The Best is Yet to Come
by Judith Gould
(Dutton, $24.95, R) ISBN 0-525-94659-4
The Best is Yet to Come is the worst book I have ever reviewed for The Romance Reader. No, let me go further than that. It’s probably the worst book I’ve ever read. When people call romance novels “trash,” this is what they are really talking about. People magazine may have named one of Gould’s previous releases as “Beach Read of the Week,” but the only reason I’d take this book to the beach would be to bury it so deeply it could never be uncovered.

A plot synopsis cannot do justice to the pure godawfulness of this novel, but a few direct quotes should do the trick. Beautiful Carolina Mountcastle says goodbye to her beloved husband, Lyon, with a bout of ecstatic sex, before he leaves for a business trip abroad. She enjoys the feel of “his engorged and rigid masculinity meeting her soft and welcoming femininity,” then it’s back to work at the florist shop and party decorating business she owns. Handsome, wealthy customer Seth Foster comes by the store to order flowers for his date that night, the wealthy (and of course beautiful) Payton Fitzsimmons. Carolina’s employee, the darkly handsome Antonio, delivers the flowers personally to Payton and then allows himself to be seduced by Payton’s “luscious tanned cleavage of ample breasts.” After his “thick, hard c***” brings her to ecstasy, Payton decides to use Antonio to help her ruin Carolina’s business.

Meanwhile, Carolina’s other selfish, lazy (but beautiful) employee Mercedes, and Lyon’s amoral (but handsome) brother, Leland, are hatching their own greedy plans while also making time for some nasty oral sex. Don’t forget Lyon, who unfortunately drops dead of a heart attack, but not before he has a few opportunities to feel a little remorse over the fact that he has a mistress and a three-year old daughter in Amsterdam.

Need I go on? Of course the beautiful Carolina overcomes the evil forces of Payton, Antonio, Mercedes and Leland, while also eventually finding room in her heart to forgive Lyon’s mistress. Of course Seth realizes that Payton is Pure Evil and that his manhood can still “fulfill its carnal need” with the angelic Carolina instead. Mechanical sex, both villainous and virtuous, takes place ad nauseum without a shred of originality. Even a purple prose fan will roll her eyes the tenth time Payton’s body convulses, Antonio bellows like a bull or Leland and Mercedes tease each other about being “naughty.” Lots of sex? Yes. Sensual? About as sexy as a first year medical school textbook.

When we’re not reading about the characters’ sex lives, we’re enduring the dull, superficial details of their makeup and apparel, including Carolina’s tiger-striped high-heeled Gucci mules and Payton’s Galliano gown from Dior. Who says that movies are the only medium to utilize product placements? And I quickly grew weary of Carolina’s clients, who spend thousands of dollars to get just the right flowers while they entertain their other spoiled rich friends. Am I supposed to admire these people or envy them? Personally, I think there is a special level in Hell reserved for them.

The subplot involving Carolina’s 16-year old son and his impulsive decision to see his half-sister is the only glimmer of creativity in this vapid story. The kid deserved to be in a better book than this debacle.

Ironically, the happily-ever-after involves Carolina being dubbed “the Martha Stewart of the flower world.” That isn’t quite the compliment it would have been six months ago. But somehow, it’s apt. The author, the editor and the publisher should be charged with a crime for releasing this in hardcover.

If you long for the heyday of Judith Krantz novels, you might be able to tolerate The Best is Yet to Come, but Judith Gould doesn’t have Krantz’s writing talent. As for me, the best is knowing that I never again have to read another book by this author.

--Susan Scribner

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