Joseph Amiel Author of A Question of Proof
DEEDS is the incomparable story of a man and a woman whose destinies are fated to unite as secrets spawned by passion and greed compel a dangerously unholy union. There was nothing in their lives—not love, compatibility, or the force of circumstance—that should have made them marry, or so it first seemed. Ralph Behr was a charismatic, extravagantly wealthy real-estate developer at the center of New York society. His brash manner and lavish lifestyle had made him an exciting and glamorous figure on newspaper front pages, and he was now about to undertake the most daring building project ever constructed—three 150-story towers. Gail Benedict was a fiercely moral and independent-minded woman, a convict’s daughter whose life had been a crusade against everything Ralph represented or aspired to. His passion was to make money and immortalize his family’s name; hers was to remake the world. But secrets buried deep in their pasts force Ralph and Gail together. Strangers and estranged, the first time they set eyes on each other since childhood is at the wedding neither wants—a wedding that will make her $100 million richer. 

From Publishers Weekly:

In a dramatic novel filled with memorable characters, Amiel (Birthright) skillfully depicts the frenetic, high-stakes world of Ralph Behr, a Manhattan real estate developer. Unbridled ambition brings Ralph to the pinnacle of his profession at age 36, yet many detest his brashness, conceit, materialism and obsession with self-gratification. To ensure his immortality, he plans to erect three 150-story towers called Behr Center in New York City. 

Just as the controversial project gets under way, Ralph's father, Henry, an aging real estate tycoon, tells his son some astounding news. Twenty years ago, Henry's partner, Abe Weintraub, committed fraud and went to prison. Abe threatened to implicate Henry unless he agreed to surrender half the Behr fortune to the Weintraubs upon Abe's release. Henry commands Ralph to wed Abe's daughter, Gail, to make the impending $100 million transfer less conspicuous. 

The union turns out to be acrimonious, for Gail, an impassioned champion of the rights of battered women, loathes the egotistical rich in whose company she finds herself. While placating his spirited bride, Ralph dodges mounting opposition to Behr Center, where a catastrophe occurs that radically changes his life. Amiel expertly portrays these complex, volatile individuals, and the unexpected love that eventually binds Ralph and Gail. Saratoga and other playgrounds of the affluent are colorfully depicted, as is the milieu of New York's glitterati. Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Thirty-six-year-old Ralph Behr is the third generation of Behrs involved in real estate development in New York. Wealthy and influential, Ralph is finalizing plans for the monumental Behr Center, a complex meant to revive Lower Manhattan's East Side, when his father, Henry, tells him that to settle an old debt he must enter into a marriage of convenience with Gail Benedict, daughter of Henry's old business partner. 

So begins a tempestuous relationship between two very different people: Gail, a women's activist and advocate for the poor, and Ralph, whom she sees as the evil personification of greed, wealth, and tyranny.  Both main characters mature in the course of this well-written, entertaining book. Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.

DEEDS embodies in full several themes I often find weaving themselves through my novels: how the dynamics of family life shape identity and how one generation often unconsciously imprints itself on the next, with the dreams and sins of parents emerging in new forms in their children and, again, in the children that come after. Those elements are embodied in the lives of the book's major protagonists, the third generation of two intertwined families. Ralph Behr, is a charismatic and visionary real estate developer ambitious to build the world's tallest buildings. Gail Benedict, fiercely moral and independent, detests what she assumes she knows about Ralph. Because of secrets buried in their fathers' lives, they must enter into a sham marriage that forces them together for the two years that must pass until their divorce will raise no suspicions.

The setting is New York City's vibrant but risky high-rise real estate industry and the huge project Ralph Behr is building: three 150-story towers surrounding an elevated, domed platform containing department stores, restaurants, and shops. But the aspirations of many other men and women are linked to it as well: envious developers, construction workers, architects, engineers, bankers, politicians, publicists, even community activists with a stake in what is built in their neighborhoods. Inevitably, Gail and her artist friends who will be displaced by the project heatedly oppose Ralph. Among those who hate Ralph and resent the millionaire's new wife is her ex-husband, among the few allowed to know the reason for the divorce. That is only one of several secrets from the past that emerge to cause family conflict among some characters and unexpected amity among others.

DEEDS is also the story of two earlier generations of the Behr family and the secrets they thought were buried with them. In the early years of the 20th century, Raphael Behar, a well-educated young Jew man hoping to become an architect, emigrates to America from his home in a part of Turkey that is now in northern Greece. The book follows his struggles to gain success and the love of a dazzlingly beautiful woman, Sally Robbins (nee Sima Rabinowitz), a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine who has found material success while hiding her roots. Being myself a descendant of immigrants from those homelands, I derived enormous pleasure in exploring life in the tenements and shops of New York's Lower East Side and Jewish Harlem, where my own family settled. Sadly, Sally's tale of having survived the slaughtering of her family by drunken Cossacks who raided her Jewish village is true. In real life a different teenage girl named Sima survived the massacre by hiding in a cupboard. She was my grandmother.

As a writer I'm fascinated by the ways in which the desires, ambitions, and personality traits unique to one generations' characters and their eras become manifested in unexpected ways in ensuing generations. The second Behr family generation grow into adults during the Great Depression and suffer its hardships and those of the War years. That allowed me to delve into what Henry Behr and his sister had to do to survive before they could thrive and to plant the dark secrets that will someday haunt Ralph and Gail.
But DEEDS is also the story of Gail's family, which settled in New York around the same time as Raphael Behr and Sima Rabinowitz and how the destiny of the two families braid together over the generations. Fate made visible only after the passage of many years. Each of the Behr men, for example, finds himself overcome by an irresistible, almost genetic impulse--some might say misfortune--to fall utterly in love with and pursue an ethereally beautiful, nearly unattainable woman--and their family, too, intertwines with the Behr's.

Although Ralph and Gail's story is not my own, because the book stands on the bedrock of my family background, its themes and characters resonated personally for me. I found myself slipping in small pieces of my own history, like the roguish character of Nissim, based on my father's uncle Nissim. In a small way this updated version of DEEDS honors my father. During a charity event, when Ralph wanders through Saratoga's Museum of Racing, he comes upon the exhibit for the 1951 Kentucky Derby winner, Count Turf. The colt's owner was my father, who believed both in his horse and the jockey, although no one else did. Count Turf galloped to an easy four-length victory. My father had achieved his personal American dream and became a part of the history of a sport he loved. Years later, ESPN paid tribute to him and Count Turf in a piece about them and their victory that preceded a Kentucky Derby's running. The narrator of the piece was the legendary sportscaster Jack Whittaker, who called it "the essential Kentucky Derby story."

Thinking as I am about the effects and ironies of a family's past that materialize in its future, I'm reminded of an incident in my own life. In our family's tradition, my son is named after his grandfather, as I was named after mine. When he was eight years old, I informed him that I had decided to become a full-time writer. Worriedly and very practically, he proceeded to interrogate me as to whether I could support the family pursuing that precarious profession. Ironically, he grew up to be a writer, in his case in the movie and TV industry. I hope I'm around long enough to see enough of the life journeys of his and my daughter's children to satisfy my curiosity as to how their lives will evolve. And I certainly hope that my wife, to whom the book is lovingly dedicated, is by my side. 
But DEEDS is more that than the story of Ralph and Gail’s unlikely union. Their lives entangle and clash with a wide assortment of unforgettable characters—Lorna Garrison, Ralph’s embittered former mistress; Simon Kramer, Lorna’s new lover and Ralph’s unscrupulous business competitor, a man consumed by his determination to steal or halt Ralph’s new project; Charles Brookhouse, Ralph’s aristocratic banker; Brookhouse’s daughter, Amanda, the beautiful, self-assured socialite with whom Ralph falls in love; and Amanda’s grandmother, Nina, whose own past deeds threaten to disturb an already fragile equilibrium. There is also Milo, Gail's ex-husband, whom she continues to love, and, finally, there is Ralph’s father, Henry. The truth behind his own deeds of ambition pushes Ralph to confront the meaning of his past and the purpose of his future. For all of them, deeds comes in many forms: deception and passion, betrayal and true love, and Joseph Amiel’s novel encompasses them all, as well as riveting suspense when the blame for a deadly catastrophe at the project falls on Ralph. A gripping story that spans three generations, rich in ideas, complex in feeling and rivetingly told, DEEDS will hold the reader enthralled from the very first page.

From Joseph Amiel, best-selling author of A Question of Proof, Deeds, Star Time, Stalking the Sky and Birthright.