cover image Harem Wish

Harem Wish

Jan Carr. Dutton Books, $19.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93739-5

Carr follows more than 20 children's and YA books with an erotic, poignant and slyly satirical adult debut with two distinct settings: contemporary New York City and a fairy-tale harem somewhere in far off-Felix Arabia, long ago in the distant and possibly fictional past. Codie James is a children's book editor and aspiring ballet dancer whose relationship with her lesbian lover Dee is beginning to deteriorate. The disordered account of Codie and Dee's love affair, from its passionate beginning to its angry end, parallels Codie's fantasy romance between her other self, the concubine Sari, and Anwa, the Mukarrib's favorite. Meanwhile, the atmosphere at Codie's publishing company goes from bad to a very hilarious worse: in one wickedly accurate scene, the company's marketing whiz reveals the automatic success of any book with ``wish'' in the title. ``So what we obviously need to do to really capitalize on the supremo power of the word is to create a new series, one that could generate a book a month, maybe more.'' Codie must come to grips with her job, relationships (real and fantastic) and the truth of an unhappy childhood, but the superabundance of material never overwhelms the story. Quick cuts from one scene to the next keep the pages moving briskly and inevitably towards a moving, hopeful conclusion. Carr is capable of great tenderness, and her playful, pun-filled voice is a delight. Author tour. (Apr.)