NEVER SAY STARK NAKED
Infidelity and tragedy combine to launch a young 1950s-era Kansas woman into a new life in Manhattan in Bassett's debut, an effective but busy effort that begins when Phoebe Stanhope's husband, Niles, announces during a New Year's Eve dinner party that he is having an affair with Phoebe's best friend, Marcia. Phoebe throws Niles out of the house, and he dies while driving through a snowstorm to a local motel, a tragedy compounded when Phoebe learns that Marcia is pregnant. Oppressed by the familiar faces and old routines of Kansas, Phoebe quits her job as a TV scriptwriter and heads to New York. The attractive, engaging widow makes friends and connections before her train has even pulled into the city, and quickly lands a job as an assistant for a temperamental TV and PR personality named Selmabelle Flaunton. The tone shifts noticeably when Phoebe gets sucked into the whirlwind of Manhattan high society; Bassett introduces several romantic subplots, focusing on Phoebe's on-again, off-again romance with a pair of dashing but mysterious brothers. Bassett's plain, heartfelt prose captures the pain of Phoebe's dilemma in the Kansas chapters, but the New York sections become overplotted as the author tries to tackle Phoebe's romantic longings, her flashbacks to the tragedy and the glamour of her new life with Flaunton. Occasionally, Bassett pulls off the juggling act, but the clarity of the early part of this novel contrasts to its rather muddled and erratic second half. (July)
FYI:Bassett is the chair of the literary committee of the National Arts Club in New York City.