May 08, 1989 12:00 PM

by Maureen Donaldson and William Royce

If you love Cary Grant don’t read this review. If you love Cary Grant don’t read this book. An Affair to Remember is as despicable and exploitative a kiss-and-tell memoir as has ever been written. It is made all the more offensive by how Donaldson, a onetime writer for Rona Barrett’s cache of fan magazines, justifies the book, saying she first resisted the idea, then “talked it over with my parents. They urged me to go ahead, pointing out all the distortions about our relationship that had been printed while he was alive…. I owed it to Cary and to myself to get it right. As Cary had always said: ‘If you’re going to do something, do it right for God’s sake or don’t do it at all!’ ”

Based on the evidence, Grant would surely have preferred that his girlfriend of four years put a sock in it. It would be only compounding Donaldson’s cruelty to repeat some of the intimate facts in the book, among them Grant’s preference in undergarments. Suffice it to say that Donaldson depicts her beloved as a bit of a tightwad (he recycled Christmas wrapping), paranoid (he accused Donaldson of stealing toilet paper from his Beverly Hills home), distrusting, manipulative, controlling and sneaky. On the credit side, Grant had a terrific body, was one hell of a lover, not homosexual as rumors have hinted for years, and was capable of great kindness. Of course, Maureen is known to be as patient and loving as Marmee in Little Women. “There was an aching force—some secret well of longing and hurt—that touched me to my very core,” she writes in her schoolgirl prose. “I wanted to dig as deep inside Cary as I possibly could so I could calm his troubled waters. But every time I started to get close, he’d push me away—sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently, but always demonstrating to me how much more digging I had to do in order to reach the essence of this man.” If only Grant’s waters had been more troubled. If only he’d been better at pushing Donaldson away. (Putnam, $18.95)

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