How to find love? Try giving up sex

<strong>CHASTENED</strong><br />BY HEPHZIBAH ANDERSON<br /><strong>Chatto &amp; Windus, &pound;12.99</strong><br /><br />I FEEL a little bad for Hephzibah Anderson. She&rsquo;s gone ahead and voiced the doleful narrative of a many a well-heeled, well-educated 20 and 30-something urban woman &ndash; albeit in a kind of dreamily wannabe-poetic style &ndash; and has evoked the ire of countless woman critics. I am not going to go the same way &ndash; yes, Anderson&rsquo;s style is reminiscent of college creative writing class and she does lament from the comfort of an Oxbridge-bolstered career as a literary critic living it large between booze-sloshed parties.<br /><br />But she is cutting to the heart of an important body of thought and experience: the unpredictable, over-exposed mess that intimacy has become for western moderns. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d had enough sex without love, maybe it was time to look for love without sex!&rdquo; she says. With this in mind, she embarks on a year without sex, which &ndash; given her party lifestyle and good looks &ndash; required a lot of saying no. Her year is recorded doggedly here.<br /><br />The book cover would certainly repel most men. Yet the topic is relevant for men and women &ndash; for surely men feel the lessening of intensity, colour and joy that come from the severing and segmenting of love and sex. Anderson&rsquo;s&nbsp; year of chastity proves an effective if heavy-handed way of unearthing the complexities, erosions and flaws in modern intimacy.<br /><br />Zoe Strimpel<br /><br /><strong>YOU BET</strong><br />BY COLIN CAMERON<br /><strong>Harper Collins, &pound;15.99</strong><br /><br />You could argue that reading a business success story is dull. What, a good idea that just works out and makes the founders rich just like that? No drama or intrigue? Indeed, the story of Betfair, the online betting company, does somewhat lack the glamour of other success-story brands like Virgin and Apple (the latter certainly had its struggles). But this is still and important story, indicative of our times, and not a little inspiring.<br /><br />Fashion journalist Colin Cameron (who has a degree in economics from Cambridge) has gone out on a limb here but pulls off a studious, well-written tale of how &ldquo;a simple idea tapped into the modern-day global psyche for betting and became a multi-billion dollar company.&rdquo; Thanks in large part to Betfair, the online betting industry has reached a yearly turnover of $20b. It was only the year 2000 when Ed Wray and Andrew Black, a banker and a computer programmer, came up with a way to apply stock market principles to traditional betting. They cut out the middleman &ndash; the bookmaker &ndash; by putting backers in touch with layers (those who want to take a bet).&nbsp; The site is now worth &pound;1.5bn and hosts 5m transactions a day &ndash; more than Europe&rsquo;s stock markets combined. It&rsquo;s a good glimpse into how one of the biggest money-spinning phenomena of our times arrived at its current furore, and&nbsp; how big money can be made with a good idea and a little creativity.<br /><br />Zoe Strimpel<br /><br /><strong>DESPERATE ROMANTICS</strong><br />BY FRANNY MOYLE<br /><strong>John Murray, &pound;8.99</strong><br /><br />The accompanying book to BBC2&rsquo;s frothy dramatisation of the lives of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood &ndash; the painters who formed a no-less-frothy art movement in Victorian England &ndash; is actually a rather engrossing read. Whatever one thinks of the art of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais &ndash; personally, I&rsquo;d happily avoid encountering Rosetti and Hunt&rsquo;s paintings ever again, while the talented Millais (who quickly gave up the PRB style) was a considerable cut above &ndash; you have to hand it to them for the maelstrom they made of their private lives. Swapping wives, mistresses and long-necked models with merry abandon, for a time they almost were the kind of bohemian, iconoclastic cads that have long since informed our view of what a proper artist should be.<br /><br />Moyle has rightly worked out that unpacking Rosetti and co&rsquo;s tangled affairs makes for a much more interesting reading of their paintings than worrying too much about their aesthetic obsessions. The same goes for the era&rsquo;s leading aesthete John Ruskin, who championed the movement while losing his wife to Millais, after refusing to consummate his marriage. This excellently researched book rattles along nicely, but avoids reducing the intrigue and scandal of its subject matter to the level of soap opera. For such superficiality you have the TV show, but let&rsquo;s hope the book will have the chance to stand alone. Crappy painters the Pre Raphaelites were &ndash; dullards they were not.<br /><br />Timothy Barber