A tedious look at a Boston men's club. The 125-year-old Charles Club, one of the most ruffianly gentlemen's refuges in Beantown -- alcohol is regularly and excessively imbued; members know by heart ditties that begin ""Demure despite her nudity,/She gazes quite sans crudity"" -- is under attack from Demetria Constantine, Chairperson of the Massachusetts Licensing Board. The club, resting on public land, must either begin admitting women or lose its liquor license. A furious debate ensues, with laments on the order of ""So, here it is, the new age, the age of compliance...we must admit one and all: women, queers, paroled criminals, used car salesman."" It's not just the bad boys who sound like parodies; debut novelist Wensberg (Land's Polaroid, 1987) also fails to flesh out more progressive characters, such as protagonist Owen Lawrence, a recently divorced electrical engineer and new member who believes women will revitalize a stale environment. Owen gets involved with Demetria, unaware of her position during their first drink, and there's some suggestion that his boss, a fellow Charles member, set them up to influence her decision -- a development that could have added some spice, except that Wensberg never follows through with either the relationship (after an implausible scene in which Demetria begs Owen to dominate her, she refuses most of his calls) or with the political machinations behind it. Owen remains unconvincingly perplexed and unconcerned about it all. Other characters are equally shallow, from real estate mogul Leslie Sample, the completely apolitical first female club member, to Owen's sleazy, misogynist boss, who seems to have his fingers in every pie but whose aims are never clear. Trying too hard to be wry, Wensberg leaves readers confused about the point of a book that does little to illuminate a virtually extinct way of life.