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The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again    by Nancy Thayer order for
Hot Flash Club Strikes Again
by Nancy Thayer
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Nancy Thayer continues with the original characters from her first novel, The Hot Flash Club - namely Faye, Shirley, Marilyn, and Alice - while introducing four new ladies in The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again. The originals continue to hunt for a man for Faye with amusing results. Her first date with a guy named 'Tank' is especially funny when he takes Faye for a ride on his Harley ... desperate to get to a ladies room, Faye says 'the cycle ... shook so hard she felt like a washing machine about to overflow.' Marilyn continues to receive advice about her wardrobe (advice sometimes not asked for), Alice's Thanksgiving experience is a fiasco, and Shirley's Boston-area Hot Spot Spa business is blooming. The four continue to meet once a week and play a role in getting the new 'club' started.

The women featured in the sequel encounter tribulations with relationships, i.e. 'toxic and meddling relatives'. Julia, a photographer and videographer, is happily married to Tim Hathaway and loves being stepmother to Belinda. The youngster's biological mom died a few years before and the child has not spoken since. Belinda's maternal grandmother does and says anything she can to punish Julia for stepping into her deceased daughter's place. Widowed Polly has become a grandmother for the first time, but daughter-in-law Amy forbids Polly's visiting baby Jehoshaphat because of 'germs'. To add to Polly's dismay, when her husband died she had high hopes that mother-in-law Claudia would warm up to her. However, the wealthy ice-queen remains as aloof as before. Then, after eighteen years attempting to appease her mother-in-law, Polly receives a surprise call from Claudia. The ailing woman has decided that Polly will be her caretaker, but with no 'change in temperature'!

As heiress to Sperry Paper Company, vice-president Carolyn is the driving force behind the business. At thirty-seven, she and husband Hank are expecting their first baby. Blood pressure problems force Carolyn to take on something that is foreign to her workaholic nature, i.e. relaxation and stress-releasing activities. Seventy-year-old widower Aubrey Sperry, unexpectedly announces his elopement. Carolyn is suspicious of her father's new young bride Heather. Does Heather intend to get her hands on new hubby's checkbook? Soon to-be-professor at Boston University, Beth is completing studies for a Ph.D. in English. Shy and unassuming Beth lived a sheltered life, until she met good-looking, macho Sonny. Sonny is a carpenter in his family's business, after giving up his dream of becoming an architect. Beth joins Sonny's family for Sunday dinners which includes Sonny's beautiful ex-high school sweetheart Robin. The family makes it obvious that they favor Robin as the 'one' for Sonny, and often sabotage Beth's efforts to fit in.

Polly, Beth, Carolyn, and Julia form the second group of Hot Spot Spa foursomes, and decide to stand up for what matters most, their own well-being. Moving through family conflicts and embracing changes, they realize that life is more copacetic with friends who support you, dinner and wine to satiate you, and lots of chocolate desserts. When the original group plus the new foursome find one another's problems sympatico, lending a hand to each other's trials leads to interesting adventures. Though the novel is warm and engaging, at times the story drags on a mite too long. But Nancy Thayer works hard at character development - her ladies are funny, lively, and entertaining. Readers will sympathize with these 'victims', cheer their successes, and be glad that the book's ending opens the possibility of a third in the series.

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