Robert Byrnes, Author, Rob Byrnes, Author, Rachel Spencer, Author . Kensington $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7582-0193-5

After 30-something author/editorial assistant Andrew Westlake, a self-proclaimed romantic, gets dumped by his boyfriend, Ted, a well-deserved wild night on the town throws him headlong into treacherous terrain in Byrnes's clever, compulsively readable first novel. Dismissing a broken heart and the bleak sales of his debut novel, Andrew attends a trendy gay nightclub opening on Halloween night in drag (as "Belle Bacall") and accidentally meets (and falls for) owner Frank DiBenedetto, a sexy, closeted gay man who is not only engaged to be married, but is an "underboss" in the Stendardi organized crime family. Despite warnings from friends, Andrew can't seem to tear himself away from Frank, even when Ted is mysteriously beaten up and Andrew becomes the prime suspect. Bad turns to worse when fiancée Anna Franco catches her husband-to-be and Andrew in a hot postcoital embrace. Paranoia clouds the relationship as mob henchmen (and police detectives) stake out Andrew's apartment and keep watch over Frank's nightclub. A few close calls force Andrew to flee New York on a rather dramatic West Coast book tour, and upon his return he reconsiders his relationship with Frank. A rousing conclusion powered by mistaken identity, car chases, guns and narrow escapes sets the icing on this confection. The supporting cast—spicy best friend Denise; cocky, flamboyant co-worker David; and a host of murky mafiosi—is strong and the breezy dialogue exchanges are as authentic as they are hilarious. Byrnes adroitly combines a twist-filled plot, solid characterization, humor and steamy sex to create a nicely crafted, delightful debut that readers of any orientation will enjoy. (Sept.)

Forecast:Byrnes's first novel is a romp of the first order, but its cheesy, Sears shirt-ad jacket art may limit its readership. Still, strong genre sales are to be expected.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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