BOOK REVIEW / Insider's view of life on the inside: 'Janice Gentle Gets Sexy' - Mavis Cheek: Hamish Hamilton, 14.99 pounds

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The Independent Culture
JANICE GENTLE is fat, naive, obsessed by chivalric love and writes best-selling romantic novels. Sylvia Perth is her agent, tough and manipulative, who creams off the unworldly Janice's income for herself. Rohanne Bulbecker, young and thirsty for power, has been despatched by Morgan Pfeiffer, ruthless New York publishing supremo, to persuade Janice to make her books sexier.

This jolly novel is not without insight and some nice turns of phrase - which is just as well, for the self-referential knowingness of a writer writing satirically about a writer of romantic popular fiction can be unspeakably irritating. How Mavis Cheek's agent must have chuckled at the spot-on portrayal of grasping literary agents; how her publisher must have enjoyed her searing expose of the publishing world; how any down-and-out would enjoy reading of Erica von Hyatt's descent into drinking and prostitution, which lead her to Sylvia's plush flat and eventual redemption.

This book is supposed to be about love: you, too, it suggests, can find the kind of love that allows fat recluses from Battersea to make music with publishing moguls. It is also about personal growth: thrusting executives learn that money isn't everything and art should be defended.

Mavis Cheek is too sharp a writer to be allowed to get away with this kind of fluffy nonsense, and she is aware of it - numerous references to medieval literature come over as 'I might write tosh, but I'm much cleverer really'. Perhaps she too was persuaded to write something that will sell, and unlike her heroine, succumbed.