There are still plenty of places in the world where men and women find themselves brought together by unlikely sources. In Samantha Krasner's Manhattan, her mother is intent on playing Dolly Levi and finding her daughter the perfect match. BACHELOR DEGREE chronicles the strange and fascinating world of the Upper (Crusty) East Side of New York City and the equally odd relationship between an independent and successful young woman and the matchmaking-crazed mother who thinks she can reel in a big fish for her pride and joy with a quirky combination of flirting and monied talk. Judith Marks-White is quite at home in this milieu and concocts a tale that seems like a blend of “The Gilmore Girls” and Jane Austen.
Samantha is a very successful gallery agent who, despite the boss from hell to whom she is indebted, feels like she has finally come into her own as a thirtysomething career girl in the big city. However, Madeleine Krasner-Wolfe, twice-divorced and filthy rich, yields upon her daughter an obsessive control. Samantha sees her as a frightful force of nature helped along by the spa treatments with which her station in the world has gotten her accustomed.
When Blake Hamilton, a rising star in the international art world, signs with Samantha's gallery and is put in Samantha’s charge, Madeleine decides that Samantha should land the hunk as her husband before it’s too late. Samantha, however, has to put up with not just her mother's matchmaking but also her flirting, which Madeleine thinks will help Samantha win Blake's undying affection. Samantha seems to be doing very well with Blake, but the constant and consistently bizarre specter of her boozy mother may be just the thing that pulls the happy couple apart.
Another cog in the wheel of disarray is Alexandra Cole, the high-wheeling, free-dealing agent who owns the Cole Gallery, the very one at which Samantha is employed. With an eye on Blake's artwork and another on his obvious physical accoutrements, Alexandra tries to wedge in on her assistant's burgeoning relationship with the young artist. And when another agent gets involved in the deal for his masterpiece tour de force, Exotica, Samantha ends up getting hurt by the only person from whom she wouldn't expect such vitriol.
Judith Marks-White has written a beach book that is just as much at home on your side table on cool fall nights. The irresistible life of wealthy Manhattanites, the kind of people who treat Balthazar like it's Applebee’s, always is the stuff that dreams are made of. BACHELOR DEGREE will keep you turning pages even while you are wondering how you would handle such smothering mothering, and alternately gasping and laughing at the ridiculous exploits of Samantha and her bumbling mom.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on December 22, 2010