cover image Madame Cleo's Girls

Madame Cleo's Girls

Lucianne Goldberg. Pocket Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-69524-8

With her sleek tale of haute hookers, literary agent/ghostwriter Goldberg proves to have a sure hand with irresistible commercial fiction. Here she chronicles the adventures of three of Madame Cleo's exquisite call girls, who enjoy jet travel, luxury hotels, lavish clothes and gala hobnobbing with sheikhs and lords while trying to snare rich spouses. The novel opens with a shoot-out, as Madame Cleo, affluent commander of an elite ``powder puff army'' and procuress to the world's loftiest johns, escapes assassination. Evidently a past client fears Cleo may publish her memoirs--she needs cash to avoid being jailed for tax evasion. In jeopardy, Madame hides in her Paris apartment, hires a live-in writer and starts talking. With excellently rendered details, she relates in-depth bios of her best girls and how they entered ``the life'': dyslexic SueBee, the naive Texan; elegant Sandrine, betrayed by her fashion mogul mother; and slangy, Brooklyn-bred Angel, plotting to build a rival escort empire. While the novel seldom pries into the bedchamber's erotic joys, there are splendid satirical sequences to titillate the reader, e.g., client kinkiness; the posh finishing school for call girls; the professional prostitutes' convention. Noteworthy too are the hardworking literary folk behind the scenes: ghostwriter Peter and chubby, hotshot editor Fedalia, both hoping to get rich on the memoirs. Goldberg, whose own literary clientele includes a few tony ex-courtesans, delivers an informed, amusing, fantasy-strewn entertainment that builds to a good-humored denouement. Literary Guild alternate; Doubleday Book Club selection. (Apr.)