Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Release Spotlight: Dangerous Admissions

Dangerous Admissions by Jane O'Connor

Powell’s shelves editor and Fancy Nancy series author Jane O’Connor’s first adult novel under romance, borders under mystery. Both are correct—divorced mom Rannie and her two teenage kids are all looking for love (or at least a good fling), and there’s a growing list of murder victims, courtesy of a killer loose at New York City’s elite Chapel School and a separate citywide serial killer—but some of the book’s details land it squarely in feminist lit.

Rannie has sex for sex’s sake. Dates with men she accepts without expecting anything longterm or meaningful. In one scene, her partner first performs oral sex on her, then encourages her to stimulate herself while he delights her in other ways. A mainstream romantic mystery taking the time to acknowledge that a woman’s orgasm cannot always be had through vaginal intercourse? What a shocking step forward.

In another bold move by O’Connor, high school senior Olivia, the romantic interest of Rannie’s son, Nate, masturbates without guilt: “Coming always left her feeling peaceful, almost with a sense of well-being—it worked way better than the Ambien her mother was quick to offer. So how about ‘Teenage Girls Jerk Off, Too!’ for her Princeton essay?”

The book’s mysteries, its focus, aren’t as surprising, but they’re solidly rendered, and amateur sleuths Rannie and Olivia actually have good reason for getting involved—they’re not just nosy. Rannie’s potentially first serious romance and the investigations wrap up predictably—mostly. Details, again, give each a progressive oomph.

Along the journey O’Connor showcases some nice writing. Rannie’s elderly acquaintance Daisy Satterthwaite’s apartment “with its damask-covered walls and heavy draperies tethered in strangleholds of tasseled swags, was all a bit too haute Miss Haversham.” Looking at the relationship between Olivia and her family’s housekeeper, Carlotta, O’Connor writes, “Carlotta patted Olivia’s hand and got out a roll of butter run Life Savers, something Carlotta always kept in her purse along with jet-black rosary beads, ones blessed by the Pope that Olivia had brought back from Rome years ago.” Unfortunately, snippets of instant messages, e-mails, and memos sprinkle the text for no good reason; O’Connor’s good enough at working true dialogue into the narrative not to need to include such structural gimmicks.

To end on a minor note, Rannie is a copyeditor, which of course dares the reader to find mistakes in Dangerous Admissions. There are very few—most of those are matters of style preference, fewer are more solidly questionable—but none will ruin the book for anyone. And like Rannie, who notes grammatical mistakes in casual conversation but does not chide aloud, this reviewer will end without further comment on such technicalities, simply grateful for a fun and refreshing read.

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

Dangerous Admissions
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 978-0-06-124086-7
Paperback, $13.95

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