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Vincenzi is a guilty pleasure, & after devouring her 'Spoils of Time' trilogy shockingly quickly I was hungry for more. Sadly this modern-day saga (1990s) paled in comparison. She clearly draws from the same repertoire of characterisation & theme as 'The Spoils of Time' but there is something lacking.
If you like scandal, sex & sumptuousness then 'The Dilemma' does deliver; but the crux of the scandal is more business based than bed based. The book begins with Francesca Duncan-Brown giving up her career to become the wife of the hugely successful business mogul Bard Channing. She quickly becomes bored with the trophy-wife-life, and as he becomes increasingly distant, & absent her dissatisfaction grows. There is clearly something huge bothering him with regard to his business or another aspect of his life that she is not party to. Will she discover the reason for this guardedness? Of course, but it'll take 816 pages to get there, & by then you may feel a little let down.
There is a vast array of characters, as is the norm with Vincenzi. Their lives are expertly drawn together through circumstance & coincidence & each has their own story & dilemma. In the Channing family alone they range from Kirsten, Bards spoilt daughter from another marriage; Liam, his bitter, selfish, vengeful son from an even more previous marriage and Rachel Duncan-Brown, Francesca's mother who has a very big secret of her own. There is also Gray Townsend, a financial reporter who gets a sniff of a story within the Channing Corporation & pursues it relentlessly. Despite the huge cast I didn't find a single one of them truly likeable. This added to the fact that I didn't really get into the novel until the very end, when all of the plot strings were tied together.
If you can persevere through Vincenzi's meandering, long sentences & bloated plot then the last 1/4 or so of the book does pick up the pace. However by then the dilemma I had faced more than once was whether to finish the thing!
All Francesca Channing had to do in order to keep her marriage alive, her children safe, her life intact, was to tell a lie. One simple, straightforward lie. But it wasn't that simple or straightforward at all. Her life, as Bard Channing's third wife, was very far from easy. He was charismatic, powerful and rich - and he adored her. He was also manipulative and scheming, with a family as large and complex as his business. But it was an emotional crisis of her own which finally put Francesca's dilemma into perspective. Made her wonder if she loved Bard enough to lie for him.