In Fidelity by M.J. Rose
(Pocket, $13.95, R) ISBN 0-7434-0645-1
M.J. Rose may have just become my favorite new guilty pleasure author. In Fidelity is a darkly erotic, compulsively readable novel.

Psychologist Jordan Sloan is content with her life. She has a good relationship with her 17-year old daughter Lilly, a thriving therapy practice, and a long-standing but amicable separation from her husband, Robert. But when she learns that the man who murdered her father twenty years ago is now out on parole, she wonders if she is truly safe. It was her testimony that put Dan Mallory behind bars, and Jordan knows that Malloryís need for revenge is deeply personal. However, her family and friends assure Jordan that Mallory has been rehabilitated, and doesnít pose a threat to her.

Meanwhile, Jordan is trying to maintain her composure in the face of daughter Lillyís first full-blown romance. Jordan doesnít like the idea of her daughter being sexually active, yet she knows that she canít stop a determined teenager. So she wrestles with the issue of how much freedom to allow Lilly. At the same time, Jordan decides itís time to finally seek a formal divorce from Robert. Six years ago, she was devastated by his infidelity, but, in an effort to protect Lilly, she and Robert continued to live in the same building, albeit on separate floors. But, encouraged by Lilly, she starts spending time with Robert again and remembers how much she loved him - and how much she loved making love with him.

At the same time, a new therapy client is proving to be very challenging. Adrienne Blessing is provocative, explicit and seemingly unreachable. Her frank discussions about her sex life only emphasize Jordanís self-imposed celibacy.

Jordanís carefully constructed quiet life collapses as she copes with these personal and professional crises. But the worst is still to come, as she gradually finds evidence that Mallory is stalking her with malicious intent.

This is the most sexually explicit book Iíve read in a while, and frankly it was great fun. I donít need lots of sex in my romances, but itís certainly a bonus when itís present and effectively done. Add in the suspense element, and youíve got a book that is hard to put down. Frankly, though, the book works because of the well-drawn characters and the dynamics among them. The relationship between Jordan and Lilly is realistic and touching. After all, many of us are modern women, proud to be less overbearing than our own parents - but who wants to think about your own daughter having sex? Jordanís first-person narrative keenly portrays the ambivalence she feels about this problem, and through her words we see Lilly as a bright, outspoken teenager who is equally annoying and endearing.

Jordanís changing relationship with Robert may not be a romance in the true sense of the word. After all, the man admitted having several adulterous flings. But Robert is not a stereotypical , two-timing cad. Jordanís narrative poignantly describes the attributes that made her first fall in love with him - his sensitivity, his attractiveness, his concern for her, his talent as an artist. She wonders if he has changed, if she can ever fully forgive the betrayal, and how their divorce or their reconciliation will affect Lilly.

Iíve even got to give M.J. Rose credit for creating semi-realistic therapy scenes. She seems to have done her research and it pays off. Jordanís new patient, Adrienne, constantly tries to turn the conversation away from herself to Jordan, but the skilled Dr. Sloan parries her attacks and manages to get at the heart of the patientís problem.

I could have lived without the occasional bouts of stupid heroine behavior that could have kept Jordan out of several dangerous situations. But overall, In Fidelity is a great read, a noir-esque tale that oozes sensuality and ends on a hopeful note. M.J. Roseís debut novel, Lip Service, received a lot of buzz for tackling the racy subject of phone sex, but In Fidelity is a better novel - less shocking, but more heartfelt.

--Susan Scribner

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home