New novels that prove money can't buy you happiness
Money really doesn’t buy happiness, but these new novels might make you smile for a while
The Family Tabor, Cherise Wolas
The entire Tabor family has gathered in Palm Springs to celebrate the anointment of Harry Tabor to the desert community’s highest honour, Man of the Decade, recognizing 30 years of humanitarian service. With him is Roma, his wife of 44 years, a prominent child psychologist; their daughters, social anthropologist Camille and attorney Phoebe; and his lawyer son Simon. As the story opens, Harry muses that he is a lucky man — and Wolas responds balefully from the wings, “But luck is a rescindable gift.” Indeed. Brace yourself for prose that is confident and prickly, and characters that are complex and problematic. This is the New York City writer’s second novel, after the well-received The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.
By Invitation Only, Dorothea Benton Frank
Engagement parties involving striking income disparity between the bride and groom’s family are reliable escapist fodder (viz. Elin Hilderbrand’s current bestselling The Perfect Couple). Dorothea Benton Frank’s new novel begins with two engagement parties, the first in groom Fred’s milieu, South Carolina’s Low Country, where we meet his family of “eccentric hillbillies,” which is how Fred’s mother, Diane, describes her unruly brood. The second, and way more affluent, is at the Chicago penthouse of bride Shelby’s father, Alejandro, a financier, and his wife, Susan. Well-drawn characters, saucily told.
Another Woman’s Husband, Gill Paul
There have been countless retellings of the Abdication Crisis of 1936, when Edward VIII gave up the throne of England to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, “the woman I love.” There have been almost as many accounts of the shocking death of Princess Diana in 1997. Gill Paul’s fifth historical novel links these two events by riffing off a coincidence: the day Diana died, she visited Villa Windsor, in the Bois de Boulogne, Wallis’s last home. In this fictional mash-up, we meet Rachel, a young antiques dealer who is in a taxi behind Diana and Dodi’s Mercedes when it crashes. This kicks off Rachel’s discovery of a curious bond between Wallis and Diana, both thorns in the side of the British monarchy.
The High Season, Judy Blundell
The “summer bummer” occurs at the end of May each year when Ruthie and teenage daughter Jem pack up and leave their home on the sea on Long Island’s North Fork so affluent vacationers can move in, paying a princely sum that puts money in the family coffers for the rest of the year. This season, the leaseholder is wealthy widow Adeline, whose coterie includes her gorgeous young stepson, Lucas, and sundry others. Blundell’s third novel has all the ingredients of a satisfying beach read — including a likable heroine who learns to push back when Adeline’s wealth and entitlement become too much.
Caligula, Simon Turney
Caligula, the Roman emperor from AD 37 to his death in AD 41, is remembered as a wicked despot, a man of extravagant tastes — luxurious surroundings, sexual appetites and vengeful cruelty. Simon Turney, the prolific author of historical novels set in the Roman and medieval periods, has a convincing, though contrarian, view of this hated figure. The tale is narrated by Caligula’s little sister, Julia Livilla, who relates how her gentle brother became despised throughout the Empire. An entertaining depiction of Imperial Rome.