FLIRTING WITH PETE
Barbara Delinsky

 


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Scribner Hardcover 2003
Pocket Books paperback May 2004
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson

Contemporary Women's Fiction

FLIRTING WITH PETE differs from Barbara Delinsky’s previous novels in that she "explores the games the mind plays when pushed to emotional extremes." We have two plots that start out with one character whose famous father has never acknowledged her in any way, and another character whose father loved her too much in the wrong way.

Conceived during her parents’ one night together, Cassandra Ellis, now a psychologist, has never met nor spoken to her father, but has always known who he is. She has attended some of his lectures, owns all the books he has written, stood close enough to touch him, but has never been acknowledged by him…until now. World renowned psychologist Dr. Cornelius Unger, PhD, dies suddenly, leaving his three million dollar townhouse on coveted Beacon Hill in Boston to Casey, along with a trust fund to cover maintenance and upkeep of the property. His only request is that Casey retain the gardener, Jordan, and the maid, Meg, who he felt were good people, good at their jobs, and loved the house as much as he did. Casey is torn between anger, hurt, and the need to find out more about the very private, mysterious man who was her father. In need of a new office immediately, she decides to use her father's office located in the townhouse. There she begins to uncover parts of a journal left in different places in the house. He is asking Casey to help Jenny. But who is Jenny? How can she help her if she doesn't know if the journal is about a patient or part of a book he was writing? As she searches for clues, Casey slowly begins to wonder what her father would think of her efforts? As she sees patients in his office, she wonders if he would be pleased with her.

Twenty-four year old MaryBeth Jennifer Clyde has been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by her parents all her life. When she was eighteen, her father was sent to prison for six years for killing her mother. The few people who will speak to Jenny urge her to leave before he is released. However, she has been so brainwashed by Darden Clyde she just can't escape, even though her dream has always been to go as far away from Little Falls as possible. Then Pete comes to town on his motorcycle, falls in love with Jenny, and promises to help her get away. He wants to leave before her father returns, but Jenny insists on meeting Darden at the bus station, then tell him she's leaving. Following a confrontation with Darden, Jenny is never been seen nor heard from again. Her clothes are found neatly folded at the edge of the nearby woods, and her footsteps lead to the water-filled quarry. Jenny has completely disappeared from the face of the earth.

In her usual style, Barbara Delinsky has made her characters come alive and her plot riveting. As the story unfolds, we understand everything behind the characters’ actions and reactions. FLIRTING WITH PETE is also filled with secondary characters who are necessary to the storylines, and are just as three dimensional as the main characters. Casey and Jenny each have leading roles, but we are never confused about whose part of the story we are reading.

I had been in a reading slump for sometime and decided it was time for a Barbara Delinsky book, even if I had to go to my keepers and reread books I had already read several times. The next day I happened to be in the store when the distributor was putting out the paperback edition of FLIRTING WITH PETE. I almost grabbed it out of her hand. As you have guessed, Barbara Delinsky is one of my favorite authors, and she has certainly not let me down in FLIRTING WITH PETE. Her latest novel, THE SUMMER I DARED, is now available in hardcover from Scribner.

 

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