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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Playdate by Thelma Adams

Playdate by Thelma Adams
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (291 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Inside their picture-perfect homes, the residents of this quiet California suburb are not at all what they seem.

Lance is a former weatherman, now a buff yogi, stay-athome dad, and manager of his daughter’s Girl Scout troop’s cookie distribution. Belle is his precocious and quick-witted daughter. Darlene is a classic Type A work-a-holic, she has little time or patience for the needs of her husband and daughter

And just down the street are Alec and Wren. Alec, a womanizing businessman, is also the financial backer—and sometimes more—behind Darlene’s burgeoning empire. Meanwhile, Wren is a doting mother and talented yogi, ready to lay down the mat for a quick session with Lance.

As looming Santa Ana winds threaten to turn brushfires into catastrophe; Playdate proves that relationships are complicated and the bonds between families, spouses and children are never quite what they seem. What happens next door, beyond the hedges, in the romper room and executive office—it’s all as combustible as a quick brushfire on a windy day.

Forthright, funny in places, and at times frightening both emotionally and physically, Playdate is a subtly disquieting domestic drama that lures the reader into Encinitas on the Pacific coast where life has a materialist, status symbols culture and monogamy is not a prized concept. The Ramseys, Lance, Darlene, and Belle, newcomers from Barstow, are awash with new experiences in this upscale community.

Darlene, in her element in Encinitas, gives little thought to how her husband and daughter are coping. Darlene glows with vitality and restless energy as she and her new partner Alec Marker work long hours before the grand opening of their new restaurant, an upscale place modeled after her little café in Barstow. Totally wrapped up in herself, she has limited time with her family.

Lance had been the weatherman in Barstow, not a high paying job but it fit his life style. He had prestige and a sense of being part of the community. A go-with-the-flow person, he has a quiet harmony with their daughter Belle, a harmony that Darlene could never find. Unable to find a job in Encinitas, Lance becomes a stay-at-home dad (he appreciates the title “househusband” about as much as a woman appreciates “housewife”). Like Belle who has lost her place in the children’s culture, he has lost his place in the culture of men who are valued and identified by their job, career, or profession. They both feel like they are at the bottom of the food chain. As he and Belle cope with changes, their witty, inside- type exchanges make the story sparkle with that very special connection they have.

The Ramseys, once a tight-knit unit of love, find their closeness coming unraveled. They flounder. Belle must deal with the rich, powerful bully girl Jade and with her despicable teacher who devalues her and her giftedness. Darlene learns her partner Alec is a user and she wants back her connection with her husband and daughter that she let slip away in her zeal to reach her materialist, egoistic dreams. Lance, in his new environment that is made up of mothers, children, and household managing, connects with Wren, Alec’s Marker’s wife. He works as a volunteer at school and with Girl Scouts. His life reminds one of something seen in “Desperate Housewives”.

Several secondary characters interact with the main characters to propel the story along. Wren Marker is the most complex and interesting. She and eleven-year-old Belle have sub plots of their own that touch the heart.

Thelma Adams has a remarkable writing style that is full of wonderful imagery, thought provoking metaphors, and descriptions that bring the setting and action to life. Her ability to weave in the back stories that influenced the main characters personalities, the influence of the Santa Ana winds, and different ethnic cultures makes a tantalizing tale. She holds modern society and its values up to a bright light for the reader to examine. Her style is witty, entertaining, insightful, and accepting of humans and their foibles. She weaves in a muted undercurrent that reminds the reader of what is truly worthwhile in life and how it can slip away if not nurtured.

Playdate is hard to put down once started. I stayed up late and was rewarded with a happy-ever-after that looked impossible for much of the story.