cover image Ralph's Party

Ralph's Party

Lisa Jewell. Plume Books, $12.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-452-28163-9

Comparisons to Bridget Jones's Diary are sure to greet British author Jewell's American debut, but her tale of love among neighbors bears more resemblance to TV's Melrose Place. Intertwining the lives of six youngish, soul-searching and fun-loving characters who live in a trendy London brownstone, the author (who allegedly penned this book on a dare) sets her romantic comedy at 31 Almanac Road. A love triangle involves Ralph, a promising artist whose career is currently stagnant; his best friend and flat-mate, Smith, a self-centered, well-to-do PR man; and Jem, their vibrant new flat-mate, who falls for Smith even as Ralph is hopelessly smitten with her. Jewell takes a potshot at self-absorbed Gen-Xers with Cheri, a outrageously gorgeous, self-centered single woman and voracious man-eater. Karl and Siobhan have been together for 15 years, but their complacency is ruptured when Siobhan, fat and feeling unloved, goes for another guy and Karl is unfaithful with Cheri. Jewell satirizes tell-all media programs when Karl is propelled into stardom by detailing his personal woes on a radio show. Spicing up the fast-paced plot is Smith's long-running, long-distance obsession over Cheri and Jem's inexplicable attraction to Ralph, though she remains devoted to Smith. Enjoyable scenes include a hot chile-eating contest and Jem and Ralph's first visit to a sex-toy store, where they're initially nervous, but are soon examining the merchandise with gusto. An amusing denouement brings all six tenants together and wittily, neatly ties up their lives in a novel that won Jewell acclaim and a TV movie option in England, where this light delight was first published. (Jan.)