Format: ARC (NetGalley)
Release Date: first published January 1, 1999
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
On the surface, Julia Sterling's life seems blessed. Married to a renowned psychiatrist, living on Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, Julia deeply loves her stepson, and is forging a career as a journalist.
When a writing job at The Butterfield Institute - a sex therapy clinic - exposes her to the world of phone sex, Julia glimpses a world that stirs her erotic fantasies but threatens her
carefully constructed reality. As she explores her emotional and sexual connections to the men she knows and several she will never meet, she confronts evil, perversity, and her own passions.
Tracing the currents of desire, illusion, and psychological manipulation,Lip Service is an astonishingly vivid glimpse into one woman's inner life. At the same time, this electrifying thriller grips the reader as it builds toward a battering climax.
Recommended for readers 18 and up
Julia Sterling's life was sedentary, tied to the whims of her controlling husband, renowned psychiatrist Peter Sterling, she's nothing more than a trophy life, her skills and decisions always undermined by her husband masqueraded as concern and protectiveness. See Julia has/had psychological issues and one would think that being married to a psychiatrist is the best thing that could ever happen to her. At first it was but as the years go by Julia's rose colored glasses started crumbling, each year sloughing a layer off her independence, individuality and self confidence. Until an opportunity arose that had Julia breaking free from her gilded cage and here starts this beautifully written story about a woman's journey to reclaiming her life and rediscovering her sexuality. No wonder LIP SERVICE by MJ Rose won the Susie Bright's Best American Erotica.
When the book opens we are instantly taken to one of Julia's phone-sex therapy sessions. At first it made me feel uncomfortable, visualizing a very erotic and very descriptive conversation Julia, under the pseudonym Alice Carroll, is having with a complete stranger. For those of you, like me, who were born before the dotcom boom, you'll understand why this feels so taboo. But as we know more about Julia we start to understand where all this passion is coming from, why she finds these sessions liberating and even sometimes hedonistic. Julia's repression and indecisiveness is so complicated because of her psych history, at times I too would question if she's making sound decisions or if she's simply acting out. But at the same time, I was rooting for her, I want her to find her self and the courage to want a fulfilling life.
He's a man who treasures being in control. He'll see everything you've done as a threat and try to regain his dominance any way he can.
And that's where the brilliant and disgusting Peter Sterling comes to the picture. This man is a piece of work, he is an extraordinary manipulator and I wanted to run him over several times throughout the course of the novel. He really managed to plant these self doubts that Julia has, treating her more like a patient than a wife it was beyond frustrating. I hated it when he starts talking down on her and giving her orders like he would to a child, scolding her and brushing her affections off, it wasn't hard to hate this guy. Then there's the opportunistic Sam Butterfield, Julia's friend, who like Peter ended up exploiting her weaknesses. Dragging Julia to this terrifying legal mess that almost got her behind a real cage. These two men got off easy in the end and I would have loved to see an epic comeuppance happen to these two but I guess MJRose is too nice of a lady to trip this men over and have them fall, face flat on their own shiz.
But sometimes you need to feel all those things, you know? Even if they're bad. Even if your stomach does flips and your heart skips a beat--at least you know you're alive.
I never expected I'll enjoy LIP SERVICE. I thought it was just another story about a bored housewife turned rabid nymphomaniac. There's so much more to the story than just the sex, MJRose explored the inner machinations of Julia's mind and why Julia turned radical and took this path instead. MJRose wrote her characters effectively that I didn't find it difficult to respond to them whether it's in anger, hate, pity or frustration. She also added situations that gave the story a layer of treasonous mystery that had be gritting my teeth in anger on several occasions. Towards the end it had a Law & Order: SVU (I love this show btw) feel to it as the story slowly morphed into a legal issue with Peter's shenanigans and the Butterfield Institute's curious way of "therapy". I can't tell you enough how great this book is, you just have to go ahead and get it yourself.
NOTE: To all my fellow NetGalley members who might want or have a copy of this ARC in Kindle, I'm not sure if it'll be the same with you but mine was a little challenging to read because there were line numbers interspersed with the text, font size & color varies, and there are parts that appears as one long paragraph which made reading this a little challenging for me. I would get confused on who's talking or if the extra characters are part of the story or not. I've never read a "messy" ARC like this but I was told that this is a NG issue not a publisher one so I suggest that you either buy the book or if you have connections, request for an ARC directly from Simon & Schuster instead.