Author William H. Coles offers a sweeping family epic that combines a coming-of-age story with soapy stories of love, lust and betrayal.
When orphaned teen Darwin Hastings’ caretaker succumbs to health problems, he’s sent from Pittsburgh to the Hamptons to live with his cousin Luther Pinnelli, a famous football star. On the plane, Darwin meets Dr. Adrian Malverne, who grows to mentor Darwin in his dream of becoming a doctor, and whose family becomes intertwined with Darwin’s life.
The novel’s cast includes bodyguard Laszlo Forgash, who takes Darwin under his wing; Dr. Malverne’s tempestuous daughters Helen and Coral; Pinnelli family matriarch Aritha (called “Granny”); and Luther’s girlfriend and later wife, country star Sweeney Pale, who becomes Darwin’s lifelong best friend.
While the novel stays largely with Darwin’s journey from wide-eyed teen to emotionally bruised doctor, its structure is erratic, employing offshoot story arcs that sometimes seem superfluous. In one, Luther gets involved in a nightclub shooting and struggles with drugs and gambling. In another, Darwin succumbs to a sexual advance from his 23-year-old tutor. Coles even throws in a murder mystery when the adolescent daughter of Granny’s caretaker disappears.
The book evolves into a hotbed of steamy intrigue, as characters rush into marriages, have affairs, and divorce. This racy portrayal of familial drama keeps the pages turning, but the book is hampered by a few flaws. Well-established plot threads are dropped with abandon — even the murder mystery that dominates the second half is barely resolved. Additionally, occasional spelling or grammar errors prove distracting. Readers should also be warned that Coles’ characters throw around slurs from time to time, among them “bitches,” frequent f-bomb drops, and “faggot” (misspelled as “fagot”). While the usage is true to the characters’ natures, it might be offputting to some.
Overall, those who appreciate the delicious melodrama of shows like Dynasty or Knots Landing will be in familiar terrain here, with plenty of the same guilty pleasures to enjoy.