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Tan Lines    by J. J. Salem order for
Tan Lines
by J. J. Salem
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

J. J. Salem's Tan Lines is a raunchy, randy read that begins with an explosive question mark - which of three women (Liza Pike, Kellyanne Downey, and Billie Shelton) were involved in 'a grisly murder, a premature birth, and a public meltdown', all of which took place in a summer share lease in East Hampton?

Sexy and strong Liza, Kellyanne, and Billie have been friends - despite or perhaps because of their very different characters and life situations - since they forged a bond during a college spring break in Cancun. They lease a home in the Hamptons together for the summer. As readers alternate between events in their lives, we wonder who is going to crash down in flames, and who (if any) is going to achieve their dream.

Billie is an insecure rock star whose career is in the slump and whose personal life is fueled by alcohol, drugs and sex. After Liza introduces them, Billie falls hard for someone very clearly wrong for her, 'young Republican mover' March Donaldson, who runs a conservative think tank and is engaged to a lovely fiancée with 'an impressive lineage of old money'.

Liza, 'a twenty-first-century fashionista feminist', married a New York fireman in the aftermath of 9/11. They have little in common and their relationship is deteriorating fast. Liza is harvesting her eggs so that she can put off having a baby and nurture her career. She speaks out on CNBC's Roundtable show against a popular movie called Watch Her Bleed, about a serial killer who targets 'smart and accomplished' women. Surprisingly, Liza forms a relationship with the movie's intelligent writer/director, Harrison Beck.

Beautiful Kellyanne is a wannabe actress who enjoys the luxuries of life by satisfying her sugar daddy, Walter, who funded her share of the Hamptons rental - 'At the snap of his fingers, Kellyanne could be homeless and without transportation.' After a brief and disastrous stint on reality show Soul Mates, Kellyanne finds herself falling for ordinary Tucker of McGraw's Fish Market and his adorable small son.

As we get to know the three women, and to like and dislike different aspects of each, the plot thickens and darkens with threatening emails that refer to Watch Her Bleed - and ultimately the initial question that pulls the reader's interest through this story is answered. Tan Lines, endorsed by Jackie Collins, is an engrossing summer read.

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