Dynamic businesswoman Serena Devlin has promised her four-year-old daughter Harriet that she will be home in time to wave her off on her first sleepover, but the demands of running a four-star hotel take over and she forgets the important date. Her husband Paul is furious but that's nothing compared to the beating she gives herself.
In her third novel, author Zoe Miller will have the sympathy of working mums everywhere with her nuanced portrayal of the conflicting demands of work and motherhood. That epic struggle is one of the rival passions of the title, but in true Miller form there are plenty of others.
The Dublin author has earned a following for exposing the messy truth under the glossy exterior in her first two novels (Sinful Deceptions and Guilty Secrets) and she does it with aplomb in her latest offering.
On the surface, Serena and her twin Jack appear to have it all. They are privileged Celtic Tiger cubs who own and run Tamarisk Manor, a luxury hotel in Co Wicklow.
But Jack is broken-hearted; he has lost his wife and unborn baby and has taken off to Nice and the family's sister resort to heal his wounds. Meanwhile, super sis Serena puts on her Jimmy Choos and tries to be the perfect businesswoman, mother and loving wife. Of course, something's gotta give and the cracks in the perfect facade don't take long to manifest.
Miller sets her tale in post-Celtic Tiger Dublin. The recession looms in the background but the vestiges of that heady time are still evident. There are lots of lovely people, socialites and wannabe celebs, along with a few wanton displays of conspicuous consumption -- the twins' mum Charlotte flies the family to Nice in a private jet as a 'treat'.
But just when the glamour is getting too much to bear, Miller throws in a dark secret or a shocking revelation to temper the excess. She is an assured writer who manages to give a new twist to a well-worn formula. And she's not afraid of racy sex scenes either -- put Rival Passions into your beach bag if you're hoping for a hot summer.