May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

High Maintenance (Jennifer Belle book)

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Jennifer Belle

High Maintenance by Jennifer Belle

Liv Kellerman, the heroine of Belle’s second novel, could be the slightly dimmer, dreamier cousin of actress/hooker Bennington Bloom from 1996’s highly praised Going Down (Belle is making a career out of clever chronicles of women who lie for money). This time, her heroine falls into a profession nearly as old as prostitution—real estate brokering. Separated from her husband, coddled Liv is more upset about leaving his apartment than leaving him. She decides to be a broker because “if you grew up in New York and got divorced, it seemed inevitable.” Can her aggres-siveness and gift for making the best of things translate into big commissions? Belle deftly mines real estate as a metaphor, especially in Liv’s affair with an impulsive architect, and her clients and fellow brokers are both terrifying and hilarious by turns. In the end, Liv’s search for the “Loft of My Dreams” is inextricable from her quest for a better life in a city that confuses a home with a closet. A-

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