cover image MOURNING GLORY


Warren Adler, . . Kensington, $23 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-898-7

Lubricious (and sometimes ludicrous), this novel gives hope to despairing single females on the verge of 40. There's always a chance to acquire a rich husband if you screen the obits, pick out a grieving widower with a posh address and take after him, saving the sex card, of course, for last. Prolific novelist and screenwriter Adler (The War of the Roses) is a skilled fictioneer; his plot turns are inventive, and his true-to-life dialogue helps identify each character—all of whom engage readers' emotions in one way or another. Grace Sorrentino, divorced mother of feisty teenaged daughter Jackie, sells cosmetics at Saks in Palm Beach until she's fired for talking back to a rude, rich customer. Faced with continued downward mobility, she takes her boss's advice, does the research and finally fibs her way into Sam Goodwin's mansion after the funeral of his "perfect" wife, Anne, professing to be a volunteer who's been designated to distribute Anne's extensive wardrobe among appropriate charities. One lie leads to another as Grace invents an upscale past (parentage, college, ex-husband, daughter) to match her envisioned upscale future. Grace can foresee neither the threat posed by Sam's greedy adult children nor that represented by her own daughter, full of curiosity about her mother's secret activities. The sex and money showcased here constitute soft porn: designer label lingo will satisfy upwardly mobile wannabes, and the occasional stirrings of conscience among the principal characters make everybody feel good. This is romance doctored with a good dose of suspense; the titillating premise should attract browsers, especially when the mass market edition appears. National advertising; 3-city author tour. (Aug. 7)