Under Pressure by Abigail Reed
(Forge, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-812-53928-1
***
Sexual discrimination in the fashion industry places females at risk and Under Pressure. With a bit more subtlety, the author keeps the principal characters Under Pressure in their developing romantic relationships.

Karyn Cristophe, recently divorced, has left town with her eight-year-old daughter, because her ex-husband continued to harass her. Since restraining orders are rarely effective against a barrage of phone calls and stalking, she is starting over in a different state with Cybelle, a high-end fashion retailer.

Karyn’s superb secretarial skills immediately bring her to the attention of Cybelle vice-president. Lou Hechter. Lou is a much-vaunted “comer” with lots of wonderful ideas - that he’s borrowed from his subordinates. Lou is pond scum.

Fifty-one-year-old Cilla Westheim, the ruler of the Fashion Department, becomes Karyn’s immediate boss. Cilla has just been divorced, and her teen-age daughter is away at school. In order to keep her high-paying job, Cilla is forced to sleep with Lou. She finds this nauseating and humiliating. But with the financial burden of an expensive fashion wardrobe, an expensive private school, and the costly demands of her petulant daughter, she cannot afford to quit.

Cilla’s life is turned upside down when a 26-year-old attorney in the Cybelle legal department starts “courting” her. Despite the age difference, she falls in love with him. Against her better judgment, and in the face of her daughter’s indignation and Lou’s jealousy, Cilla pursues the relationship.

Karyn is a big success at her new job, and attracts the attention of Roger Canton, a nice young man who works for Cybelle. Unfortunately, she also becomes Lou’s new obsession. Since job performance reviews, salary, and continued tenure are within his province, Karyn soon finds herself in an untenable position. Under Pressure is a story about how these main characters handle their respective problems.

Set within the glamorous fashion industry the book dwells upon the minutiae of daily life there. The characters are well developed as a result of this precise chronicling. The sexual tension is maintained at an even keel, and the author does a nice job moving from scene to scene and from character to character.

If the fashion industry is exciting to you, then this book is a must. If learning more about sexual discrimination is high on your agenda, again this book is a must. If you are in danger of falling in love with someone half your age, then Under Pressure presents a different perspective. Readers with interests outside these areas, may find the book an average read.

--Thea Davis


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