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Linda Sheehan
Fore Play

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Fasten your seatbelts for a rollicking ride with more twists and turns than a bowl of pretzels. L.A.'s historic Bellstone Country Club is famous for its star-studded membership, championship golf course, and glamorous parties. Here, sexy golfer Mandy Manville is expected to win the club's Women's Golf Championship, which will qualify her to tee it up with legendary golfers in Scotland's Cialis Open. But when ex-college star golfer Jody Benson joins the club, Mandy's beautifully manicured nails become claws as she stops at nothing to keep the newcomer from entering the tournament. Meanwhile, the Bellstone president's bet on an upcoming heavyweight fight could cause an already struggling club to go bust. Add in a corrupt priest with a free membership, a down-and-out ex-movie star working as a caddy, an LAPD cop on the take, a pregnant stripper on the hunt for her baby's daddy, and you'll find yourself laughing, hooting, booing, cheering, and maybe even taking up golf!
The risqué cover’s a tip-off to the comic spirit of this golf-world satire from Sheehan (Decanted), which finds L.A.’s longstanding Bellstone Country Club—and glitzy, Ferrari-driving pro golfer Mandy Manville—facing down schemers, up-and-comers, bad bets, and other existential threats to their continued fabulousness. While Bellstone’s president tries to make good after risking the future of a club once frequented by Hope and Sinatra on a bum tip about a fixed prizefight, Mandy—who puts on Southern charm but is in truth a Jersey flamethrower—plots to keep newcomer Jody Benson, an accomplished Ivy League golfer, from competing in Bellstone’s annual women’s championship. First prize: an invite to the hilariously named Cialis Invitational Pro-Am, in Scotland.

Sheehan’s dishy, sharp-elbowed storytelling will appeal to readers who relish seeing the pompous, well-heeled step in it en route to a happy ending. The cast of fools and swells is deep, with priests, environmentalists, cops, a “pole dancer” named Amber, and more soaking up the spotlight, and their tangled motives keep the pages turning. The vain, capable-of-anything Mandy proves the most irresistible, an antihero who is herself playing a character, a Southern charmer. “This face and form still showcase some of my best work yet,” her plastic surgeon gushes, which is funny, but amid all the laughs Sheehan stirs a sneaky empathy at the intense effort it takes Mandy to embody the outlandish role she feels she must in a world of old money and legacy connections.

Readers looking for traditional romance should look elsewhere, as even the steamy scenes here—like the doozy in which a doctor and patient conduct “a series of tests to determine how many times he was able to ejaculate in an hour”—are played for laughs. The plotting is brisk and twisty, with some shrewdly planted surprises, as early details that seem merely amusing prove crucial to jolts later. The golf’s exciting, too.

Takeaway: Dishy comic satire at a ritzy L.A. golf club, centered on an irresistible antiheroine.

Great for fans of: Lindsey J. Palmer’s Pretty in Ink, Dan Jenkins’s Dead Solid Perfect.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: NA
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A


Acompany of spineless, scheming men try to gouge a California country club for every penny it’s worth in Sheehan’s seamy, steamy comedy of errors.

Bellsone Country Club had seen better days; indeed, it had seen the glory days. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and Bing Crosby had all brought luster to the links, but it fell on difficult times, and the men on the board were launching one desperate illegal act after another to regain solvency and reinvent the golf course as a destination. That hinged on a victory by the Cruella de Ville of golf, Mandy Manville, who isn’t what she appears to be—in terms of her past as well as her plastic surgery—but she can swing a club. Her victory at the club championship would garner an invitation to the Cialis Pro-Am at St. Andrews in Scotland, not to mention heaps of publicity for Bellsone. Soon enough, readers will pick up on the story’s high jinks, which involve bodice-ripping, a tongue-in-cheek Hollywood plaything, and some very nicely tuned farce. Characters are cut from the big screen (including a walk-on for Danny DeVito): “Standing 6’ 2” with jet black hair, a chiseled chin, and evoking a young George Clooney, Trevor Studley was considered the hottest film star of 2011.” There’s also plenty of conspicuous cleavage as well as bloated, alcoholic faces, which are in need of the country club’s secret weapon: the beaks of newly hatched white trumpet cranes, the club’s signature bird, which will have to be killed. Their beaks “are packed with a unique form of beta keratin” that, when turned into a serum, is said to be better than Botox. Sheehan is clearly having a good time even if the whole great mess gets rather neatly and quickly wrapped in a swarm of see-the-light epiphanies.

A goofy golfing tale that hits the green.