If Nancy Drew were a young reporter instead of a sleuth, she'd be a dead ringer for Julia MacLean, with her stylish clothes, chic bobbed haircut and intrepid spirit of adventure. McLaughlin's (Lightning in July) protagonist is a na ve, 22-year-old Southerner who accepts a position as personal secretary to Sam Dawson, a retired newspaper mogul setting out on a year-long trip on his yacht, the Sophia. The Old Man--or OM, as he is called--is the proverbial tyrant with the heart of gold. His nurse/lover, Eunice Crampton, gives as good as she gets, but everyone else--the OM's grandson Francis, the crew and the captain--cowers before his tongue-lashing. As the OM dictates the novel he is writing, however, Julia begins to understand how the complicated, brilliant man is struggling to deal with his two oldest sons, whose theories of journalism are radically different from OM's. The patriarch's youngest son, Chris, has decided to live in Italy as an artist, and though OM hopes Julia can lure him back home, Chris has a not-so-surprising revelation regarding a young man named Derek. With opportunities to do so, Julia hones her writing by writing travel articles and taking pictures at the various ports of call, which she submits to an editor connected to OM. Her path keeps intersecting with that of a hunky young scientist, but romance and ambition prove difficult to juggle. On parallel maiden voyages, Julia and the Sophia both weather storms to emerge battered and worn, but triumphant. Inspired by her mother's trip around the world with E.W. Scripps in 1924-1925 and capturing the spirit of the times with her use of contemporary terms (""gay"" takes on a humorous double meaning), McLaughlin's novel offers a pleasant diversion. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999 Release date: 12/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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