Connie Green wasn't bargaining for trouble when she arrived in Blackpool for a networking conference. In fact, she would have preferred to stay at home with her loving husband Luke and invite their equally loving friends over for dinner. So when she finds herself flirting with John Harding and they wind up at another conference in Paris, Connie finds the lines between adultery and fidelity blurring. It doesn't take long before she can no longer tell the difference, nor does she care.

In the meantime, Connie's friends Sam, Daisy, Rose, and Lucy are leading hit-or-miss lives of their own. Connie's life is something of a fairytale: She left the carefree days of many lovers (which eludes the noncommittal, ruthless Lucy); found a wonderful husband (which eludes Daisy and Sam); and still manages to have fun (which eludes Rose, an ex-corporate up-and-comer now saddled with children). So why would Connie even look at another man? Connie isn't sure of the whys either, but very quickly arrives at a point of obsession. John feeds this obsession, and soon discretion is dismissed as well. One by one, Connie's friends uncover the truth, with varied opinions about her behavior: Lucy coaches her, Sam tolerates her, and Daisy is mortified. Then there's Rose, who ultimately finds herself in the same vulnerable position as Luke. The most unlikely source of confrontation, Rose helps Connie reassess what is important to her and how far she'll go to retrieve it. It is then that Connie finally realizes the magnitude of her sin.

Readers will find the first half of Playing Away disturbing; the idea that Connie is getting away with blatant adultery without repercussion is shocking. Ironically, readers will also like Connie; she truly is a likable character, making it very difficult to hate her or turn a deaf ear when she explains her actions and feelings. Wanting to hug her instead of thrash her is even more disturbing than Connie's actions, but Connie does eventually pay, and she pays dearly. Adele Parks mingles humor with dark, realistic themes of boredom and isolation. Some may regard the ending as sappy, but after all the suffering, no other ending would suffice for such an endearing crew of friends.

Abbey Anclaude is a former schoolteacher.

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