Ladies With Options

 
Ladies with Prospects
by Cynthia Hartwick
(Berkley, $14.00, PG) ISBN 0-425-19421-3
****
This entertaining sequel to the hilarious Ladies with Options finds the reader back with the ladies of Larksdale, Minnesota, with a few additions and subtractions. This time, the adventures of the Larksdale Ladies Independence Club are related by Callie Brentland, niece to Club member Dolly. Callie is also an engineer at PMT, the company the Ladies saved in the previous book. PMT has done amazingly well in the high-tech market, but now faces a takeover bid from a giant multimedia corporation. Everyone in town, including PMT’s employees, think it’s a great deal. Not so the Ladies, who (quite rightly) fear a snake is in the grass.

But this time, the Ladies don’t get their way. And when the takeover turns out to be a bust and the town’s instant millionaires become instant paupers, it will be up to the Ladies to find a way out of the mess. Callie has some help from a fresh batch of secondary characters, and their antics as they poise the Ladies to reinvent PMT yet again with a brand-new technology will keep readers turning the pages.

Callie shares her first-person account with some third-person narration that fills in the gaps in the story. It’s effective in keeping the story moving, though it will also keep readers on their toes as they follow the plot. Callie has several subplots of her own to work out. She’d really like to try her hand at screenwriting, and she has a secret crush on her co-worker, Jake. But her buddies, Vince, Alicia, and Traci are the ones to help when the chips are down. Along the way, Callie will learn some big lessons about friendship and love.

Callie isn’t the only one struggling in the romance department. Sophia, the narrator of Ladies With Options, finds that twenty years of marriage to her beloved Milt is strained when PMT heads downhill and they disagree on whether to try and save it. Their love will be tested as their efforts diverge, but when the chips are down, some things are too good to desert. Twenty years of marriage being one of those things.

The wit and humor found in Ladies with Options is back in force, especially through the contributions of wisecracking club member Deborah Cohen, and this story will elicit more than a few chuckles. As PMT starts to disintegrate, and Callie and the Ladies start to pick up the pieces, the story becomes more complex, with plot threads that take their time weaving together. But when they do, it’s a very satisfying story. Two sisters with a wind farm, an old geezer who’s more than he seems, and a medical ultimatum to Callie’s beloved Aunt Dolly all propel the story in new directions.

Cynthia Hartwick neatly skewers the dot-com millionaire era with her take on the deliberate destruction of a company in order to falsely inflate a stock price. Anyone who lost money on one of the high-flying tech stocks that crashed in 1999 will wish they’d had the Larksdale Ladies on their side.

Ladies With Prospects is a delightful story, and readers who enjoyed the Larksdale Ladies Independence Club will be glad to see the gang again. They’re older, they’re wiser, and they’ve been through a lot, but their humor and optimism still shine through. Add this one to your summer reading shelf and have fun.

--Cathy Sova


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