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Books: Leisure reading

'Julie and Romeo Get Lucky'

By Jeanne Ray

Pocket Books, $22.

Jeanne Ray's latest novel continues a story she started in a previous book.

The members of a Jewish family and a Catholic family who owned competing floral shops grew up hating each other. But they gave up their hate and joined their businesses when one member from each of their families — Sandy and Tony — got married.

Then Sandy's mom, Julie, and Tony's dad, Romeo, fell in love. Tony and Sandy and her two kids moved in with Julie. One of Romeo's other sons brought his wife and kids to live with Romeo, who was already living with his own mother.

No one has much privacy, but everyone has a lot of fun. As this book begins, the 60-something parents are left alone in Julie's house and are attempting to make love when Romeo throws his back out.

He's in bed for the rest of the book. So the story begins to revolve around Sandy's elementary-school-age daughter, who is desperate for meaning in her life. (Apparently the compromise between the two faiths is that no one attends either a church or a synagogue.) The little girl is addicted to the DVD of "Willie Wonka." She's also addicted to trying to win the lottery.

She's a nice little girl, but none of her adult relatives can set limits on the lottery or the television. If you can resist hating the way she is being raised, you will find this book amusing. — Susan Whitney


'Friends, Lovers, Chocolate'

By Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon, $21.95.

Alexander McCall Smith, a retired law professor, is best known for his "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series and "The Sunday Philosophy Club" series, of which this is the second installment.

In this book, Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the "Review of Applied Ethics," experiences an affair of the heart with a man who has had a heart transplant and now suddenly has a flood of memories about things that never happened to him.

Philosophically, she asks the question, "Is the heart truly the seat of the soul?" "Could the memories be connected with the donor's demise?" While she is dealing with this conundrum, her niece, Cat, brings home an Italian lothario who seems like someone you should stay away from — but he's so charming! — Dennis Lythgoe


'Angels in the Gloom'

By Anne Perry

Ballantine, $25.95.

Anne Perry's latest is a story about love, hate, obsession and murder involving an honorable English family during World War I.

In March, 1916, Joseph Reavley, a chaplain at the front, and his sister, Judith, an ambulance driver, are fighting the Germans in the bitter cold, while brother Matthew, an intelligence agent, is doing covert work in London. Hannah, another sister, lives with her children in the family home in Cambridgeshire.

Soon spies and traitors rear their heads as a weapons scientist is found dead in Hannah's allegedly safe little village. The story reverts back and forth from the trenches of hot war to the intrigue of London nightclubs.

The story continues with emotional as well as physical tragedy surrounding the characters. — Dennis Lythgoe