Cressida Harley is working on her dissertation in economics in 1981, but she is not making much progress, so she decides to retreat to her parents' cabin in the Sierras (a place she hated to go as a child because she missed socializing with her peers to spend isolated days in the mountains with her family). She falls almost immediately into an affair with the owner of the local lodge; when he is revealed to be a major Lothario, she quickly finds herself involved with a married carpenter, Quinn Morrow (whose only obviously charming characteristic is his deep voice). Their relationship sends her "off course" for several years, as he repeatedly leaves and returns to his wife, breaking up with Cress but then sneaking back into her life. The dissertation sits in a box while Cress works as a waitress. Finally, she moves back to the LA area and constructs a different life for herself.
Off Course reminds me of a soap opera--there is lots of drama but ultimately little of significance happens. Some reviewers have described it as a cautionary tale, but if women don't know that they can be distracted by inappropriate love affairs (well-sauced with alcohol), I doubt Cress's travails will be too educative. The previous Huneven novel I had read--Blame--was an interesting exploration of guilt and its corrosive effects, so Off Course was a major disappointment.