LynneC’s review of Heiress Behind the Headlines by Caitlin Crews
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Presents 18 Sep 12
This is the story of two Beautiful People. On the surface they have it all—money, acclaim, power—but underneath they’re two lost souls with nobody to turn to. It makes for a compelling read.
Larissa Whitney is an East Coast princess, a member of New York’s high society, but she’s a bad girl. A very bad girl. Or she has been. The story opens when she’s cut off all her blonde hair and dyed the shorter style black. It’s a symbol, but since Larissa isn’t yet sure what it’s a symbol of, then it would be a spoiler to share it. Larissa’s story is about growing up and remaking her life, after a crisis that makes her rethink the person she is.
Jack Endicott Sutton has done that bit. He was a bad boy, and five years ago he hooked up with Larissa Whitney. That night and a subsequent, unconnected, family tragedy made him take his responsibilities more seriously, although he hasn’t developed emotionally. His grandfather wants him to marry someone who would be an asset. Jack takes time out on his favourite hideout to discover what he wants.
Larissa is what Georgette Heyer would refer to as “a bolter.” At the first sign of trouble, she’s gone, somewhere else.
Jack and Larissa meet in the local inn, where Larissa is staying. The initial conversation between them is both scintillating and heartbreaking. Both are so alone and so guarded. They have a lot to be guarded against. Inside the family units they belong to are deeply dysfunctional people. That part sounds really to the point and realistic. I suspect Crews has done her research enough to use someone as an example, but I don’t know who. It’s tricky to make a good, angsty romance about people who seem to have it all, and it’s really hard to avoid the “poor little rich girl” syndrome, but she does it by making Larissa an understandable, spiky person with no self-pity at all. She’s undergone a lot, she’s inflicted a lot on herself, but she accepts that and moves on.
I suspect some of the backstory has been edited out. The cover story fed to the press was that Larissa was in rehab, but in reality she’d been in the family home in a coma. The reason for the coma is vague, but later on, the reason is there, briefly mentioned.
For me, the beginning is a tad slow, and some of the inner angst could have been cut, but that’s a small complaint. The story is entirely about Jack and Larissa. The outer plot, such as it is, is about their respective struggles with their families. I really like that Larissa resolves her problem for herself. She doesn’t need Jack to help her, and I adore the scene when she does – what she does (avoiding spoilers again!)
While Jack is definitely the secondary character, he is still vividly and memorably drawn. He has moved from Party Bad Boy, what might be called a Deb’s Delight in the UK, to a responsible businessman. But he still has to move out from under his grandfather’s thumb and reconcile his feelings for his parents. His father is a complete wastrel, and his mother lives in a self-induced chemical haze in France. There are some sad, reminiscent passages about his childhood in Provence and his memories of life there. Jack doesn’t have an instant solution. Few people do.
I tried to write a book featuring a hero from the richest of the rich in New York society – Chemistry of Evil. In the end, the society rules were so complex I gave up, partly because the story wasn’t about that, and the hero, Evan, had different challenges to face that didn’t have anything to do with his background. Later, I did write a story with a hero from that strata of society, Red Heat, and this time his background mattered. I found the differences between New York East Coast society and British aristocratic society profoundly different, but fascinatingly so. A British society leader could turn up at an event in his grandfather’s tuxedo – “He had it made by his favourite tailor and there isn’t a mark on it,” but to do that in New York might mean opprobrium. Because the New York society is much more about money. British aristocrats have history and land. Many lost their money years ago. There are so many differences, it’s impossible to define it so crudely, but Crews gets right to the heart of the one on the East Coast. New York, Boston…like London high society, everybody knows everyone else, they went to school with them, or their aunt married his second cousin.
Larissa and Jack are distinct, interesting beings, not always likeable, but written with vividly with close attention to them, so you feel you know them. Or more likely, seen them on TV sometime. The end is somewhat abrupt, and there is a bit of a jump, and these characters are so complex, I’d have liked a little more about them before they reached their happy ending.
I can recommend this one.
Haunted by one scandal too many, tabloid-savaged and vulnerable, Larissa Whitney turns her back on her gilded fortune. Desperately hiding from the paparazzi’s relentless cameras, Larissa escapes to a small, secluded island, seeking refuge. But she’s not alone—instead, Larissa finds herself face-to-face with Manhattan tycoon Jack Endicott Sutton.Now she’s trapped on an island with a man she had a wild affair with five years before.…
A man she’s still achingly attracted to. A man who knows the outrageous truth!
Read an excerpt.