COMING FEBRUARY 20
It's 1954 on far-flung Verona Island, a tropical paradise where prostitution is legal and Lila
Gulliver is proud of her high-end establishment. When Carità Bercy, a young, destitute, and
beautiful blind woman arrives at her door seeking employment, Lila gives her a chance to earn
her own way in the world.
Carità proves to be not only an invaluable asset to the house, but a reckless force of nature,
determined to succeed in ways Lila hasn't even contemplated. And when she catches the eye of
the scion of the Verona's wealthiest family, the stability of the entire island may be in the
Spirits of the star-crossed Romeo and Juliet as well as the denizens of the magical island in The
Tempest haunt this steamy tale of passionate love--found and lost, and found again.
KIRKUS starred review
In Martin's cheerful new novel about sex and economics, the madam of an upscale bordello hires a blind 19-year-old as a prostitute, a decision that proves life-changing for both.
When the novel opens in 1954, narrator Lila, who identifies herself as the widow of a far-flung traveler named Gulliver (whom she's actually met only in the pages of a comic book), has been running her business for 10 years in the main city of a tropical island, where it's legal. Matter-of-fact Lila, who grew up in poverty and spent her late adolescence in a seedy brothel, prides herself on the respectability of her house and its clientele while diligently treating her employees fairly and with respect. A good-natured cynic, she sees herself and her girls as laborers of the service industry: "The orgasm is a powerful force in human society." The arrival of Carità only makes that power more apparent. Educated in braille and brought up in comfort, Carità comes to Lila after the uncle who raised her loses his money and kills himself. No one, including the reader, can resist her charms—not just beauty and intelligence but also insightfulness and a pragmatic will that particularly impresses Lila. Neither a victim nor a saint, Carità glides through one crisis after another, the rare literary character always in flow. The central predicament is her inconvenient romance with a client, a rich college student who's become mixed up with gangsters. Fearing that "rich boys can't be trusted," Lila tries to help Carità, only to end up in her own inappropriate relationship with the student's father. There are lively discussions of Marx, Veblen, and conspicuous consumption. There are occasional stark episodes of bloodshed and madness. There is a lot of sex. And a lot of joy. Martin's characters are not prim; neither is her book. As Lila explains, "The word 'Carnal' is so much more thrilling than 'spiritual.' "
Irresistible—a funny, sexy romp that's also smart, even wise.