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Best Seller Preview : Waiting for a Real Man

October 25, 1987|KAREN STABINER

The authors of popular fiction would like to stop worrying about how your troubled past hobbles your future. The way they see it, your chance of living happily ever after is in inverse proportion to the cohesiveness of your family unit--that is, the more broken the home, the better the odds of having the whole enchilada someday. In their universe, justice triumphs, often before the protagonist hits 40 and has too few brain cells left to appreciate it, and good people who have suffered suddenly find themselves healthy, wealthy, successful and satisfied.

Take R. J. Misner, heroine of Iris Rainer Dart's 'Til The Real Thing Comes Along, whose job--writing shtick for a Dolly Partonesque TV show--is so stupid that getting fired seems like a promotion. R. J. has had to overcome many obstacles, most of them having to do with men: Her father and her first husband died too young, her son wants a dad, her soon-to-be ex-fiance is a momma's boy, her next date is agoraphobic, her supposedly benevolent boss makes her the fall guy when the star gets cranky, and the one healthy, sane, heterosexual man to make a pass at her is, in her estimation, too young and too right-wing.

In the real world, R. J. might become a Writers' Guild chronic unemployment statistic; she might even make the hideous mistake of patching it up with the emotionally anemic fiance. But no: Every disappointment turns out for the best, and R. J. ends up with a better self-image, better job and better beau. There is also a surprise gift in this Cracker Jack box of a book--Mr. Right happens to be filthy rich.

" 'Til The Real Thing Comes Along" will undoubtedly appeal to all those women who figure they're likelier to meet the terrorist of their nightmares than the man of their dreams. Bantam will print 70,000 copies and back them up with "substantial" advertising and promotion.

If scriptwriter Angst is too tame for you, there's Danielle Steel's Kaleidoscope, in which 8-year-old Hilary Walker hears her father murder her mother, is dispatched to live with a white-trash cousin after dad kills himself and survives incest, rape, abortion, malnutrition and poverty to run a television network, meet the perfect man and be reunited with her two equally successful sisters.

Steel seems to believe that neither a bankrupt environment nor a hereditary psychosis can keep a good woman down, certainly an inspirational point of view to readers who languish in the emotional and financial foothills, gazing up at the seemingly unattainable peak of amply-bankrolled bliss. The only thing Hilary Walker doesn't accomplish by the end of "Kaleidoscope" is reproduction--but her sister Alexandra provides two impossibly beautiful nieces for her to practice on, and Hilary could always decide to be a fashionably late mom.

Steel's story is the perfect antidote to all those nasty nonfiction articles and books about how women can't have it all, and Delacorte knows it: "Kaleidoscope" gets a whopping 750,000-copy first printing, and is a Dual Main Selection of the Literary Guild and a Main Selection of the Doubleday Book Club.

Like Hilary Walker, Carol Martin is an overachieving orphan raised by disinterested relatives. In The Slipper, Jennifer Wilde, Carol leaves a narrow-minded Kansas town on a colleague scholarship (thanks to a benefactor who relieves Carol of her virginity before the check clears) and eventually becomes an international film star. Her best friends overcome adversity too: Nora is the witty, ambitious writer-daughter of parents who don't understand or support her, and actress Julie has bad skin and a worse husband.

"The Slipper" is the story of their various, intersecting attempts to find happiness--Cinderella and the glass slipper, get it? To make the quest all the more thrilling, they spend the requisite amount of time at the contemporary equivalent of scrubbing floors and catering to wicked stepsisters: Carol works for a director--who treats her badly--and pines for her wealthy patron, which sets back her romance timetable; Nora pays her dues as a literary agent before scoring a book deal for herself that will make real writers weep, but she prolongs her personal agony by falling in love with a man who reminds her that she's writing trash; Julie pays her dues on a soap opera, graduates to Hollywood and uses drugs and drink to numb the pain of being successful but losing her husband (even if he is a jerk).

Still, the trio manages to overcome adversity before the ripe old age of 25--and if two of the women haven't found Mr. Right, at least now they can afford to go looking for him at all the best places. "Slipper" is a Troll Book Club Main Selection and an Alternate Selection of the Preferred Book Club.

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