Daphne Merkin has written a darling short novel Twenty-two Minutes of Unconditional Love (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $26.00). If you think the twenty-two minutes she is referring to is about sex, you have a dirty mind. Congratulations, you are right.

Judith Stone is a 30-year-old editor at a Manhattan publishing house, cerebral, quiet, and shy. Her relationship with men has always been short and entirely uneventful, if you get what I mean. A casual friend invites her to a party, and after several days of debate, Judith finally decides to go.

She strolls into a swanky apartment and discovers she knows nobody except the hostess. Grabbing a glass of wine, she tries to find a corner to hide in, until a man named Howard Rose approaches her. He makes pleasant conversation, picking up verbal ques when Judith finds herself tongue-tied, then offers to refill Judith’s glass. As he leaves, he tells Judith, “Don’t go.”

But that’s exactly what Judith does. She flees the party never expecting to hear from Howard again. Sleeping late the next morning, her phone awakens her. She answers and hears one word from Howard, “Bitch.” She knows immediately she should hang up, but his voice is nice, even if he isn’t.

Judith accepts his invitation for dinner that night which leads to her first orgasm and sexual obsession with the decent-looking and very experienced, Howard. Over the next few weeks, she finds herself falling in love but every time she tries to take the relationship to the next level, he seems oblivious.

You also suspect that this is not going to end well, and again you would be right. Reading about Judith chasing Howard is like watching a slow developing multi-car pile-up. You can’t look away.

Merkin does something I haven’t seen in a book since reading Tom Jones, authorial intervention, a la the sixteenth century. At first this is annoying until we get to the catch later on. She is an excellent wordsmith and I give the book an A-. It was a great weekend read.

Steve E Clark as seen in the New York Times is Author of  Justice Is for the Lonely  and  Justice Is for the Deserving,  Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense.  Steve is a 2017 NY Big Book Award winner and a 2018 Independent Book Awards recepient.  You can purchase his books via https://steveclarkauthor.com/buy-the-book/ or request it at your local book store.  Want to know more about Steve Clark, read more reviews or speak directly with Steve?  Learn more about Steve at SteveClarkAuthor.com