If you're anticipating roller-coaster thrills from The Carousel, you're sure to be disappointed. Accept this formulaic love tale by megapopular romance storyteller Evans for what it is, though, and you might well enjoy the ride.
Ill-fated Utah lovers Michael Keddington and Faye Murrow, who first appeared in 1998's The Locket, start fresh with a secret, quickie Nevada wedding. But the honeymoon soon ends as wealthy Faye heads East for medical school, leaving nursing-home attendant Michael behind to face the devastating problems of the next year, including their lost baby and breakup. Still, the ever reflective Michael carries on, comparing life to a carton of eggs—"always just one stumble away from being scrambled." Such prepackaged nuggets abound, and the theme of forgiveness—an Evans staple—couldn't be preached more fervently in Sunday school. Yet occasionally the author produces a moment to make even the most cynical among us cheer. (Simon & Schuster, $18.95)
Bottom Line: Take a spin
The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
by Sarah Bradford
"All men are rats," John "Black Jack" Bouvier repeatedly told his older daughter, Jackie. He proved his point at her prep school parents' day when, as she indicated one friend's mother after another, he'd say, "Yes, I've had her," or "No, but I think that's pretty imminent." Bradford (who has written bios of Queen Elizabeth II and Grace Kelly) offers a gossipy, albeit credible, portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, with plenty of tabloid-worthy assertions: As First Lady she had a flinglet with movie actor William Holden; she and Bobby Kennedy were lovers after Jack's death. Bradford quotes family, friends and Camelot insiders, several of whom delineate an intense, ongoing competition between Jackie and sister Lee over men. The author cites evidence that JFK slept with Lee at least once after he and Jackie were wed. But Jackie got even by marrying Aristotle Onassis—Lee had her eye on him first. One old beau said of Jackie, "She had all the wrong standards, and yet she became something very special in spite of this." (Viking, $29.95)
Bottom Line: Well-covered dish
by Fay Weldon
Weldon (Big Girls Don't Cry) can be wickedly funny, and this latest novel allows her ample opportunity to cast a sharp satirical eye on a host of human and institutional foibles. The fun begins when single, workaholic, 32-year-old London film editor Sophia Moore travels to Rhode Island to help settle her grandmother Felicity into the Golden Bowl Complex, a nursing home from hell. Instead of adapting to the New Age home's routine of compulsory touchy-feely life-affirmation sessions, the feisty, much-married 83-year-old Felicity finds love with a 72-year-old gamblin' man, and—quite literally—it's off to the races.
Meanwhile, Felicity's chance remark that she'd once given up a child for adoption sends Sophia on a search for long-lost family in England. Her mission turns up a couple of grasping grotesques, out to snag anything they can get. While we may chuckle at their antics, Weldon weighs in cleverly on family reunions run amok and the perils of infantilizing the elderly. (Atlantic Monthly, $24)
Bottom Line: Witty send-up of nursing home evils
by Jude Deveraux
That old cliché about all being fair in love and war is actually articulated by the studly Scottish hero of veteran romance novelist Deveraux's latest. Toss in an excess of male-female stereotyping, piles of money, hidden treasure and a turn-of-the-century setting and you've got all the ingredients for a literary disaster, which Temptation just barely avoids.
It's 1909. When women's rights activist Temperance O'Neil's mother marries a domineering Edinburgh businessman, Temperance is forced to leave New York City and the work she loves. She soon makes her stepfather so miserable that he offers a deal she can't refuse: Find a wife for his nephew and she can go home. Naturally said nephew is the handsome lord of a remote Highland clan. Guess what happens next.
Deveraux does conjure up a few surprises and some interesting supporting players, but they're not enough to compensate for the contrived and inconsistent behavior of her main characters, which makes it impossible to take them seriously. (Pocket, $24.95)
Bottom Line: Resist it
The Hero's Life
by Richard Ben Cramer
The exquisite myth of the late Joe DiMaggio—graceful and godlike on the baseball field, regal and mysterious off it—has endured for 64 years, since his first season with the New York Yankees in 1936. But like his incredible 56-game hitting streak, the spell was bound to end, and Cramer is the cold-blooded stopper.
An indifferent father, a wife batterer, a friend to gangsters—this is hardly the Yankee Clipper Paul Simon yearned for in "Mrs. Robinson." Cramer, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, spent five years digging into DiMaggio's Mob ties (they set up a secret bank account for him), his possessive love for Marilyn Monroe (the couple planned to wed a second time) and his unquenchable lust for a buck (Cramer suggests Joe even lied about losing his nine World Series rings and sold them instead).
Revealing and entertaining as it is, Cramer's bio, in the end, is also unspeakably sad. "We cheered him for never giving himself entirely to us," he writes of DiMaggio, yet the sordid truth leaves us a hero short. Let's hope Derek Jeter doesn't know any wiseguys. (Simon & Schuster, $28)
Bottom Line: Joltin' portrait of Joe
What I've Learned from Pundits, Politicians and Presidents
by Larry King with Pat Piper
One morning in 1958 young Larry King was driving in Miami when he bumped the car in front of him, doing slight damage. The driver turned out to be John F. Kennedy, who introduced himself and told King to keep him in mind—he was planning to run for President in two years. As the CNN talkmeister recounts in this entertaining, nostalgic memoir—mostly focusing on the Clinton era—many a political figure has since ingratiated himself with King en route to the White House. In what amounts to a collection of TV highlights, King does include some choice off-camera tidbits, like the time he visited Judge Ito's chambers during the O.J. Simpson trial and accidentally exited into the courtroom itself. ("Hey, Larry!" Simpson said. "Juice, good to see you," said King.) Then there was the call King got from Bill Clinton hours after the President was impeached. Hearing a football game blaring in the background, the President asked King, "Who won the Jets game? I've been distracted all day." (Warner, $25.95)
Bottom Line: Fit for a King
Katie Brown's West Hollywood workshop is a monument to home entertaining. Painted Halloween orange ("the color of the insane," Brown says, laughing), it is chock-full of high-powered kitchen gear—like an industrial fridge and a duo of food processors—and is elaborately organized, with storage bins labeled by project. "It's the war room," says Brown.
It's also where the popular TV personality (who hosted Lifetime's Next Door with Katie Brown) and author (of Katie Brown Entertains: 16 Menus, 16 Occasions, 16 Tables) cooks up her straightforward recipe ideas, decorating tips and gardening projects. "I do what's quick, easy and inexpensive." Such as? "I encourage people to cheat, like using Pillsbury dinner rolls in a recipe."
Though she's been called "the Martha Stewart for the meat loaf set"—and even has Katie Brown product lines in development—comparisons to the Duchess of Decorating bother her not at all. "If she's a wedding album," says the single Brown, who now lives in New York City with her dog Doris, "I'm a scrapbook. I think she's awesome."
- Olivia Abel,
- Jean Reynolds,
- Amy Waldman,
- Alex Tresniowski,
- Thomas Fields-Meyer,
- Meg Grant.