by Thelma Adams

Thomas Dunne Books, $23.99, 292 pages

In Playdate, the debut novel of Us Weekly’s film critic, Thelma Adams, the ominous Santa Ana winds provide a (quite literally) hot backdrop against the complexities and challenges of suburban family life in southern California. Questions around gender roles reign supreme. One couple struggles to find normalcy as Darlene’s restaurateur ambitions relegate her husband, Lance, a former Barstow weatherman, to the role of primary caregiver to their tween daughter. And Darlene’s smooth-talking business partner, Alec, is completely unaware of the extent of the damage already done in his own crumbling marriage to Wren, a tantric sex enthusiast, who has found a willing student in Lance. As the fires rage on, the truth unravels, and both couples are left to face the consequences of their decisions. Yet Playdate, while both scandalous and brutally honest, leaves the reader wanting for real resolution. The protagonists are all in the throes of their own versions of infidelity, yet seem to find peace in placing blame for their actions on their spouses. Playdate is a fun read, but disappointing in that its protagonists are in as tenuous positions at the novel’s close as they were at its outset. But perhaps, that’s just what Adams intended.

Alexandra Walford