The charm and surefire wit of Palmer's previous work (Flowering Judas, 1997, etc.) rise to the occasion once more, as a tangled web of London high society has at its center two sisters of vastly differing sensibilities-two now-grown women whose approaches to matters of the heart make life interesting for their men, their friends, and each other. The proper world of do-gooder Patience is shattered the day her long-strained marriage finally splits-thanks to banker husband Hugh's announcement that he wants a divorce. But after a period of adjustment, Patience rebounds, sells the house in the exurbs, and moves to the city. Gentle, younger sister Dorian, meanwhile, has separated from her writer husband, miserably caught in the throes of a biography on Alexander Pope, and taken up with a gossip columnist at the newspaper where she works-a fancy man who transforms her from a granny-skirted wallflower to a head-turner with a bob. In her new neighborhood, Patience first catches the eye of her minister Cedric, a fire-and-brimstone type who suggests she appear on TV to air her archconservative views on women in the ministry; then she's caught by the roving eye of Hillary Causton, recently divorced and like-minded media magnate, whom she quickly agrees to marry. About the same time, Dorian, bored with her fancy man, wants to reconcile with her husband but, in a neat Mozartian twist, mistakenly thinks he's also taken up with someone else, and so spurns his subsequent overtures-which drives him to overcome his writer's block and finally finish his book. A few more shocks and surprises later, all is well, and both Patience and Dorian come away considerably wiser for theirtrouble. Except for a final turn of events that even for a plot this intricate is a bit of a stretch, the tale told here is a gleeful union of satire and romance, immensely entertaining and hearty. A fine balm for winter. .