cover image The Ultimatum

The Ultimatum

Dan Graziano. Avon Books, $13.95 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-06-084797-5

The age-old marriage conundrum receives an engaging but overwritten treatment in the second novel from Newark Star-Ledger sportswriter Graziano. The reader trap is nicely baited when young New Jersey lawyer Layla Starling celebrates her sixth anniversary with writer-boyfriend Henry by giving him an ultimatum: within a week, either propose or leave. The author sends Henry through a gauntlet of laughably inept advisers-five-times-married golf buddy John, divorce-ravaged brother Jake, manboy Pete Gresham-but any hope of a sportswriterly rebuttal to chick lit conventions are dashed by Henry's overanalysis. Other irritations are Henry's requisite writer's block and Graziano's constant restating of the situation. The female side rolls along more smoothly and features a running debate between Layla's friends, hard-nosed Gloria and sweet naïf Susan, along with distractions from on-deck beau Ben and dictator-boss Jessica Standridge. The conflicts between Henry and Layla are realistic and involving, and the last-minute race to the reception a blitz of delight, but even within the final sure-fire chapters, the author oversells his wares. There is a charming story within these pages, but Graziano often stands in its way.