My Summer Darlings

My Summer Darlings by May Cobb begins as an energetic, gossipy story about three women whose strong friendship dates back to their childhoods in Eden Place, an upscale subdivision in Cedartown, Tex. But Cobb slyly and smoothly turns her third novel into a sinister story about jealousy and obsession that leads to violence.

Kittie Spears and Cynthia Nichols come from wealthy families, but money never made a difference in their deep friendship with middle-class Jen Hansen, who moves back to their northeast Texas town with her teenage son and struggles financially after a bitter divorce. The three regularly get together for "Wine Night," which involves several bottles, good food and lots of dishing about neighbors and their children. Then "dead handsome" Will Harding buys one of the neighborhood's largest mansions. Will seems to embody both the bad boy, with his loud 1967 Chevy pickup and "toned lean" arms, and the sensitive soul, who spouts poetry and reveres his late mother's photograph. Lonely, single Jen is instantly smitten, but so are Kittie and Cynthia, both of whom appear to be willing to ruin their marriages over Will, who is able to pinpoint each woman's vulnerabilities and use this against them. When violence erupts, Cobb cleverly enfolds it into the gripping plot.

Cobb (The Hunting Wives) also cannily depicts the complicated social sphere of the women's teenagers. My Summer Darlings is an excellent, character-driven illustration of how each woman puts on a different face to the public, keeping angst to themselves. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

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