Cover image for A certain smile
A certain smile
Michael, Judith.
Personal Author:
First large print edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House Large Print, in association with Crown Publishers, 1999.
Physical Description:
462 pages (large print) ; 24 cm
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X Adult Large Print Large Print

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Judith Michael's trademark storytelling verve has won this husband-and-wife team an audience of millions. Their tenth novel, A Certain Smile , is a bittersweet story of a perfect but impossible love.

Miranda Graham, a clothing designer and the widowed mother of two teenagers, travels to China to work with the factories that will produce her designs. At first overwhelmed by the chaotic foreignness of China, she soon discovers what she never expected or would have believed possible: a passionate, all-consuming love. Yuan Li, son of a Chinese mother and an American soldier, survived Cultural Revolution and now owns a successful construction company. Li and Miranda spend every available moment together, until an intrusive Chinese government, corrupt businessmen, and Li's wildly ambitious son test their love in the complex crucible of politics, and family loyalties.

Author Notes

Judith Michael is the pseudonym of the married-couple writing team of Judith Barnard and Michael Fain. They began their writing career by writing newspaper and magazine articles on family, marriage, and relationships, then they turned to the writing of novels in 1982. Some of their works include "Deceptions," "Acts of Love," "Pot of Gold," "Sleeping Beauty," and "A Tangled Web."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Miranda Graham is overwhelmed by Beijing's teeming crowds and cacophony of sound, and she hasn't even made it out of the airport. Happily, Yuan Li alters the scene by offering her his hand with a warm smile. As a man of China left behind by his American father, Li understands Miranda's feelings of isolation in the midst of one of the most populous cities on earth. And his struggle to build a successful engineering firm amid the corrupt political and business practices of the Chinese government enables him to appreciate Miranda's struggle to achieve success as a fashion designer. With their blooming friendship circumscribed by the brevity of Miranda's stay, they spend every available moment together learning about each other and the cultures that shaped their growth, but just as a sudden freeze can kill new buds on the vine, the unwelcome attention of Chinese authorities and the intense disapproval of Li's son threaten to destroy their tender relationship. The husband-and-wife writing team of Judith Barnard and Michael Fain tell a sensuous and enrapturing tale. Every one of their previous novels has hit the top 10 of the New York Times best-seller list, a path their newest seems destined to follow. --Melanie Duncan

Publisher's Weekly Review

An exotic locale, a hint of danger, a dollop of fashion, a soup‡on of Confucian philosophy and a big dose of clashing cultures add up to tasty if unoriginal chop suey in the latest novel from the bestselling husband and wife writing team. Miranda Grant, a 40-year-old widow with two adolescent children, travels from her home in Boulder, Colo., to Beijing. Petite (size four) Miranda is, on the one hand, shy, fearful and mousy, and, on the other, artistic, creative and hungry for change. Her visit to China is a business trip, arranging knitting contracts for the cashmere sweaters she designs for a New York firm, but it becomes a two-week sojourn that will change her life. Although scenes detailing the textile negotiations add interest, the story focuses on Miranda's relationship with Yuan Li, a successful builder/construction engineer. The son of a Chinese mother and an American soldier, he becomes her soulful guide to China, romance and personal growth. Danger intrudes after Miranda innocently acts as courier for a letter from a former dissident, now in America; the authorities put Miranda and Yuan Li under round-the-clock surveillance. The supporting charactersÄLi's aloof daughter, scheming son, old friend's wifeÄcontribute to the feel of an earnest and colorful travelogue and history lesson. The sense of being an American in a foreign culture is nicely conveyed as Miranda views such phenomena as the thick crowds of bicycle riders in Beijing, the dense army of terra cotta soldiers in Xi'an and the stunning architecture of the Forbidden City. This 10th offering from the practiced Michael (Deceptions; Acts of Love) will undoubtedly join its nine predecessors on the bestseller lists. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selection. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Michael is the pseudonym of a husband-and-wife team with a string of best sellers to their credit (e.g., Acts of Love, LJ 1/97). They have set their latest romantic effort in the turbulent and fascinating world of contemporary China. Miranda has moved there to work with a clothing firm manufacturing some of her fashion designs. At the airport, she meets a quiet and gracious man named Li and shares a taxi to her hotel. Over the course of a few deliciously detailed dinners and sightseeing afternoons, they form a tentative friendship that grows into a caring love affair between two mature adults who have suffered their share of disappointment and pain. As in every traditional love story, their relationship hits a few obstacles, including the vehement objections of Lis son, a man with business and political problems of his own. Although there is certainly nothing new here, this slow-paced, melancholy love poem is an appealing tale of two very different people who find soulmates in each other. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.]Margaret Ann Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Chapter 1 Miranda Graham and Yuan Li met in the Beijing airport when he appeared out of nowhere to rescue her from the shoving, elbowing crowds buffeting her on all sides. She was stuck in the taxi line just outside the terminal, pinned there while others thrust in front of her, indifferently pushing and knocking against her as she struggled to stay close to her suitcase. Assaulted by the high-pitched, incessant din, she shrank from the press of strange bodies, feeling helpless and suddenly afraid. This can't be happening; I'm in one of the world's biggest airports; there's nothing to he afraid of no one is going to hurt me. But they don't like Americans and nobody smiles or gives me any space... they walk right into me, as if they want to knock me down... She knew that was ridiculous, but she felt threatened and alone, and she had not moved an inch in ten minutes. I could be here all night, she thought, and never get to my hotel. I've got to do something; what do people do to get anywhere in this country? And that was when Li appeared, standing out from the crowd, taller than those around him, coming close to put a hand on her shoulder. Alarmed, she jerked from his touch, but there was no place to move, and so she shrank into herself, tucking her head away from him. "Please, let me help you," he said, and she was so astonished to hear English, clear and perfect, that she straightened up, staring at him. He was smiling. "At this rate, you'll be here all night, and never get to your hotel." Her eyes widened in surprise, but he did not notice; he had hung her garment bag over his arm and was bending to pick up her suitcase. Then, holding her arm and using his body like a wedge, he plowed through the crowd. As it melted before him, he grinned at her, like a small boy triumphant over obstructive adults. "You simply pretend they are not there. It is the only way to survive in China. And now," he said as they reached a taxi at the head of the line, "I will accompany you to the city, to make sure you reach your hotel." "Oh, no. No." The thought of getting into a car with a foreigner was almost as terrifying as the crowds had been. "Thank you for helping me, you've been very kind, but I can manage; I have the name of my hotel written in Chinese.. the driver can read it.. I'll be just fine. " He nodded. "I will not push myself upon you if you insist, but I've found that it is always good to have help when you make a beginning in a strange place." The driver had stowed Miranda's suitcase and garment bag, and was gazing phlegmatically at the impatient customers waiting for the next taxi. "I am going into the city anyway," Li said. "It won't be off of my way to do this." "Out of," she corrected automatically. "It won't be out of your way." Perhaps it was his small mistake in English that made her feel less intimidated, or perhaps the exhaustion of twenty-two hours of travel, but finally it just seemed simpler to give in and get in the taxi with him. Sitting beside her, he took a tiny cellular phone from his pocket and spoke briefly into it in Chinese. Folding it with a sharp snap, he returned it to his pocket, and settled back beside Miranda. Cringing again, she shrank into the corner of the back seat, pushing herself against the cracked leather, telling herself that she was a fool. She knew nothing about this man, not even his name. What if he and the taxi driver were a team? Maybe they did this all the time: kidnapped women traveling alone, and killed them if a ransom were not paid, or paid quickly enough. Probably he had just made arrangements on the telephone with some cohorts, lying in wait. Why hadn't she thought of that before? "My name is Yuan Li," he said, and smiled, a warm, open smile that Miranda would swear had no ulterior motive. He held out his hand. "I'm pleased to meet you. "Miranda Graham." She gave him a quick glance as her hand came up to meet his. He had a nice face, and his handshake was firm and brief. "Thank you again for rescuing me." "I was pleased that I could help." Involuntarily, her glance went to his pocket, where his cellular phone lay hidden. "I called my driver," he said briefly, "to tell him to take my car home." She nodded, embarrassed that she was so transparent, embarrassed that she felt so relieved, embarrassed at being so inexperienced. But she was not a traveler. Until now, except for brief trips concentrating only on business, she had never turned a gaze of curiosity and adventure outward from her home: the leafy college town of Boulder, tucked into the Colorado foothills, where everything was familiar. Now, unbelievably, she was on the other side of the world, in a city where she knew no one, where she could not understand a word the people were saying. "Impossible," she murmured as the taxi passed an incomprehensible highway sign. "I won't be able to make sense of billboards or street names, stores, menus--" "But in many places you can," Li said. "hotel restaurants have menus in English. Street signs are spelled out in your alphabet, so you can find your way around with a map. And in areas popular with tourists, you will find store clerks and waiters who speak English, often quite well." She flushed with shame. She was an American citizen on a business trip; she should never let anyone know that she felt helpless. "I'll be all right," she said coolly. "I'm sure you will." His smile seemed tolerant of her inexperience, and in an instant she disliked him. He had seemed pleasant, but everyone knew that foreigners, especially Asians, were usually untrustworthy. I don't need him, she thought, or anybody else in China. I don't have time for friends, anyway; I only have eight days here. I'll be busy every minute, and then I'll be gone. She watched lighted windows flash past in block after block of identical five-story concrete apartment buildings. Soon, the windows became larger, giving fleeting glimpses into apartments in newer buildings, until they gave way to skyscrapers, to a strange amalgam of modern office buildings towering over squat, darkened structures that looked liked relics of another time. And then, suddenly, in a narrow, crowded street, they stopped at her hotel. It was named the Palace, hinting at fairytale romances and heroes and heroines, but in fact it was sleek, modern and anonymous, with a spacious lobby displaying the Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune on tables and newspaper racks, a tuxedoed staff speaking impeccable English, a swimming pool and health club, two nightclubs and a restaurant. I could almost be in America, Miranda thought, and immediately felt better. And better still when Li said goodbye in front of the hotel, and drove off in the taxi they had shared. He had been so casual that she had felt a moment of pique, but then she remembered that she was glad to be rid of him, and a moment later, dealing with the bellhop, and registering, and making sure her luggage got upstairs, she forgot him completely. In her suite, she turned slowly in place, awed at its elegance. The draperies were of heavy silk doubly and triply embroidered in many-colored threads; the chairs and sofa in the sitting room were rosewood with silk cushions; a rosewood breakfront filled one wall, its shelves arranged with translucent porcelain vases and a celadon tea set. The wide bed was covered with a silk spread appliquéd with lotus flowers, and on the lower shelves of the rosewood nightstands were slippers with padded soles and a strip of beautiful woven paper across the instep. Porcelain table lamps cast soft light on the patterned carpet, and the bed had been turned down for the night. Miranda took it all in, then, lightheaded from fatigue and new sensations, she pulled her nightgown from her suitcase and slipped into bed. It was eleven o'clock on a late September night in Beijing, China, and in five minutes she was asleep. Excerpted from A Certain Smile by Judith Michael All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.