Francesca Segal’s sharply observed second novel asks what parents owe to their children, and vice versa. After five years of widowhood, Julia Alden has met and fallen in love with James Fuller, a handsome American doctor. James and his teenage son, Nathan, have moved into the north London home Julia shares with her teenage daughter, Gwen. But as the novel opens, this is not so much a blended family as an elaborate civil war. Gwen is desperate to have her mother to herself, and wants Nathan and James out of the way; James finds her irritatingly needy. Nathan can’t bear the highly strung Gwen; Julia hates the way Nathan preys on her daughter’s insecurities. Holding it all together involves endless restraint and diplomacy, but, for Julia and James, it’s worth it for the sake of a second shot at happiness. “When will they start to be nice to each other?” asks Julia, as if to convince herself that it might be that simple.