Slow Hands

Taking Flight
by Lynne Kaufman
(Mira, $12.95, X) ISBN 0-7783-2188-6
The books reviewed at TRR come to us in a variety of ways: we buy them at a bookstore, we borrow them from our local library, but the majority are sent to us by the authors or publishers themselves in either galley (pre-publication form), ARC (advance reading copy), or final published book form. It mystifies me why TRR was sent the ARC of Taking Flight. Romances usually conform to a basic formula – the hero and heroine fall in love and in spite of obstacles eventually reach a happy ending.

Taking Flight seems to me to be the antithesis of romance. The female protagonist (I can’t say heroine) is in a marriage that after twenty years has gone stale and she’s open to new experiences. The male protagonist (I can’t say hero) is a younger, good-looking, charming archeologist who has flexible morals. He can justify just about anything he feels like doing.

Yes, Takng Flight is a novel about adultery.

The X-rating is not an indication of the book’s explicitness but a warning about the type of situations the female protagonist is willing to embrace in her search for new experiences. On a eeuw-factor scale, for me this one scores a ten – and I mean that in the most negative way.

Julia Simon is married to Mark, a doctor in Los Angeles, and is the mother of two young children. He was a good catch when she was nineteen – he was Jewish (as is she) and a doctor – but she’s feeling restless after twenty years. To add to her instability, Julia’s mother is dying of cancer. Her mother advises, ”Live, Julia. I never did.”

Julia teaches theater at a community college. As the story opens, she’s about to escort a group of thirty college students on a tour of Greece along with two other chaperones –Sabrina, the dean’s secretary, and Michael, another instructor. Michael has been throwing out hints he might be open to a flirtation, and Julia is looking forward to two weeks exploring the possibilities.

But things don’t work out as she hopes. Michael and Sabrina quickly become involved, and Julia is left feeling let down. On the flight home she meets Ted Gustafson who’s returning from an archeological dig where he believes he has found proof of the existence and the location of the legendary Atlantis. He is to speak at a conference in San Francisco.

Their seduction begins on the plane and does not end when they land.

On the whole, Taking Flight is well written. Julia’s descent into what could be considered a moral abyss is described in lucid prose.

As he spoke, she studied the expressive curve of his mouth ringed by the luxuriant bronze of his beard, watched the play of light in his startlingly green eyes, how his brows drew together when he searched for a phrase, and spread like wings when he found it. His words were like subtitles in a foreign movie; the feeling and meaning lay in his face, in his gestures. She listened and was absorbed.

In other words, he’s a young stud, and she’s in full mid-life crisis mode and “cain’t say no.”

The resolution to Julia’s experimentation is pat and unconvincing. It’s as if the author knew she had to provide the requisite happy ending even if it didn’t fit what had come before. I didn’t find it credible.

Perhaps Taking Flight will find a receptive audience with other readers – it could be considered women’s fiction – but it’s definitely not my kind of book or my kind of subject matter. I don’t think many romance readers will disagree with me.

--Lesley Dunlap

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