ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID
Talented newcomer Lyles has written a compulsively readable novel. Her descriptive gifts transport readers to the single girl's San Diego, with its beaches, bars and bistros.
The novel, loosely structured around four weddings in which kindergarten teacher Cate acts as bridesmaid, provides humorous backdrops for Cate's own amorous misadventures. With each wedding, Cate's romantic life grows more dismal. Her boyfriend, Paul, blows hot and cold and never quite commits. But somehow Cate rises to the challenge of being happy for others while being miserable with the elusive Paul.
Lyles' humorsometimes tart, sometimes drollis always fresh. Her characters feel real, from Paul's passive-aggressive posturing to Cate's best friend Beth's offbeat antics. In fact, reading this book feels deliciously like having a good gossip over lunch with your own best friend. (Feb., 336 pp., $13.00)