A 40-something British actress plunges headlong into a dangerous affair with her cousin in James' (Summer Storm) sixth novel, which begins when Kate Rivers is forced to take a break from her London career to settle family affairs back in Wales after the death of her mother. The mundane process comes with a risky potential bonus, though, when a visit from her cousin Rhydian, a handsome farmer with a wife and three children, kindles a serious spark. Their awkward efforts to get together are quickly complicated by Kate's divorced boyfriend, Paul, when his family completely comes apart after one of his college-age twin daughters is accused of manslaughter and the other commits suicide during the police investigation. James spends too much prose early on describing the details of Kate's childhood, but once the story gets going she delivers the various plot twists with brisk pacing and suspense, as the whirlwind of family activity keeps Kate's affair in suspended animation. That stasis fizzles into a disappointing, rather hurried resolution, as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place after the family explosion. James has a fine eye and ear for the details of small-town Welsh life, and the middle chapters are riveting and emotionally complex, but their excellence makes the ending seem all the more lackluster. Kate Rivers is a memorable character, but she deserves a more intriguing fate than her creator was able to deliver.
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Are there second chances? For everyone or a chosen few? English actress Kate is in need of a second chance. However, she doesn't seem happy with what she did with her first. She is in her forties and has had some moderate success as an actress, has never married, has no children, and her serious relationship is with a man still tied to his ex-wife and his twin girls. Her mother became unbalanced after her husband--whom Kate now suspects was gay--left home. When her mother dies suddenly, Kate makes a trip home to sort out both her mother's situation and her own. Her discovery of a letter her mother had begun to write to her hints that her mother was about to grab her own second chance. Tragedy follows tragedy, as not just her mother but yet another person in Kate's inner circle dies, leaving her more confused and torn than ever. Meeting her cousin Ryhdian again may provide a catalyst for a change in her life and for a second chance. Marlene Chamberlain
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