The Secret

What Matters Most

Consequences by Cynthia Victor
(Onyx, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-40901-9
Young wife and mother Claire Carlisle attempts to remove her two young daughters from school before her vindictive husband, Bennett, can separate her from them forever. Her four-year-old daughter Liza falls on the playground, and Claire is forced to flee with two-year-old Meredith, leaving the injured and bleeding Liza behind. These events will have long-lasting consequences for Claire and her two daughters.

Claire and her lover John Warren, a British hotel tycoon, settle in London. They pose as husband and wife and rename Claireís daughter Page, raising her as Johnís child. Page forgets her sister and natural father, but Claire worries that Page seems a solitary child.

Liza is raised by a loving housekeeper and mostly ignored by the cold and resentful Bennett. She continues to hope that her mother will return for her. Her father, however, ensures that Liza will have no contact with her mother.

Liza and Page meet again at an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland, unaware that they are sisters. Liza has embarked on a career of spoiled, nasty behavior; Page is sweet and insecure. When Claire arrives to pick up her Page, Liza recognizes her as her mother, and she vows revenge on the woman who so cruelly abandoned her.

Years pass. John has died, and Claire is the sole head of the Warren hotel empire. Page has dropped out of college to join her mother and demonstrates a creative talent for the business.

Meanwhile, Liza has grown more spiteful and self-centered. When her father announces that he is going to cut her off without a penny, Liza makes her long-planned move to wreak revenge against her faithless mother and sister which will pit mother against child, friend against friend, and lover against lover.

Written by the writing team of Cynthia Victor, Consequences is less a romance than a novel that falls solidly into the loosely defined category of ďwomenís fiction.Ē The occasional romance that crosses the story is subordinate to the central plot of dysfunctional family dynamics and one memberís pursuit of vengeance.

The first half of the book is the over-long set-up for Lizaís conniving and deceit. It took me three days to get that far into the book because the story moves so slowly up to that point I kept losing interest. Things donít really get going until Liza flies (first-class, of course) to London with her sights set on revenge.

Other books have used similar plots -- where the very, very rich are very, very nasty and forgiveness is a foreign concept. The success of this story line depends on believable characters and credible motivation. Unfortunately, in Consequences minimal attention is given to character development. The characters represent stereotypes more than real individuals. Claire is the loving and gracious woman whose happiness is forever shadowed by loss. Bennettís the cold, unscrupulous wheeler-dealer who doesnít much care for anyone other than himself. Page is the sweet, vulnerable young woman whose goodness is no defense against deliberate cruelty. And Liza is the Super-Bitch who is out to give them all what they have coming.

Frankly, I found myself rooting for Liza simply because she radiates more vitality than any of the others, but I couldnít generate much sympathy for any of them, not even for Page who is set up to be the sweet, innocent victim. The theme of this story might be that money may not buy happiness but it can get you a high-class address, great clothes, fancy cars, and regular sex. Well, you canít have everything.

Iíve never been much of a fan of stories of the ultra-rich and all the troubles theyíve seen, and Consequences hasnít revised my opinion. I prefer books that focus on depth of feeling rather than on deep pockets, but devotees of womenís fiction may want to check it out.

--Lesley Dunlap

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