Plucking the Apple
by Elizabeth Palmer
(Mira, $5.99, G) ISBN 1-55166-493-3
If reading about the frailties, fantasies and fickleness of Great Britain’s upper middle class appeals to you, then Plucking the Apple is an absolute must. Otherwise, you must content yourself with the sly jibes and wry humor the author exhibits as she takes us through the intertwined lives of her characters.

In retrospect, Victoria Harting believes that it all started when she composed the dinner list for an evening “At Home.”

Victoria reluctantly includes her old friend Ginevra Haye whom she had known at Oxford. She finally decides that Genevra’s attributes (brilliant and something of a respected critic) outweigh the fact that she is awkward, unattractive and a crashing bore at dinner parties.

The dinner is slated to fete Jack Carey and his wife Ellen. Since Victoria and James own an upscale art gallery, and Jack is a major exhibitor, Victoria knows she has to continue to wine and dine him to keep the account. Jack is a lecher, ill mannered and on the make.

James’s sister Tess greatly annoys her husband Alexander by openly flirting with Jack. By the end of the entrée she pretty much telegraphs to the table that she and Jack are about to embark on a hot and torrid affair.

And finally, the dull Ginevra? Her socially unacceptable husband Kevin is absent since he is working out of the country at (horrors!) a job involving menial labor. Years ago, in a moment of pique with Victoria and great intoxication, James had taken Ginevra’s virginity. The dinner re-ignites Ginevra’s passion for James and after she gets home, missing her studly husband she starts a diary of her fantasy sex life with James.

These ingredients and characters at the dinner party set in motion the iniquitous and inevitable conclusion. The characters are all extremely well developed which slows down the pace of this novel to an almost crawl. The ending is almost a foregone conclusion, but for those who enjoy the journey rather than the arrival, it is enough.

If you are looking for the sexual tension that is intricate to a well-developed romance that culminates in a HEA, then this book is a pass, since it just isn’t designed to offer that. However, some might find it a sharp, stylish novel of adultery.

--Thea Davis

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