A FEW WRITERS seem to think that their readers' emotions and sympathies are up for grabs: give them a plot that hinges on a putative tragedy, and they will follow eagerly, leaving a trail of sodden handkerchiefs and empty Kleenex boxes behind them. But if the basic premise leaves the reader unmoved and dry-eyed, no matter how much the plot tries to tug and pull at the heartstrings, that resilient organ pumps placidly on.

In Family Ties, the heroine Regina loves and is the lover from the age of 17 of her first cousin Jerold. But the family has a secret, which only bitchy Aunt Martha talks about, so Regina flees to Paris, if not to forget Jerold, at least to keep busy in attractive surroundings.

Back in New York she actually marries Morty (who had been married to beautiful Aunt Mande who died in childbirth) and together the couple prosper in the textile business. Apparently, all along beautiful Regina was also a talented designer, as well as a good daughter, able business woman and family loyalist. The '20s and '30s are sketched in passing and World War II is not unnoticed, and neither is Jerold, noble and ever loving.

Naturally there is a climactic scene when Regina must choose once and for all between the "two men she loved, had loved, and would always love." But as unfortunate as the family legacy was, it doesn't seem insurmountable to real people, who can make their own decisions. Unmoved, unconcerned and unconvinced, we stoically await the end. Leahy cannot engage us.