by Susan Mallery

October 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6718-9
Reviewer Graphic Button Pocket Books
Mass Market Paperback

In her new novel The Best of Friends, Susan Mallery examines the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, from an outsider's perspective. Unlikely friends Jayne Scott and Rebecca Warden have maintained their relationship past high school and college. It endured even after a willful Rebecca left home and started her jewelry studio in Italy, as far as she could get from her domineering mother.

With Rebecca out of the picture, Jayne soon became a kind of surrogate assistant to Elizabeth Worden. It seemed a small price to pay for the kindness the Wordens had shown Jayne after her mother's death. They had even paid for her college education. Of course she was grateful, and if putting up with Elizabeth's demands was the price, then so be it.

The arrangement suddenly took a turn when the younger Wordens returned home. Rebecca, finally ready to reveal that she was the artist behind the Worden jewelry store's latest creations, wanted to shove her success down her mother's throat. David, her brother, just wanted to settle down and take his place in the family business. Spending years abroad as their gem buyer was fun, but it was time to come home.

The trouble started as soon as the siblings arrived. David was smitten by Jayne, whom he only met on a few occasions. He found her smart, funny and attractive, all the qualities he was looking for. Of course his mother had other ideas, and was lining up the crème of society as potential brides. Jayne was no where on the list. Rebecca was just looking for the behavior that would cause her mother the most embarrassment. Jayne was caught in the middle.

There is a lot of drama in The Best of Friends, and few surprises. Even the ending is open to interpretation, and there is a discussion guide after the novel for that purpose. I found the novel to be riveting. As Ms. Mallery peeled back the layers on each character, there was something unexpected.

Reviewed in November 2010 by Paula.

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