Her latest, The Other Side of the Story, follows in the footsteps of other Keyes favorites, such as Sushi for Beginners, Under the Duvet, Last Chance Saloon and Watermelon, to name a few, yet stands apart from these works. This just may be Keyes best outing to date, as evidenced by the complexity of the characters and the rippingly good dialogue they exchange. Here, Keyes has crafted a work as energetic, ambitious and sexy as the three women in the publishing business that her tome focuses on.
Jojo Harvey is a high-powered literary agent blessed with Jessica Rabbits body and a steel-trap mind. Her relationship with her married boss is causing her plenty of complications, but no more than those contributed by her top two clients, both of whom used to be best friends.
One is the ethereally beautiful, bestselling author Lily Wright, who cant seem to kick out her second novel, but needs to since shes already spent the advance money on the dream house her boyfriend, Anton, has persuaded her to buy.
Anton is the former paramour of events organizer extraordinaire Gemma Hogan, who was Lilys best friend until Gemma introduced the two and they fell instantly in love. Gemma has documented the woes of her life through a hilarious series of emails that have found their way into JoJos hands, convincing her that Gemma was destined to become her hot new property.
The following excerpt from the books opening provides an instant feel for the world of these three women, according to Keyes:
2:35 P.M. Monday afternoon
Manoj stuck his head around the door. Jojo, Keith Stein is here.
Whos Keith Stein?
Photographer from Book News. To accompany the piece on you.
Oh, right. Two minutes, Jojo said. She swung her feet off the desk and tossed aside the crossword that was making her crazy. From her hair she slid out the ballpoint that had been holding it in a makeshift updo. The auburn waves tumbled to her shoulders.
Why, Miss Harvey, youre beautiful, Manoj said. Except your mascaras gone flaky.
He passed her her handbag. Put your best face forward.
Jojo needed no encouragement. Everyone in publishing read the questionnaire in Book News; it was the first thing they went to.
She snapped open her compact and reapplied her trademark vamp-red lipstick. She wished it wasnt her trademark; shed love to wear pale pink lip gloss and great neutral taupes. But the one time shed come to work in Crushed Sorbet, people looked at her oddly. Mark Avery told her she was looking a little peaky and Richie Gant had accused her of having a hangover.
Same with the hair; it just didnt suit her any other way. Too long and she looked like an unkempt ceramicist, and too short, well In her early twenties, shortly after shed arrived in London, shed got what shed thought was a gamine crop and the next time she went into a pub, the barman looked at her suspiciously and demanded, What age are you, sonny?
That had been it for the short-hair experiment and the fresh-faced look.
More mascara, Manoj suggested.
Youre so gay, Jojo said, indulgently.
And youre so politically incorrect. I mean it about the mascara. Two words: Richie Gant. Lets sicken him.
Jojo found she was applying her mascara with renewed vigor.
After a speedy color-by-numbers circuit through the rest of her face-blush, concealer, glow Jojo pulled the brush through her hair a final time and was good to go.
Very sexy, boss. Very noir.
Send him in.
Laden with equipment, Keith came into the office, stopped, and laughed out loud. You look like Jessica Rabbit! he said in admiration. Or that redhead from the fifties movies. Whats her name? He stamped his foot a few times. Katharine Hepburn? No.
Wasnt he a bloke?
Jojo gave in. Rita Hayworth.
Yes! Anyone ever say that to you before?
No. She smiled. No one. He was so bright-eyed it was hard to be mean.
Keith unloaded his camera equipment, surveyed the tiny book-lined room, considered Jojo, then looked around again. Lets do something a bit different, he suggested. Instead of the usual shot of the desk and you sitting behind it like Winston Churchill, lets sex it up a bit.
Jojo stared stonily at Manoj. What have you been saying to him? For the last time, read my lips. I am not taking my top off.
Keith lit up. Would you be prepared to do that? It would be very discreet. Two carefully placed thumbs and
A look from Jojo silenced him abruptly, and when he spoke again, he was a little less buoyant. This is a great desk you have here, Jojo. What about lying on it, on your side, giving a big wink?
Im a literary agent. Have a little respect! And she was too tall; shed spill over the ends.
Keyes has two major themes at work throughout her book. One is that what goes around comes around, and the other is that there are always two sides to every story (or three, as is the case here). For example, have you ever wondered what the other woman was thinking when she took your man from you? Or what your best friend really thinks of an indiscretion youve committed? Or whether you would change that indiscretion, if you could go back in time and do so? The author puts a universal face on individual dilemmas as she interlocks three plotlines, and the result is a book liberally doused with heart and hope, wisdom and wit.
Because the focus is on women and their issues in regards to life, love and work, there are obvious parallels to be drawn to its TV counterpart, Sex and the City. Those missing that program should turn to this new book, and everyone else can chalk this up as the first great beach read of 2004.