When Charlotte Perkins wins a Mediterranean cruise in an essay contest, she sees it as the perfect opportunity to reconnect with her adult children; beautiful actress Lee, perpetually single Cord, and perfect housewife Regan. All three are their own kinds of messed up. Lee's career has floundered and she is newly single and homeless. Cord is engaged to his boyfriend, assuring him that on this trip he will come out to his family. And Regan's husband insists on coming along, even though she needs a break from pretending their marriage isn't falling apart. And all three blame Charlotte's repressive, Catholic insistence on everything being fine, yet all three feel responsible for their widowed mother. As the Splendido Marveloso travels from Greece to Malta to Italy, the Perkins' desperate attempts to both keep up appearances and tell their truths are interrupted by port-city excursions and mandatory cruise-ship fun. Each character's dysfunctions run deep, and each plot twist threatens to sink their sanity, resulting in a funny, moving tale of the complications of familial love.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2020 Booklist
A lonely 71-year-old widow wins a trip to Europe and takes her three grown children in an attempt to reconnect with them. One-time mediocre realtor and long-time widow Charlotte Perkins lives in Savannah, Georgia. When her best friend dies, she realizes just how lonely she has become and how she has lost touch with her grown children, two of whom refuse to speak to each another. Charlotte believes that her eldest daughter, Lee, is an actress on the cusp of success in Los Angeles; that her son, Cord, is a successful venture capitalist in New York City waiting to find the right woman; and that her youngest, Regan, is a happily married stay-at-home mother of two. She doesn't know that Lee is in massive debt, cannot find work, and is living in a La Quinta hotel; that Cord is a struggling-to-stay-sober alcoholic who is happily engaged to a man he adores; and that Regan dreams of murdering her detested husband, whom she regrets marrying after her sister broke his heart. Charlotte herself is not the pious Catholic Church lady everyone thinks she is—she is desperate to find a man, have sex, and live out the naughty pages of her romance books. Everyone in the family is adept at hiding their emotions and themselves from one another. Charlotte hopes to bring them all together again by entering a contest for a cruise through Europe. And she wins. Author Ward (The Nearness of You, 2017, etc.) has created a complex story that explores the tragedies and long-term effects of withheld love, verbal abuse, alcoholism, and depression on individuals and their families, set against the backdrop of a splendidly gaudy, over-the-top Mediterranean cruise ship and its historic ports of call. Open, optimistic, caring, romantic, and thoughtful Giovanni—Cord's fiance—is a highlight of the book .No one, and no relationship, is perfect in this story, which embraces the messiness of love and life. (Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2020).