Bungalow 2 follows the story of Tanya Harris, a devoted wife, mother of three, and an occasional writer. One day Tanya receives a phone call from her editor, who has the offer of a lifetime: to work with a renowned director on a screenplay that has the potential to win an Oscar. The only catch? Tanya must move to Los Angeles for nine months in order to work on it. Tanya is horrified at the prospect of leaving her twin girls during their senior year in high school and is inclined to say no. It is only after much prodding from her loving husband that she finally accepts the offer and moves into Bungalow 2 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The opportunity is not quite what Tanya expected. While it is the deal of a lifetime, it strains Tanya’s most important relationships. She also quickly gets tired of people telling her that she will not want to return home after she has completed her nine-month stint. She is convinced that all she wants to do is return home; indeed, she thinks about packing up and leaving multiple times. It is only the thought of being sued that keeps her there sometimes. As she adjusts, though, she becomes accustomed to the rigors of being a Hollywood screenwriter. But how much is this opportunity of a lifetime going to cost her in terms of the people she loves the most?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many kind words to say about Bungalow 2. First, there is Steel’s writing, a style that is incredibly frustrating. She seems to repeat herself for pages, saying the same thing over and over again in different ways (and sometimes the exact same way). Sometimes the reader wants to shout, “I understand that Tanya is a loving and devoted mother and has a perfect family. Please move on!” This continues for the first 100 pages or so. Also, it seems that her creativity has run out and she cannot come up with unique ways to state things. For example, she used the same word structure four times in four consecutive sentences. While I enjoy knowing what a character is thinking, when every sentence in a paragraph begins with “She thought,” it tends to raise an eyebrow. It is frustrating to wade through this book.
While the story is somewhat interesting, the main character is maddening. Tanya seems to have no backbone and no will of her own. It is understood that she is a good wife and mother (Steel hammers this into her readers’ mind in a variety of different ways), but does that mean taking constant abuse from them? Tanya refuses to leave her family until her husband pretty much tells her to go. So she goes. When he starts blaming her for being gone too much and acting absolutely horridly, she just sits there and takes the abuse from him without standing up for herself. And her daughter? She comes across as a spoiled, selfish brat who seems way too entitled. But instead of at least trying to explain her decision to go to Hollywood, Tanya merely takes the abuse from her daughter and does not even try to set her straight. It is painful to read.
It is also important to note that Steel seems to recycle storylines to a great degree. While I have not read enough of her work to be able to rule on this, I have heard the accusation many times from her once-devoted readers. While the names and details of the characters change, the story remains the same. Perhaps some of her readers enjoy this repetition: when you find a good formula, stick with it? Maybe Steel has taken that maxim to heart a little too much. Bungalow 2 has a semi-interesting plot, if the reader can get past the constant repetition, but the novel really is too frustrating to be enjoyable.