trite phrases or misplaced modifiers when this book is what everyone will be reading on the beach? Literary Guild featured alternate. Janet Boyavin Blundell, M.L.S., Brookdale Coll., Lincroft, N.J.

Product Details

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4.20(w) x 6.68(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Cochrans have a party

Cassy Cochran was upset.

Michael, her husband, had gone to pick up ice four hours ago and hadn't been seen since; Henry, her son, was supposed to be back from Shea Stadium but wasn't; and Rosanne, the cleaning woman, was currently threatening the new bartender in the kitchen with deportation proceedings if he didn't see her way of doing things.

Not a terrific beginning for a party that Cassy absolutely did not want to have.

"Hey, Mrs. C?" It was Rosanne, standing in the doorway to the living room.

Cassy turned.

"If Mr. C comes back, he's gonna be pretty upset about how this guy's settin' up the bar. Could you—" She frowned suddenly and leaned her head back into the kitchen. "What?" she said. "Well, it's about time." Rosanne swung back around the doorway, waving her hand. "Never mind, Mrs. C, Mr. Moscow here suddenly understands English."

Cassy smiled, shaking her head slightly, and then surveyed the living room. It was a very large, very airy room that, in truth, almost anything would look marvelous in.

And Cassy's taste for antiques (or "early attic," as Michael described her preference) was especially fitting, seeing as every floorboard in the apartment creaked. But then, the apartment was really much more like a house, a big old country farmhouse, only with high ceilings. And windows. The three largest rooms—the living room, the master bedroom and Henry's room—all had huge windows facing out on the Hudson River.

The windows had been washed this week. Before, shrouded in a misty gray, the view from the twelfth floor had been eerily reminiscent of London on what Henry called a Sherlock Holmes kind of day. But no,this was New York; and the winter's soot had all been washed away and the late afternoon April sun, setting across the river in New Jersey, was, at this moment, flooding the living room with gentle light.

For a woman from the Midwest, the view from the Cochrans' apartment never failed to slightly astonish Cassy. This was New York City? That steely, horrid, ugly place that her mother had warned her about? No, no… Mother had been wrong. Hmmm. Mother had been right about many things, but no, not about New York. Not here. Not the place the Cochrans had made their home.

Sometimes the view made Cassy long to cry. The feeling—whatever it was—would start deep in her chest, slowly rise to her throat and then catch there, hurting her, Cassy unable to bring it up or to press it back down from where it had come. She was feeling that now, holding on to the sash of the middle window, looking out, her forehead resting against the glass.

The Cochrans lived at 162 Riverside Drive, on the north corner of 88 Street. Looking down from the window, Cassy's eyes crossed over the Drive to the promenade that marked the edge of Riverside Park. The promenade was arbored by maple, oak and elm trees, underneath which, across from the Cochrans', were a line of cannons from the Revolutionary War, still aimed out toward unseen enemy ships. To the right, up a block, was the gigantic stone terrace around the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, a circular, pillared tower patterned after the monument of Lysicrates in Athens. But this part of Riverside Drive was built on a major bluff, and it was beneath it that lay the heart of the park's glory.

Acre upon acre of the park was coming alive under the touch of spring, the trees bursting with new leaves, the dogwoods and magnolias flowering their most precious best. From here, too, Cassy could look down and see the community garden; in a month it would be one long sea of flowers, flowing down through a valley of green.

Traveling down the slope of the park, Cassy's eyes, out of habit, skipped over the West Side Highway and down to the walkway by the river's edge. It was green there, too. And then, down there, the Hudson River. Lord, she was beautiful.

It was the river that always played with Cassy's heart. There were days when Cassy looked out and thought to herself, How does she know? She would be as dark and gray and cold as Cassy felt inside. But then there were those days when the river was as blue and as dazzling as Cassy's own eyes were. Oh, how awful it was on those days when Cassy's heart was cold and dark, and the river was so beautiful. Like now. How does she do it? Cassy wondered. The river had all of these crazy New Yorkers on one side of her, and all of these crazy New Jerseyites on the other, forever throwing rocks and trash at her, dumping things in her, and, sometimes, even throwing themselves into her in an effort to get this thing called life over with. And yet…her tides continued to ebb and flow, and the winds continued to blow across her, and her rhythms of regeneration went on, pulling, pulling downward, her glorious expanse gracing the urban landscape, pulling, pulling downward, spending herself, finally, totally, into the relentless mouth of New York Harbor.

Cassy sighed.

"You okay?"

Cassy pressed the bridge of her nose for a moment and then turned around. "I'm fine," she said. And then she smiled at Rosanne. And then she laughed.

"What?" Rosanne said.

"Well," Cassy began, pausing, touching at her earring.

Rosanne's eyes narrowed slightly.

Cassy glanced at her watch and then back to Rosanne. Back to the "Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame" bandanna that was slipping down over Rosanne's eyes. Back to Rosanne's blue denim shirt, whose shirttail was hanging down to her knees. Back to her jeans, whose hem lay in folds around the top of her Adidases. Back to thin little Rosanne, all five feet of her, standing there, just waiting for Cassy to say it.

Cassy moved forward toward her. "It's time for you to change," she said, smiling.

Rosanne looked to the ceiling. "Here we go," she said. "Ya know, Mrs. C," she continued, as Cassy took her by the elbow and steered her toward the kitchen, "you never said nothin' about me havin' to play dress-up."

They were in the kitchen now, and Cassy stopped, looking back at Rosanne. She smiled, yanked the bandanna down over Rosanne's eyes and turned to the bartender. "Have everything you need, Ivor?"

"Yes, Madame Coch-ah-ren," he replied, bowing slightly.

"Good," she said, pulling Rosanne along through the kitchen to the back hall. Rosanne scooped up her bag from the counter along the way.

"And I never said I was a caterer," Rosanne reminded her.

"Right," Cassy said.

"So I don't know why you get so picky about what I wear—it's not as if you like any of these guys."

They were in the master bedroom now, and Cassy headed toward her closet. "I think you're going to like it," she said, opening the doors.

"Mrs. C," Rosanne said, throwing her bag on the bed, "ya know, if you'd just tell me, I'd bring one of the ones you already got me."

"Well, I was in Macy's and there it was, just hanging there, calling, 'Rosanne, Rosanne, I was made for Rosanne.'"

Rosanne sighed, pulled off her bandanna and shook out her hair. Cassy turned around, holding a pretty blue and black print dress. "Hair," she said, "good Lord, Rosanne, you have hair."

"Come on, Mrs. C," Rosanne said, turning away.

Cassy walked over and laid the dress out on the bed. She looked at Rosanne a moment and then smiled, gently. "Tell me the truth—do you really hate doing this?"

Rosanne shrugged and proceeded to pull some things out of her bag: a slip, some panty hose and a pair of shoes.

The doorbell rang.

"Uh-oh," Cassy said, looking at her watch, "somebody's here already. No, let Ivor get it, Rosanne. You go ahead and get changed."

Rosanne shrugged again and started undoing the buttons of her shirt while Cassy walked back to stand in front of the closet door mirror. She scanned it. A few wisps of blond hair were already falling out of the clip. But her eyes were still blue. Her nose was still perfect. Her mouth still had lipstick. Body was still tall and slim. Bracelets, check. Earrings, check.

Cassy was still beautiful. Cassy was still forty-one. She would not stand closer to the mirror than she was; she would not care to see the reminders of her age showing around her eyes, mouth and neck.

"Don't know how good Mr. Moscow's gonna be at greetin' guests," Rosanne said.

"Hmmm," Cassy said, raising her chin slightly, still looking at herself in the mirror.

"And you don't want to scare him right off the bat," Rosanne continued.

Cassy laughed.

"They said he was the last bartender they'd send us," she reminded her.

"Oh, Lord, that's right." Cassy closed the closet door and sailed out of the bedroom, down the hall and through the kitchen to the front hall, where she found Ivor standing in front of the open door. "Who is it, Ivor?" When he gave her a vacant look, she stepped forward to peer around his shoulder. "Oh, Amos. Hi."

"Hi," Amos Franklin said. Both Ivor's and Cassy's eyes were fixed on the stuffed head of an unidentifiable animal that was snarling on top of Amos' head.

"It's okay, Ivor," Cassy said, patting the arm with which Ivor was blocking the door.

Ivor did not seem convinced.

"He's a guest," Cassy told him. "We're supposed to let him in." Ivor's eyes shifted to her. She nodded, smiling encouragement. He took one more look out the door, frowned, and slipped behind Cassy to return to the kitchen. "Sorry about that," Cassy said, waving Amos in. "I have no idea what I've done to earn his protection."

"Any man would want to protect you," Amos whispered.

Here we go, Cassy thought. Amos was forever whispering little things like that—that is, when his wife wasn't around. "Nice hat," she said, snarling fangs sweeping in past her eyes.

"Michael gave it to me for my birthday," Amos said. He reached up, groped around, and patted the animal on the nose. "I don't think it's real, though."

Cassy led Amos into the living room, explaining that Michael was out getting some ice.

"Good," Amos said, sitting on the couch and patting the seat next to him, "it will give me a chance to talk to you."

Cassy sat down in one of the chairs.

"You're beautiful."


"You're beautiful," Amos repeated.

"Ivor!" Cassy called out. He was there like a shot. "Ivor," Cassy directed, "ask Mr. Franklin what he would like to drink."

Ivor stared at him.

"Scotch on the rocks," Amos said.

Ivor moved over to Cassy. Bowing, "Madame?"

"A Perrier with lime, please. Thank you, Ivor."

Ivor took one more look at Amos and departed.

"So, Amos, tell me how you are."

Amos was not good. As the head writer for Michael's newsroom at WWKK, he never made a secret of his keen dislike for Michael Cochran. After a minilecture on the abuse and misuse of Amos Franklin at work, he would invariably end up with a pitch for Cassy to hire him at her station, WST. Cassy's mind wandered, and as Amos progressed with his story about how "a certain egomaniac who will go unnamed" took credit for a job done by "a certain unsung hero who will go unnamed," Cassy—not for the first time—thought about Michael's parties.

Once a month Cassy's husband wanted to have a party. Cassy had never, ever wanted any of these parties, but it wasn't because she was antisocial. It was because Michael had this thing about only inviting people who seemed to despise him. And too, they—these people who despised Michael—were all professionally dependent on him. And so, whether it was Amos, or a technical director, or a character generator operator, they all came to Michael's parties and drank with him and laughed with him and despised him. If Cassy made the mistake of trying to talk Michael out of one of these parties he would go ahead and invite the people anyway and then spring it on her the morning of the day it was being held. This was not the case this Sunday evening, however; this party had been announced Friday night. ("Cocktails." "For how many?" "Ten, fifty maybe.")

"Have you met the Kansas Kitten yet?" Amos was asking her, taking his drink from Ivor.

Cassy tried to think. "Oh, the new anchor. No, I haven't. Thanks, Ivor." He bowed again.

"Alexandra Waring—that wearing woman, we all call her," Amos said, stirring his drink with his finger. He put the finger in his mouth for several moments and sent a meaningful look to Cassy—who chose to ignore it. Slightly annoyed, Amos continued. "But you know all about Michael's private coaching lessons." When she didn't say anything, he laughed sharply, adding, "Day and night lessons."

"If Michael brought Alexandra Waring here from Kansas," Cassy said, rising out of her chair, "then she must be extraordinarily talented. Excuse me, Amos, I have to check on things in the kitchen."

"Extraordinarily talented," she heard Amos say. "Too bad we're not talking about the newsroom."

In the kitchen, Cassy told Ivor to listen for the doorbell. "And let whoever it is, Ivor, in. All right? Oh—" She retraced her steps. "Take that tray of hors d'oeuvres in, please. And if that animal tries to bite you, you have my permission to kill it."

Cassy walked back to the bedroom, knocked, and let herself in. Rosanne was standing in front of the mirror— in the dress. She looked terrific and Cassy told her so, moving over to check the fit from a closer view.

"Did Mr. C lose his keys again?"

"No," Cassy said, turning Rosanne and looking at the hem, "that was Amos."

"The guy I threw the sponge at last time?"

"Yes. Rosanne, come here." Cassy pulled her over to the dressing table and sat her down. She picked up her own brush and paused. To Rosanne's reflection in the mirror she said, "I want to try something with your hair." Rosanne shrugged. Cassy took it as consent and started to brush out Rosanne's long hair.

"Too bad you didn't have a daughter," Rosanne said into the mirror.

"Hmmm." Cassy had hairpins in her mouth. She was bringing the sides of Rosanne's hair back up off her face. The doorbell rang; Rosanne started to rise; Cassy pushed her back down into the chair. "Not yet."

Rosanne watched her work for a while and then said, "Who did you play dress-up with before me? Not the kid, I hope." The kid was Henry, Cassy's sixteen-year-old son.

"No one," Cassy said. She looked down into the mirror, turning Rosanne's head slightly. She considered their progress and then met Rosanne's eyes. "You know, Rosanne," she said, "the only reason I do this is because you'll need it one day." She paused, letting her hand fall on Rosanne's shoulder. (The doorbell rang again.) "You're not going to be cleaning houses forever." Rosanne's eyes lowered. "Maybe you don't think so," Cassy said, resuming brushing, "but I know so. And I want you to be ready."


It wasn't a lie, what Cassy had said. But it certainly wasn't the whole truth behind "playin' dress-up." The first time Cassy had coaxed Rosanne out of her usual cleaning garb and into a dress, Cassy had been quite taken aback. For some reason Cassy couldn't understand, Rosanne seemed determined to conceal from the world not only her body but the basic truth of an attractive face. Here, right now, in the mirror, was a nice-looking young woman with long, wavy brown hair, large brown eyes (with lashes to die for) and a slightly Roman nose. And her skin! Twenty-six years of a difficult life, and yet not a mark was to be found on Rosanne's complexion.

And so the whole truth had a lot to do with Cassy's pleasure at performing a miracle make-over. And it did seem miraculous to Cassy, this transformation of Rosanne, because she herself always looked the same—at her best. And Cassy longed for a startling transformation for herself, but there was no transformation to be had. No, that was not true. There was one long, painful, startling transformation left to Cassy now—to lose her beauty to age. Others might not have noticed yet but, boy, she had. Every day. Every single day.

"I want you to enjoy what you have while you've got it," Cassy murmured, picking up an eyeliner pencil.

Rosanne made a face in the mirror (decidedly on the demonic side) and then sighed. "Well, if I'm gonna lose it, maybe I don't wanna get used to havin' whatever it is you keep sayin' I got."

"Youth," Cassy said, smiling slightly, tilting Rosanne's face up. "Close your eyes, please."

"Youth?" Rosanne said, complying with Cassy's request. "Man, if this is youth, then middle age'll kill me for sure."

"I know what you mean," Cassy said.

The doorbell rang again.

"So you're on strike, or what?"

"Maybe," Cassy said. "Hold still."

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Riverside Drive 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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