Learning Curves: A Novel of Sex, Suits, and Business Affairs

Gemma Townley, Author . Ballantine $12.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-345-48003-3

In Townsley's latest bouncy novel, British 20-something Jennifer Bell navigates corporate and family intrigue with a mix of pluck and naïveté. Jen's divorced parents, Harriet and George, are at political and personal odds: George heads a management consultancy firm, Bell Consulting, and Harriet runs a leftish environmental firm, Green Futures, where Jen is a recent hire. After a 15-year estrangement from her father, Jen surreptitiously re-enters his sphere at her mother's urging. Harriet suspects George of involvement in a property deal bribery and conscripts her pliable daughter to go undercover at his 3,000-person firm, where Jen flies under the radar as a student in the company's M.B.A. program. She snoops for dirt until her father finds her hiding in his closet. While Jen and George (who's not really the "cheating, selfish, unethical ogre" her mother says he is) begin a rapprochement, Jen also falls for Daniel Peterson, an M.B.A. program guest lecturer and bookselling executive, and discovers that, despite her do-gooder convictions, she may have inherited a knack for business. But when news breaks implicating Bell Consulting in the bribery scandal, Jen must re-evaluate which parent she can truly trust. Townley (Little White Lies ) delivers a charming if predictable third novel. (Feb. 28)