cover image An Ideal Wife

An Ideal Wife

Gemma Townley, Ballantine, $14 paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-345-49984-4

Townley’s latest novel based on an Oscar Wilde play (The Importance of Being Married) is her most plausible and engaging yet. Series heroine Jessica Wild has a cool £4 million in the bank, but she and husband, Max Wainwright, still work hard running his ad agency. Tough times have hit, and Max is in desperate need of a big new account, specifically that of Chester Rydall, Jessica’s would-be stepfather, who happens to run a very large bank. When Chester decides to run an ethics audit of his employees as a PR stunt, Max subjects his company to the same “Ideal Company” ploy. Meanwhile, Jess toils at becoming the ideal wife, to generally unpleasant results, such as landing Max in the hospital with a broken leg and a flirty nurse. A blitz of subplots and a colorful assortment of supporting characters help push things along. Even if this suffers from the same sorts of overblown misunderstandings and coincidences that are as much a staple of the genre as designer clothes, it’s still a delight, and Jess has finally achieved lovable heroine status. (July)