Off Balance

Mary Sheepshanks, Author
Mary Sheepshanks, Author Thomas Dunne Books $23.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-312-26813-8
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-8051-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 340 pages - 978-0-312-98042-9
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7126-7722-6
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A long-held sisterly grudge threatens to destroy a loving Scottish family in this country-house family drama. Glamorous divorc e Lorna returns from South Africa to summer with sister Isobel and Isobel's husband, Giles Grant, at their Scottish estate, Glendrochatt. The Grants are planning to establish an arts center on the premises, and Lorna is officially engaged to help out; unofficially, she is focused on enticing her erstwhile lover, Giles, away from Isobel. Lorna, always beautiful but never as well loved as her charismatic sister, is desperately bitter and determined to seize her share of happiness. Complicating matters further is the presence at Glendrochatt of a sexy young painter, Daniel Hoffman, who has his eye on Isobel. The Grant children, 11-year-old twins Amy and Edward, sense the heightening tension, and semi-autistic Edward is particularly troubled by his aunt's presence. Colorful secondary characters--muscular babysitter-workmen Mick and Joss and locals like Dr. Connor and eccentric Lord Neil Dunbarnock--lend the novel a pleasant air of British farce. The focus, however, is on the romantic drama, which involves much strategic maneuvering and little true passion. The characterization of cold, scheming Lorna as a soap-opera villainess unbalances the story, though given the cozy insularity of the privileged Scottish community she pits herself against, the reader will be tempted to root for her. Sheepshanks (A Price for Everything; Picking Up the Pieces) steps away from the lighthearted comedy of her first few novels, but she is at her best when she allows humor to lighten her perceptive tale of human frailty. (Feb.)
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