Playdate by Thelma Adams
Published by Thomas Dunne Books ISBN 978-0-312-65666-9
Playdate by Thelma Adams, who lives in upstate New York and is the film critic for US Weekly magazine, tells the story of Lance, Darlene and their ten-year-old daughter Belle. They have just moved to Encinitas from Barstow because Darlene is opening a restaurant with a new partner, Alex, who lives in their new neighborhood.
Lance gave up his job as a TV weatherman in Barstow, and now he takes care of Belle and runs their new household. Darlene is spending a great deal of time with the demanding Alex, who has a plan to turn Darlene's Diner into a chain of restaurants like Marie Callender.
Belle is not happy with the move. In Barstow she had friends and spent time out in the great outdoors. Encinitas is the "land of playdates, where every encounter is staged and scheduled". There are mean girls, led by Jade, who make her life very difficult. Jade and her friends even make fun of Lance because he is a stay-at-home dad and he runs the Girl Scout cookie drive.
Lance is happy spending more time with Belle; they have a very close relationship that feels authentic. But his marriage to Darlene is suffering. She is all about work, and while Lance is home all day, he has strayed into a series of "playdates" with Wren, his neighbor and Alex's wife.
The best part of the book is Lance and Belle's relationship. They are a loving father and daughter, and these two characters are the most well drawn of all. I can't say the same of Darlene; I felt like I didn't know her as well, maybe because the story centers more on Lance and Belle. I didn't really understand her very well at all.
The only secondary character that had much dimension to her was Wren's nanny Julia, who has the hots for Lance. Julia has a hard edge to her, but at least she was interesting. You could really feel Lance's discomfort at Julia's aggressive attempts at seduction.
I wouldn't give Playdates my highest recommendation, but it was worth reading for the warm, loving father-daughter relationship between Lance and Belle. It's not one you see very often.
rating 3 of 5