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 [via]