Darien H. Gee is married to former Chicoan Darrin Gee. Some years ago the couple moved to Hawaii where Darrin operates the Spirit of Golf Academy and Darien (writing under the name of "Mia King") balances life as a mother of three with her growing reputation as an author. Her romantic stories tell of modern love, won and lost and won again, and are leavened with a love of food and a special recipe section at the end.
"Sweet Life" ($14 in paperback from Berkley) , featured by several book clubs, is a hearty confection. Paul and Marissa Price both have good jobs in New York. He's 44, she's 41, and daughter Pansy is eight. When Paul gets the opportunity to manage a company-owned resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, he paints a glowing picture of Paradise to a reluctant Marissa. Eventually, realizing she's being selfish, she gives up her job as a consultant and agrees to the family move.
But Hawaii turns out to a bit short of idyllic. When Marissa meets Paul's young and voluptuous secretary, Malia, her suspicions are raised, and she has a hard time adapting to the role of a stay-at-home mom living in a many-roomed fixer-upper house. Marissa has a rather frosty encounter with the company masseuse, Kavena, and her only friend seems to be Jane, the barista at the local Kava Java shop ("a ten-dollar-an-hour glorified coffee waitress who was sixty years old"), who sets Marissa down and says, "Spill!"
When Paul tells Marissa (on Valentines Day, no less) that "I just need to find myself" and asks for a trial separation, her world is upended. Divorce? But, as King reminds readers, things are not quite what they seem, especially when Malia, Kavena and Jane end up renting some of the rooms in Marissa's house to help her stay afloat. And so begins a transformation in Marissa's life.
Marissa not only finds herself, but more than she bargained for. The central theme of "simplicity" runs throughout the novel. "All her years with Paul," muses Marissa at one point. "They hadn't been bad years, just busy years. Too busy, maybe. Too busy to notice the good things."
It's a sweet story (with a bit of salty language) seasoned to perfection.