July Publications

"I don't specialize in celebrities, but I've had my share," says fast-talking St. Louis lawyer Rachel Gold in Trophy Widow. None of those other high-profile clients were as exciting as her latest—a celebrated black suburban housewife convicted of murdering her philandering white husband. Gold is only supposed to represent the housewife in a secondary lawsuit over the proceeds of her autobiography, but is it possible the woman was framed to begin with? Gold can't resist getting drawn in, and readers may feel the same way about this latest legal thriller in Michael A. Kahn's Rachel Gold series (after Bearing Witness), which shows off his trademark lightning repartee and captivating setup. (Forge, $25.95 432p ISBN 0-765-30218-7)

They may be down on their luck, but first-time novelist Roz Bailey's trio of fabulous 30-something Manhattanites are still the eponymous Party Girls in this Sex and the City—style urban romp. Zoey, Jade and Marielle are old college friends reunited when Zoey—a bestselling novelist who now can't seem to write anything but sex scenes—turns up in the big city after losing her Connecticut house to her ex-husband. She and Marielle, a floundering actress-cum-waitress, try to revive their careers by day and flagging love lives by night at Club Vermillion ("there's a line to get in, plus a line of ambulances for the... kids who O.D."), while Jade, a high-powered real estate broker and the busiest party girl of them all, decides to give monogamy a whirl. (Kensington, $14 paper 384p ISBN 0-7582-0196-6)

Set in the offices of a Dallas telephone company, Camika Spencer's dreary Cubicles stars three women who say things like "I thanked her for voicing her issue with me." Joyce, a jaded manager with a checkered past, is about to become a top executive. She no longer speaks to her old friend Margaret, whose failing health is exacerbated by troubles at home. Dedicated, diligent Faulkner is up for a promotion, but Joyce seems determined to break her spirit. Aside from some tawdry office politics—power plays, gossip, sexual harassment—there is no plot to speak of. Spencer (When All Hell Breaks Loose) lards every page with useless digressions, providing no fresh insights into "corporate America." 4-city author tour. (Random/Strivers Row, $21.95 256p ISBN 0-375-50759-0)

With sophisticated erotic escapades on nearly every page, Thea Devine's historical romance Bliss River (after Seductive) lives up to its name. Set in 1898 among the profligate English aristocrats of the South African Bliss River Valley, the book follows the fiendish Charles Elliott, an outsider who pretends to run a polo club for the rich decadents so that he can execute a complicated plot to avenge his father's death. When his plan goes awry, he's forced to take to the road with a young woman hostage, and the antics only get steamier from there. (Kensington, $14 paper 304p ISBN 1-57566-801-7)

Memories of abuse and family violence follow young African-American dancer Ulysses Dove as he travels across the world performing, in Mustafa Mutabaruka's debut novel Seed, unsettling and sharp in spite of its familiar subject matter. Forced to bide his time in North Africa after a show is canceled, Dove becomes intimate with an American woman and confesses to her a startling act of violence and the guilt and numbness that alternately afflict him. Episodic, stark and sensuous, the book elegantly weaves Dove's memories of childhood and the recent past with the narrative of his North African sojourn and his family history. (Akashic, $14.95 paper 178p ISBN 1-888451-31-9)

A WWII-generation widow struggles to avoid the dreaded nursing home and befriends a teenage vagrant in Coming to My Senses, a first novel from Pam Rice. Addie Marsh suffers from macular degeneration, an eye disease that will eventually leave her blind, yet she'll do almost anything to persuade her son not to place her in an assisted living facility. She becomes close with the equally vulnerable Sybil, an abused runaway trying to evade her boyfriend, who desperately needs Addie's protection. Woven throughout this affecting tale are Addie's memories of raising her two sons, one of whom died in the Vietnam War. (Five Star, $26.95 265p ISBN 0-7862-3034-7)

Maud Casey follows her New York Times Notable debut, The Shape of Things to Come, with Drastic, a skillful, moving collection of stories. "Seaworthy" sets the tone as adolescent Irene and her father take a vacation, leaving her mentally ill mother behind. In "Days at Home," a woman moves in with her mother, who goes on more dates than she does; the 48-year-old narrator of "Talk Show Lady" is hired to play a variety of dysfunctional guests on a Maury-style program. Casey infuses her characters' bleak situations with a winning combination of emotional resonance, subtle humor and wisdom. Agent, Alice Tasman. (Morrow, $23.95 224p ISBN 0-688-17696-8)

Veteran novelist Elizabeth Adler (The Last Time I Saw Paris) returns to the Continent with Summer in Tuscany, a cute and painfully predictable romance. Frumpy ER doctor Gemma Jericho is divorced, pushing 40 and none too happy about it. Her mom, Nonna, persuades Gemma and Gemma's 14-year-old daughter to travel to Italy when Nonna learns she has inherited an old villa. But when they get there, another American, roguishly handsome Ben Raphael, has already claimed ownership; of course, romance blooms as they wrangle over the property. Gemma alternately gripes, swoons like a teenager and consumes a lot of gelato; locals behave colorfully; and everyone is paired off neatly at the end. Author tour.(St. Martin's, $23.95 368p ISBN 0-312-26996-X)

It's in Her Kiss, by Elizabeth Dean, features dishy goings-on at a lesbian TV network run by Debbe Lee, a woman who makes Satan look like Mr. Rogers. C.J. Jansen, her former lover and L-TV's head writer, tries to shelter the supporting cast from a hurricane of abuse, without much success. Debbe finally crosses the line when she grabs all the credit for L-TV's success; C.J. and the girls concoct an elaborate scheme to get revenge. There's no shortage of action—affairs, arguments, blackmail and a baby (courtesy of Maria, C.J.'s new girlfriend)—though several chatty, throwaway scenes slow the pace of this goofy girls' guilty pleasure. (Kensington, $22 304p ISBN 0-7582-0089-7)