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Lip Service Hardcover – September 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ad writer M.J. Rose's self-published novel is the first-person account of Julia Sterling, age 38, a Manhattan wife of the silver spoon set who, without telling her control-freak husband, takes a job as a phone-fantasy therapist at the high-toned Butterfield Institute. (This "progressive sex clinic" is no doubt named after John O'Hara's call girl novel, Butterfield 8.) It's not just a job, it's an adventure, about which Julia plans to write a book. Though Julia is a therapist, not a call girl, her role-playing conversations do get steamy, and she discovers unsettling things about her call-in clients. Her own banked fires of passion become aroused there, too; at home Julia's husband is far more interested in the TV's remote control than unbuttoning her blouse. Worse, he's an infuriatingly smug shrink (trained by her shrink father!) who belittles her; tries to define her as the nervous-breakdown case she was in her promiscuous, screwed-up youth; and attempts to shut her up with anti-anxiety pills. He's emotionally AWOL and refuses to discuss it, nor will he heed Julia's urgent decorating needs (there should be a green Chinese art deco area rug in their apartment, darn it). Men!

Will Julia succumb to the Butterfield Institute's director, who quotes Robert Herrick and "To His Coy Mistress" with classy lasciviousness? Or will her college newspaper chum--newly divorced and in New York--escalate their ancient flirtation? Will Julia's husband's charity foundation get nailed by the IRS? Will the Butterfield Institute get exposed as a sex shop? Julia's adventures are more logical than a Danielle Steel heroine's, although Rose lacks Steel's dizzy velocity. But if Julia's plight piques your interest, then you might be interested to find out what happens when she discards her fear of flying. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

Pocket Books acquired this self-published novel (under the pseudonymous Rose's own imprint, Lady Chatterley's Library) after her Web site and Internet marketing blitz landed it on readers' radar screens. Featuring a New York City housewife who turns to phone sex as an exercise in liberation, it garners attention more for its subject matter than for the quality of its execution. Julia Sterling, the daughter of a prominent psychiatrist, is married to Paul, one of her father's prot?g?s, who has functioned as her therapist and jailer for the past 20 years, plying her with tranquilizers on the pretext of a brief breakdown Julia suffered in college, and settling every disagreement by reminding Julia of her weakened state. Having left private practice to head New York's "charity of the moment," celibate, controlling Paul needs not a wife but a hostess for his fund-raising ventures. Julia spends her daytime hours raising orchids, those seemingly fragile but determinedly hardy plants, and frets that the sunlight is being gradually reduced by a building being erected across the way from her apartment. Her beloved stepson has just left for Princeton, and in her newfound free time, she trains as a journalist ("just as inquisitive a field [as psychiatry], but less introspective") and is given the opportunity to collaborate on a book with Sam Butterfield, an important donor to Paul's organization. The proposed book purports to examine the alternate form of therapy prescribed for the inmates of Sam's Butterfield InstituteAnamely, phone sex. Julia trains and works as an operator and finally breaks free of all her external and internal restraints. Many of her "conversations" are recorded here. She adopts the pseudonym "Alice," and indeed goes right down that rabbit holeAwith the symbolism, like all else, duly spelled out. Empowerment may be Rose's theme, but titillation plays no small part in this novel's game. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club featured alternate. (Sept.) FYI: The author used skills from her career in advertising (under her own name, Melisse Shapiro) to test-market and sell her book.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Edition edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671041312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671041311
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,523,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother's favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice... books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

Please visit her blog, Museum of Mysteries at http://www.mjrose.com/blog/

Her photo was taken by Judith Pushett utilizing an old relic: a turn-of-the-century 11 x 14 inch wood camera.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

Her most recent novel THE COLLECTOR OF DYING BREATHS (Atria/S&S) was chosen as an Indie Next Pick and her next novel, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS will be released March 2015.

Rose's work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com

The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization's co-president..


Customer Reviews

It has a good story line and is well written.
Cathy Sidwell
When the story was fully revealed and was winding down, I thought the ending was just ok.
Cheryl Koch
Lip Service, the first novel from M.J. Rose, is an unusual book for two reasons.
K. Krozser

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Marchez Vite on March 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I was really disappointed in this self-published novel by M. J. Rose. Although it's regarded as an erotic novel, I found the use of sex in the story quite unimaginative. The sexuality itself pretty stereotypical, almost in caricature, and it really is not used in a creative way to advance the plot.
The characters in this story are drawn one-dimensional. This is quite ironic given that psychiatry/psychology plays a heavy role in the story (the protagonist (Julia) works in the sex clinic run by a psychiatrist). The characters are rendered no more complex than cartoon characters, rather than the richly complicated beings that psychiatry/psychology shows us all to be. The real drama in life is that within ourselves, and how our own complexity interacts with others' - not the simplistic relationships of narrow characters that Rose has written.
My guess is that the author tried to do too much in this novel and ended up short-circuiting her purposes. There are too many subplots for a short novel: Julia's journalistic project to write about the sex clinic, her concern about her loveless marriage, something fishy going on with her husband's business, Julia's ambiguous relationship with an old flame, and her stepson's relationship with his girlfriend. With all these subplots going on, it's no wonder the author couldn't sustain erotic tension as well.
My own personal beef: I was severely disturbed by the ethical transgressions by proprietors of the sex clinic and the suggestion that Julia really could become a clinical paraprofessional with only a few hours training. Perhaps I should have suspended disbelief, but as a licensed counselor, I am quite bothered when the profession is portrayed as simplistic or unethical.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Rose develops her characters with care and finesse. Even the minor characters peopling this world are three-dimensional and breathing with life. Every nuance of emotion, every scent, scene and sensory artifice is intact, leading the reader through a story that seems personal and real.
On the surface, Lip Service appears to be just another erotic story about a frustrated woman trapped in a sterile marriage and living a life of self-deception. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lip Service is a compelling headfirst dive into the deepest part of the human emotional complex that drives and motivates us to be honest sexual beings. It delves into a part of human sexuality that most people run screaming from when they confront the blatant, unvarnished part of their psyche that reveals raw human need. Ms. Rose has managed to write a story baring the naked 'self'. Not just about her secret self but all selves; the inner core of sexuality we all foster, hide from and secretly enjoy knowing exists. Lip Service compels readers to face the truth of their own false life illusions. It reaches deep inside and dredges up a part of you that used to be pure, honest and uninhibited. And, I, for one, rediscovered my younger wilder days of freedom of expression and the deep euphoria of honesty in sex.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mona J. on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Since I run a popular website on sexuality and publish several adult newsletters, I read lots of erotica. This is the first book that I have ever recommended without any hesitation. The book has a fabulous plot that makes one examine their own sexuality. The book doesn't insult its readers the way so many adult stories do. Instead, it says loud and clear - that sexuality is a healthy part of our lives. (A lesson so many Americans need to hear). For me, Sam Butterfield's character was one of the most interesting but as a woman I could easily identify with Julia. I believe this is the book that so many women have been waiting for - an erotic story with spine tingling twists and turns that leave us aroused and thoughtful.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Goes farther and Deeper than VOX" M.J. Rose's LIP SERVICE probably won't be a best seller, but only because it's self- published and falls into the netherworld of the erotic novel genre. That's unfortunate, because this book is more than one-handed reading-- it's just plain good reading with some super hot spots. The author has managed to incorporate details of the phone sex life into a literary novel with intricate plot, fully developed characters and dramatic tension. Woven into a normal story of a normal woman and her somewhat normal, troubled marriage, is the story spend her time and earn her livelihood making strange men come over the phone.
I highly recommend Lip Service as a work of fiction that deals honestly with phone sex while maintaining a fairly high literary standard. For those who thought Nicholson Baker made the ultimate and deeper by focusing on the real world of the real call girl.
Reviewed By Marcy Sheiner, editor of Herotica 4 and 5 (Plume) and the Write Erotica, due out in Spring 1999 (Cleis), and is writing Sex for the Clueless, to be published by Citadel in the fall of 1999. sns@sexsense.co
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book could have been pretty good, but I felt the phone sex scenes were too explicit and close to what I would label pornography. It was predictable and sterotypical.
The author's editor did not do their job. It felt like a first draft.
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