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The Dilemma By B.A. Paris. (St. Martin's Press, 352 pages, $27.99.)

In this evocative drama, the British author of the bestselling "Behind Closed Doors" sets the stage for some devastating decisions.

We meet Livia and Adam as the parents of two grown children, aged 19 and 22, living a middle-class life in a suburban London neighborhood. They struggle at times to pay the bills, having put their older son, Josh, through college, and are now facing the same with daughter Marnie.

Livia is very much in love with Adam, her artist husband, and they do pretty well on his commissioned wood pieces and her modest salary. But there's a hole in Livia's life. She never had a wedding, and she has obsessed for years about a backyard garden party for her 40th birthday. So she scrimps and saves until the big day is getting close. Reluctant to spend the money, Adam agrees to the party out of a desire to see his wife happy.

But the day of the party, an already stressed Adam gets some heartbreaking news. He anguishes over whether to tell Livia right away and ruin the party or let her savor one last taste of happiness.

Livia, too, is harboring a heavy secret involving Marnie, who's 19 and studying in Hong Kong. She resolves to tell Adam after the party, not wanting to put any more pressure on him than she already has. The news will break him.

It's sort of a "Gift of the Magi" tale, two people who dearly love each other and threaten to shatter the other's life with any decision they make. Tell, or don't tell? Now, or wait?

Welcome to B.A. Paris' dilemma. It's the kind of book you can read cover to cover in one sitting, eager to see how the characters' impossible choices play out.