Playing Away
by Adele Parks, contemporary (2000)
Penguin, 5.99, ISBN 0-1402-9065-6

Disclaimer: The last time I panned a book for its pedophilic theme, I found myself subscribed to some weird mailing lists of organizations that advocated everything from banning gays to banning the Bible. This time, just because I like a book with adultery as a theme doesn't mean you can add me to your kinky sex mailing lists. Thanks but no thanks.

With that done with, let's get down to business. Playing Away deals with adultery. That's right - adultery, down and dirty, unrepentant adultery. Not exactly something for the romantics, but PA is an often sardonic, sometimes hilarious, always entertaining look at the evergreen question: how does a happily married woman deal with temptation?

When Connie first meets John, a really flirtatious and handsome guy who pushes all her right buttons, she tells him, "I'm married."

"I'm a tart," he answers.

Bored with her perfect life, perfect friends, and perfect husband Luke, Connie finds it oh-so-hard not to succumb to the dirty, illicit fascination of the forbidden John offers. John has in his own relationship, so it's a no-strings-attached affair he is dangling before Connie. She couldn't resist.

What happens next is a witty and oftimes biting exploration of Connie's psyche. She's a mix of selfish indulgences and self-effacing humor, which I enjoy reading. There's no apology from her for sleeping with John, even though she loves her husband. It's something she can't help doing, and if it's her mistake, let it be hers to fix it. Yet she never comes off as selfish or slutty - to me anyway.

After all, people do get tempted. Sometimes they succumb when they shouldn't. PA deals with this, and without the preachy morality that often goes hand in hand with this sort of thing. Wit, humor, and candor - PA offers all these and I have a great time reading it.

Rating: 85

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