GLORY GAME. By Janet Dailey. Poseidon Press. 395 pp. $16.95.
LUZ KINCAID has it all. Of course she does or she wouldn't be wandering through the pages of a romantic novel. Ash-blond hair, a voice with "a cultural sound, smooth and dry, like an excellent Bordeaux." A doting husband, two teen- age children, and enough gold coin in the family coffers to allow everyone to wander at will from the house in Florida to the farm in Virginia, to Paris for fashion and London for fun. A hobby? Polo, naturally, with the family maintaining a string of 15 ponies.
Son Rob is intense and surly; daughter Trisha is a bold one and a bit naughty about sex. Like daddy Drew, who is very naughty indeed, running off with a younger woman near the beginning of the book and destroying his wife's carefully controlled world.
There are always problems nipping at the heels of any romantic heroine and Luz has a hefty share. But in the end she has built a new life for herself and found a handsome Argentinian polo player to share it.
Janet Dailey's romantic novels tend to be a cut above most, partly because she carefully researches the background she plans to write about. Sometimes too carefully, as when she has someone rub a horse on its "poll," a correct but unlikely usage for that spot where a horse's horns would be if horses had horns. Or when she describes a party at the aristocratic Luz's house with its "constant ebb and flow of guests around the fully equipped wet bar," a description more suited to an ad selling a tract house. But Dailey's main strength has always been in giving her heroines thoughts that real women might think. Luz, despite being plunked down in the midst of luxury, is a recognizable middle-aged woman. GEMINI. By Domini Taylor. Atheneum. 225 pp. $13.95.
THE MYSTERY in Gemini is not so much who done it, but why on earth anyone would object to their doing it. The victims are an irritating and unattractive lot, cluttering up Sterney Court with its handsome grounds and Palladian mansion, while the pool of possible murderers is afloat with charming folk. Like the twins of the title, Peter and Pandora, "angels in a Fra Angelico, delicate detail on a gilded ground," gifted and charming and so good that when someone chides their mother, Melissa, for never disciplining them she explains that they have never done anything wrong.
Unfortunately, the lovely Melissa descends from a family chock full of loonies, though in her the strain of madness seems to have quieted into whimsy: "Things like suddenly deciding to have dinner in the tree- house, or starting to repaint the drawing- room at three in the morning, or going for a walk in gumboots and a bikini in a cloudburst." Her husband, Simon, estate agent at Sterney Court, is a solid, unimaginative man who adores wife and children and has an unexpected passion for music. His father is the local parson whose "sermons were brief but baffling," and who "wore his First War medal ribbons on his surplice."
How can you resist the fey Melissa: "When I was a baby they laid me out on the lawn. I had a sentimental nanny. She thought the birds would sing to me. All they did was make messes on me. And then a mole came along underneath me, and made a molehill. It hoisted me into the air . . . They thought I had the gift of levitation. They thought it was a miracle, or else witchcraft. They couldn't decide whether to beatify me or burn me at the stake. They didn't do either in the end, because it was a Bank Holiday and everybody had gone to the seaside." And how can you possibly mind the demise of someone who gets rid of the pet bantams that strut the lawn because, "They made an ucky mess in the stables and everyplace,"and sends a man out in the middle of the night with a sack to round up the fantail pigeons: "They're all in the freezer now. They made even more mess than the chickens." The author may have started out to write a tale of evil, but midway through she became enchanted with her murderer and so do we. GHOST OF A CHANCE. By Linda Crawford. Arbor House. 276 pp. $15.95.
THE review copy came with no author's blurb identifying Linda Crawford as the ghostwriter of this book or that, but she must be. Ghost of a Chance is an as-told-to writer's revenge, as Kate Wylie takes on the job of behind-the- scenes author for a bank teller held hostage for 10 days in company with three dead bodies and a man dressed for the occasion in a bandolier stuffed with hand grenades. Beryl Swaar emerges from the bank a national heroine and soon "Captive Courageous" is on the best-seller list and its official author is stumping the country, exhorting everyone everyone to "TAKE CHARGE!" As the spirit of the messiah transforms Beryl, Kate, who has not gotten over her husband's infidelity with someone named Tabitha ("Tabitha, for Christ's sake -- part of the Kimberly generation -- I love you, Tabitha. . . I love you, Tabbie. . . Bitty. . . Titty, Tits, Toots. . . oh, the little pet names . . .") finds herself mired in Beryl's life as the one-time captive turns captor.
Although early on the author gives in to self-conscious cuteness (Kate is credited with ghosting "Hum Your Way to Health" and "Women and Transplants: A Feminist Perspective"), she soon picks a path one or two mocking steps south of reality. Beryl is all those instant celebrities, blown into our vision by the media's need for news, and she brings in her wake wicked scenes showing all the silliness we have learned to take seriously.
When she serves "her writer" a special meal, fancy food because Kate is from New York, she explains that, "For this one . . . you take a can of clams, a can of shrimp, and a can of crabmeat and you mix that with a package of frozen spinach that's been chopped, a package of egg noodles that you've cooked before, some mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, sweet pickle relish, and heavy cream and put it all in a casserole, dot with butter or margarine, sprinkle with grated cheese, and bake for about forty-five minutes or until done . . . Seafood Rockefeller . . . Serve with a green salad and warm French bread." You want to clutch your stomach at this perfect parody of those radio chefs who beam their recipes over the Voice of Indigestion and into the bellies of America. GIVE AND TAKE. By Norma Klein. Viking. 169 pp. $15.95
WHY work on a construction site or wait on tables when you can have the kind of summer job Spence does -- twice weekly donor to a sperm bank. But to Spence it's more than a job; it's a mission. "What I do before I go is get up early around six, and jog. Then I take a long hot shower, eat a light breakfast, and meditate. When I go into that little room, I feel geared up, but in a good way. I think of that woman somewhere who's going to be so happy the day she finds out that my sperm has connected with her egg."
Alas, when the virginal Spence meets a woman who suggests a more traditional method of connecting sperm with egg, he feels he must refuse. His sperm is spoken for.
Spence is not alone in his sweet nuttiness. His grandmother lugs around a photograph of her late husband, settling it into the best chair in front of the TV, draping a sweater around the edge because, "I was afraid he might get cold." Then there is Taffy, a very young and reluctant mother who has taken to appearing in her nightgown in Spence's backyard. Give and Take, looking at those two traumas of the teen-age years, sex and college, is a gentle and a humorous book, but it reads not only as though it were written about teen agers, but for them.. BEACHES. By Iris Rainer Dart. Bantam Books. 276 pp. $15.95. 5.
BEACHES is a gaudy version of the old-fashioned woman's book, where one friend seeks happiness in a career and the other chooses husband and hearth. Gaudy because one of the two women is Cee Cee Bloom, a loud, dirty-mouthed, smart alec with frizzy orange hair, a heart of gold, and a million-dollar talent that makes her a star in Hollywood.
The other half in this unlikely friendship, begun on a New Jersey beach when they both were children, is Bertie White, pretty, delicate and married to a conservative Pittsburgh lawyer who is so unpleasant that when the author tries to show what in heaven's name anyone would see in him, she has Bertie explain that in private they call each other Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse. Far from being charmed, the sensible reader will be revolted.
Mr. and Mrs. Mouse join Cee Cee and her director husband for a holiday in Hawaii and that rotten Mickey makes a pass at Cee Cee. Oh dear, all those years of friendship come to an end. But a series of crises teaches the women that men may come and men may go, but friendship lasts forever. The book is not quite as leaden as this summary makes it sound, and Cee Cee does have a flamboyant charm, but the rest of the characters are thin and the melodramatic ending makes the book read as though the author sat down to write one story and then, as the end drew near, switched over to another.