The separate stories of two women-one a career-driven late-20th-century professional and the other a 1950s housewife-are awkwardly juxtaposed in this third novel by British author Buchan (Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman; The Good Wife Strikes Back). Thirty-five-year-old Siena Grant enjoys a life that many women only dream of. A highly successful fashion consultant with her own business, a magazine column, a book deal and an American television show, Siena is also married to a loving, sensitive man. She and Charlie live in a trendy flat and enjoy intimate little suppers. What more could anybody want? For starters, Charlie is dreaming of a country home and children-not a life that appeals to the oh-so-chic Siena. Meanwhile, in 1959, 42-year-old Barbara Beeching, a married mother of two grown children, lives with her pilot husband, Ryder, in a charming country home and hosts the most delightful little parties. Perfect partners, Barbara and Ryder survived the atrocities of war over England and now face the rest of their lives as Ryder thinks of retirement and Barbara thinks of... Alexander Liberty, a hunky psychiatry student whose passion for her takes her by surprise. The ungainly setup-the two stories only glancingly connect at the novel's conclusion-is partly mitigated by Buchan's warm writing and her realistic portrayal of the choices women continue to face, but this isn't quite up to the standard of her previous two outings. Agent, Mark Lucas. (Mar. 21) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Two stories, set decades apart, reflect unreliably on the gender wars. Buchan's latest (The Good Wife Strikes Back, 2004, etc.) presents Siena, a London fashion columnist on the rise. She's been tapped to star in an American makeover show, a hybrid of What Not To Wear and Queer Eye, complete with a sidekick named Fersen. The second story's character, Barbara, is a suburban housewife in the 1950s, married to Ryder, a commercial pilot who suffers flashbacks of Spitfire dogfights from WWII. Her burgeoning fruit garden and two adult children preoccupy her until she encounters Alexander, a handsome twentysomething psychology student. As for Siena, at 35, (the new 25), she has set her biological clock on snooze: her rocketing career deafens her even to husband Charlie's increasingly strident pleas for children and a house in the suburbs. Barbara, on the other hand, at 42 (the old 52), is still attractive, and her husband is always flying to Nigeria, so she and Alexander consummate their love during an idyllic riverside picnic. Charlie, a legal-aid lawyer defending a woman accused of murdering her infant, fails to understand just how tired a mother can get, while Barbara tries to forget Alexander on a romantic trip to Switzerland with Ryder. But when the airline later calls Ryder away, Alexander shows up for one last tryst. Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, Siena and Charlie can't have a coherent discussion. Charlie goes incommunicado, maybe house-hunting, maybe trying to rekindle something with his ex-wife; Siena goes back to New York to dress the truculent with the aid of the recalcitrant; the banished Alexander makes a halfhearted play for Barbara's niece Sophie; and Barbara is latelynauseated by every little thing . . . could it be? Just when things are getting interesting, it all ends, Siena teetering on the brink of motherhood and house pride. Barbara's story is the more realized; Siena's a tritely topical afterthought: neither profits from the pairing. Author tour