A widowed California advertising agent, and mother of three, leaps from her suburban carpool lane into mafia-related intrigue when she falls for the New York owner of her local gym. The widow, Chatham, and the New Yorker, Palio, ultimately find themselves at the heart of an organized crime scheme that coincidentally ensnares both of their families. But while the mafia scheme lends plot structure, what readers will really want to know is…will Chatham and Palio end up together? Miller does a great job of keeping their fate close to her chest, with other potential pairings arising for each. Romantic intrigue ultimately drives the story. In addition to Chatham and Palio, several other couples weigh pairing off. Chatham’s progression from a lounge pants-clad, grief-stricken single mom who video conferences with clients from her bedroom closet office, to a newly confident, ready-to-love individual who’s OK with tossing out the threadbare robe her late husband gave her years ago, is thoroughly believable. Miller keeps the story light with continual bursts of fun, from the volunteer coordinator at Chatham’s children’s school who is pure obnoxious caricature to the businesses at the center of the novel that include a world-renowned jellybean factory. Additional hilarity surfaces in Chatham’s friend and potential love interest who sells weird, exotic animals; in a client’s insistence that Chatham dress as Marilyn Monroe for a New York board meeting; in heart-to-hearts with girlfriends who help Chatham live again; and in various offbeat elements such as a repeatedly resurfacing New York cabbie and a jar of marshmallow puff that ends up playing a key role. The story is quick-paced with much of the action set in New York. But it ultimately takes Chatham back to California where, in a succession of poignant scenes, she must finally let her late husband go. Chatham’s struggle to be everything to her kids, especially her cognitively delayed 11-year-old, while running a business and re-opening herself to love, will ring true to readers who juggle work and life. Funny and too-true, with just-right doses of absurdity, memorable characters and dynamic storytelling that engages to the end.
Karyn L. Saemann