From 1941 to 1972 in the company of two rags-to-riches sisters and their creepy, gorgeous heiress-chum--as Briskin (Paloverde, The Onyx) offers a half-classy, half-dumb Beverly Hills saga, complete with incest, illegitimacy, adultery, family secrets, movie-stardom, star-crossed lovers. . . and a couple of groan-worthy plot turns. The prologue offers a teasing glimpse of 1970 melodrama: one 40-ish woman tries to shoot another--but we don't know their names. So there's a small tug of curiosity as the story proper gets underway in 1942, with plucky, near-penniless Southern belle NolaBee and her two teenage daughters: beauteous, noble Marylin, 18, whom NolaBee has programmed for stardom (lying about her age to get her into Beverly Hills High); and younger Roy, a freckled loner with an inferiority complex. Marylin will, in fact, get a quick--but tragic--start in the movies, by falling madly in love with young pilot Linc Fernauld, son of writer/director Joshua. When Linc is reported killed-in-action, pregnant Marylin has an abortion and is then taken under Joshua's vulgar, virile wing; she'll even marry him--since he's ""the only man who could possibly understand what Linc will always mean to me."" Meanwhile, Roy finds her Best Friend in fellow-loner Althea, a major heiress whose dark secret (Daddy-incest) has made her unstable, obsessed with social appearances. Throughout the years, then, the Althea/Roy palship will be sorely tested: Althea steals Roy's boyfriends; when Roy just happens to wed Althea's secret True Love (a gross coincidence), Althea lures him back, drives him to quasi-suicide, and even bears his son--though the father appears to be Althea's hubby #1, aged maestro Firelli. Things are also rough for Marylin, love-wise: Linc turns up miraculously alive, of course --but, for the sake of her wee kids Billy and Sari, Marylin (now a star) must stay married to Joshua, saying adieu to Linc forever. And by the 1960s, when Roy is a top fashion-retailer and Marylin's on TV, the complications infect the second generation: Althea's elegant son Charles woos Sari; Althea herself beds young Billy--to the fury of both sisters. . . who threaten Althea with scandal. . . which leads to that fatal shootout. Briskin's dialogue is a cut above the romance/saga usual, with a witty line here and there. Her prose, when not straining (sometimes ludicrously) for sophistication, is briskly readable. And, if Marylin is a blandly upright heroine, the other two women have a bit more texture than most pulp ladies--providing some juicy confrontations in the Bette Davis/Miriam Hopkins/Mary Astor tradition. So, despite the creaky plot and dollops of crudeness, this is more likable than many similar concoctions, glossier than Briskin's previous solid-sellers, and miles more entertaining than--for instance--Barbara Taylor Bradford's comparable Voice of the Heart.