cover image Perfect Love

Perfect Love

Elizabeth Buchan, Author, E. Buchan, Author Thomas Dunne Books $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-20568-3

The often stifling responsibilities of marriage and family life and the lure and complications of adultery are subtly and movingly explored by British author Buchan (Consider the Lily). Prue Valour, 41, is contentedly married to 60-year-old Max, and has spent the last several years nesting, raising their preadolescent daughter Jane and participating in village affairs while working on a biography of Joan of Arc. Discord enters in the person of Max's hateful daughter, Violet, who has never accepted Prue as her stepmother, and who is returning from the States to England with a baby she doesn't much like and a husband, Jamie Beckett, whom she dominates. Jamie, who finds his icy, career-obsessed wife inscrutable, is drawn to demure Prue (who is his own age) and initiates an affair. For Prue, this illicit passion is irresistible, especially since she has never experienced such erotic satisfaction. Initially, Violet and Max don't quite realize what's going on, though they note signs of trouble. Meanwhile, the Becketts' faithful and hardworking nanny, Emmy, has her own relationship problems and unplanned pregnancy. Buchan writes pitch-perfect scenes of domestic bickering, and her descriptions of illicit sexual desire ring poignant and true. The conceit of Joan of Arc's life as a parallel to Prue's is labored, but what does work is the psychologically accurate rendering of the way duty and familial love sometimes seem to become stifling cages. This often witty, insightful portrait of passion, trauma and heartache sweeps to a dramatic conclusion in which an anguished Prue realizes that ""demons take up residence in the wronged."" In the end, Buchan avoids sentimentality and easy answers to offer a candid assessment of how one goes on with life and marriage after the passion is past. (July) FYI: Buchan's Consider the Lily was named 1994's Romantic Novelists' Association Novel of the Year in England, and has sold over 300,000 copies in the U.K.