cover image Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box

Elizabeth Gage. Simon & Schuster, $19.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70304-2

In this exuberantly racy romance, Gage ( A Glimpse of Stocking ) details the scandal-ridden mid-20th-century worlds of high society, business, art and politics as she charts the careers of two alluring women born the same night in 1933. Secretive dark-haired Laura, given to mystical ``rainy day thoughts,'' is left pregnant by a promiscuous art history prof at NYU. Nearly destroyed, she resurfaces as an acclaimed fashion designer and the greatest photographer since Steichen. Meanwhile, red-headed corporate climber Tess (aka Liz, Lisa, Bess), cold, bold and deliciously evil, plots her rise through the budding TV industry, then leaps to power in Washington. Both Laura and Tess find husbands/lovers who prove sexy, sweet or dangerous: Gage is a consummate and stylish artist of the erotic scene. In 1964 Tess and Laura collide when violence stalks the man both love, Haydon ``Prince Hal'' Lancaster, brave, handsome and headed for the U.S. presidency. Meticulously researched and engrossing, the novel glows with perceptive characterization. First serial rights to Cosmopolitan. (Aug.)