Gucci Gucci Coo
by Sue Margolis
(Bantam Dell, $12.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-385-33899-6
****
Ever felt envious of those svelte pregnant actresses with nary a stretch mark or extra pound in sight? If so, Gucci Gucci Coo is the perfect revenge fantasy.

Ruby Silverman manages an exclusive baby boutique in London's up- scale Notting Hill. She sells designer baby wear and outrageously expensive pregnancy outfits to Hollywood stars and wealthy mothers. She has a hard time dealing with anorexic model types who care more about their looks than their fetus's welfare. An efficient business woman, she would rather be marketing organic clothes and promoting fair trade. But work is work, and until she can put together her own project she does what she has to.

Like most single women, Ruby has an active social life and spends a lot of time exchanging stories with her friends. Her fifty-year-old mother is pregnant. Her upbeat Cockney employee can't conceive. Her best friend's actor husband is out of work. Her flamboyant aunt is mustering up the courage to tell her latest paramour how old she really is. Oh, and there's this stunning American gynecologist Ruby keeps running into on her regular visits to St Luke's maternity ward.

Just when things between Ruby and Sam Epstein seem to be going somewhere, she begins to wonder whether he isn't implicated in the odd goings-on at the hospital. She is more and more suspicious that not all the celebrity moms are as pregnant as they appear and that the hospital is involved in a strange cover-up. Sam's secretive stance doesn't help much.

Ruby is wonderfully warm, humorous and entertaining. Aside from her bad run of dates, she has none of the hang-ups of the average Chick Lit heroine. Instead she has a great supporting cast. A large number of people wander in and out of the story, but we never lose track of who is who thanks to characteristic idiom and dialect. Margolis draws on stereotypes (the New Age mother, the public school boy, the self- obsessed actress) and ethnic types (the Irish mother-in-law, the Jewish retailer, the Ukrainian handyman), but she doesn't entirely fall back on them.

There are a few laugh-out-loud observations and some really distinctive dialogue. Oddly enough, this is mostly when the secondary characters are involved. When the leads speak, they tend to be more stilted and even repetitive. It's nice that Ruby likes to share her adventures with her many friends, but does she have to recycle the same story over and over and over? I got tired of hearing about the stamp stuck in her vagina, her dreadful blind date and her pregnant menopausal mother. I also could have done without all the moralizing about eating well during pregnancy.

The pace picks up in the second half, when Ruby begins to investigate. Truth be told, there's not much mystery and suspense here. But with such funny, earthy and authentic characters, it really doesn't matter. For light-hearted escapism and laid-back beach reading, it doesn't get much better.

--Mary Benn


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