SEXUAL HEALING

Jill Nelson, Author . Agate $23.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-9724562-0-3

A brothel for women? Journalist Nelson, the author of several popular nonfiction books (Straight, No Chaser; etc.), offers a ribald take on the battle between the sexes and one heck of an entrepreneurial scheme, in her wickedly funny first novel. Lydia Beaucoup and Acey Allen are 40ish best friends living in Oakland who find themselves going in circles when it comes to dating and finding a satisfying relationship. After a gab session in which the two women fantasize about the ideal man, Lydia comes up with a startling solution: she proposes opening a brothel in which sexy black male prostitutes attend to the sexual needs of black women. Acey thinks she's joking, but Lydia is dead serious, and she asks for a sabbatical from her job as an ad copywriter to put the crazy plan into action. Nevada is the chosen location, and after getting a prostitution license, Lydia uses her own dates to begin recruiting prospective employees, starting with a sexy UPS guy named Odell, who becomes the de facto manager. Bizarrely, funding comes from the wife of a rich right-wing zealot who made a fortune selling arms, and the spa opens to rave reviews from the first wave of clients. Trouble surfaces when a conservative preacher on a family values kick gets wind of the project from a tabloid editor and tries to shut down the spa. Nelson has fun with her mischievous conceit, and there are more than a few hilarious scenes. The comedy is underpinned by her solid, convincing depiction of the friendship between Acey and Lydia, and an engaging, breezy style. The novel has its flaws—it's cluttered with secondary characters, and the conceit is stretched perilously thin at times—but it's a great read anyway, and a standout in the genre of African-American popular fiction. 6-city author tour. (June)

FYI:This is the first title for Agate Publishing, based in the Chicago area.

Reviewed on: 05/12/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Paperback - 318 pages - 978-0-9724562-5-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 485 pages - 978-0-7434-9284-3
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