Presented in a suspenseful serial format (Weldon originally wrote the novel for a British weekly, WOMAN) and narrated by an intimate “Dear Reader” voice, THE HEARTS AND LIVES OF MEN chronicles the intrigues of the irresponsible Clifford and Helen with irony and tenderness. When their marriage is shattered by Angie Wellbrook, a scheming South African heiress who wants Clifford for herself (and will stop at nothing to get him), a complex melodrama unfolds. Clifford and Helen divorce. In the ensuing custody struggle, Clifford has Nell kidnapped. She disappears en route to him in a freak plane crash.
Surviving the plane crash, but presumed dead by her parents, little Nell is sold by her kidnapper for illegal adoption. Her adventures include adoption by a kind elderly couple who dabble in black magic, incarceration in a home for disturbed children, sheltering with antique thieves on a Welsh farm, and the beginnings of an art career which ultimately leads her back to her mother.
Meanwhile, Clifford and Helen, never really out of love in the first place, remarry, only to be split apart again by the dirty tricks of the terrible Angie. Good nevertheless triumphs over evil. Coincidences abound. A supporting cast of colorful minor characters helps the plot race along, and Weldon weaves the many strands of the story together magnificently, delivering the happy ending promised on the first page. Her sparkling language, witty tone, and deft prose style heighten the comedy and underline its wisdom.