Diary of a Married Call Girl, By Tracy Quan, Three Rivers, 318 pp., paperback, $12.95
This is the second installment by Tracy Quan in the continuing adventures of Nancy Chan, upscale Manhattan escort. She's still working the streets and five-star hotels of the city, except now there's a twist: She's married.
''Diary of a Married Call Girl" is mostly what it claims to be. Yes, it's got plenty of sex. Yes, it's irreverent. Yes, it's a new perspective on infidelity and modern marriage. But is it good?
Well . . . it depends on how you define ''good."
Nancy's escapades, described in graphic detail, go from titillating to tedious. The dialogue is trite, the story line -- such that it is -- is trivial, and the book as a whole is about as detached and passionless as Nancy's take on her line of work.
While she worries about the possibility of her strait-laced, WASPy husband discovering what she does all day (he thinks she's a freelance copy editor and French-language student), Nancy seems more concerned about what he'd think of the money she's making than how he'd feel about her having sex with strangers. Her therapist isn't much help. (Nothing illustrates a banal and superficial character's inner conflict better than a good heart-to-heart with her therapist. Except maybe a flashback. This book has plenty of both.)
Packed with product names and shopping excursions, this book reads a lot like a multiethnic episode of ''Sex and the City," except this meticulously maintained 30-something does it for money. Not that she has to. She's working to keep Prada in the closet, not food on the table.
The author borrows heavily from her first book, ''Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl." Nancy's friend and fellow sex worker, Allie, is back, and she's still getting into trouble while seeking validation from others. Catty call-girl competition abounds. Nancy still struggles to keep her two lives, and the people in them, separate. The book is chock-full of classic chick-lit angst as well: Do I look fat? Do I want to have a baby? How does so-and-so manage to do it all? Have I found the right man? Should I change who I am for him? Should I wear chunky heels or understated flats with this outfit? Is that purse on sale?
These questions are addressed amid the nonchalant strapping-on of various sex toys and explanations about how to . . . um, cleanse oneself without stripping away the very expensive moisturizer on one's legs. It's a little jarring.
The more mature issues that come up -- Can a woman maintain her identity after marriage? Is financial independence so important that it doesn't matter how you achieve it? -- are undermined by how little the characters seem to want to address them. Why should Nancy care what her husband thinks if she's not willing to change her career anyway? Instead, she justifies her deceitfulness: ''As a hooker, you can have sex with multitudes and still be respectable, as long as people don't know."
Forget diamonds. Rationalization is a girl's best friend.