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.
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.