Middle-aged professor of literature Edwin Page elected to remain behind while his wife Cecilia, an obstetrician went abroad for sabbatical, agreeing to meet in England for the Holidays. More comfortable with his books then adventure, Edwin’s life takes an unexpected turn when his new neighbors, Mrs. Botts and Leila, her daughter are locked out of their house. After allowing them to spend the night at his residence, Edwin soon discovers there’s no dislodging the pair as they proceed to make themselves at home. The situation becomes complicated when Mrs. Botts makes the unconventional offer of allowing Leila to be a “sugar” or surrogate mother for the childless couple. Naturally, this is just the start of Edwin’s problems as he comes to terms with the state of his life while wondering if the child Leila is carrying is even his.
This lighthearted read is full of deliciously flawed characters treated with Jolley’s signature humor and not so subtle life lessons. Edwin is the best-developed character though the spinster friend is a nice addition to this occasionally choppy story that will leave readers pondering the nature of relationships. This is not as good as The Vera Wright Trilogy but should satisfy Jolley’s fans.