“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
This quote from the 1967 film, COOL HAND LUKE, basically sums up how I’m feeling after reading this book. And I’ve never even seen the movie. The quote just came to me, as a thing I know somehow, deep from within the pop culture recesses of my mind. There’s a lot of useless information in there.
I might also go with: “…in the galaxy of This Sucks Camel Dicks!” Stepbrothers, 2008.
What I mean to say is: I wish the publishers hadn’t stuffed this novel into the psychological-thriller genre just because that’s where all the cool kids are, and had instead been honest about what this book is: a dark romance meets women’s fiction meets soap opera intrigue with a terrible, TERRIBLE message.
It’s not a thriller. I’m sorry, but no. I am not thrilled.
Had I known this from the start, I would have passed on reading it, because this level of dramatic soap-opera nutty-ness is just not my thing. It lacks humour and humanity, and is overpopulated with terrible one-liners, cliches and silly dialogue and tropes that feel like a reenactment. And the writing is derivative and basic.
Not to mention, the internal misogyny that permeates the entire theme gets my feminist hackles up.
Anyway….I didn’t know I shouldn’t read this, so I did, and now I have library late fees and a shitty review to write, so buckle in, bitches.
(This could get mildly spoiler-y because I’m going to rant, so if you’re super excited to read this, here’s my takeaway: Don’t waste your time with this, unless you’re cool with domestic abuse. Otherwise, read on!)
First of all, this is boring. That’s the most concise way to describe it. It’s slow, with dull scenes, and so overtly dramatic in its boring elements that it becomes comical and cheesy. Ohhhhhh more rich people events with wildly cliche conversation? More descriptions of fancy clothes and designer labels and expensive underwear and boats and bikinis and hot bodies? Please, please, tell me again what else these people are spending their excessive amounts of money on!
For the first third of the book, we follow Amber Patterson as she enacts her plan to steal someone’s rich, powerful husband. Amber is a one-dimensional bitchhhhhhh who is absolutely agonizing to read. She’s a hateful, conniving con-artist for seemingly no real reason, other than she grew up poor and believes she deserves better…and the only way to get “better” is with buttloads of money.
She has zero redeeming qualities, not even a modicum of a sympathetic trait. She’s absolutely spiteful in her self-righteous belief that she could be a better rich asshole than all the other rich assholes. Like there’s some kind of virtue in aspiring to be the absolute worst.
Amber teaches herself about everything that a cultured a person would apparently know. She reads The Odyssey and becomes an amateur sommelier and learns about real estate and art and hedge funds. You’d think that someone who is that driven and smart would want to go to University and aspire to be a CEO, in charge of her own money, with her own power. But no, Amber just wants to be a rich wife, because that’s the kind of superficial world this book takes place in. Yawnnnn.
She’s a completely insufferable character, and you truly start to wonder what the authors were thinking in their creation of her, until the book switches over to the POV of Daphne Parrish, the woman who’s husband Amber is intent on stealing. I was honestly so relieved when I left Amber behind – I wasn’t sure how much more of her I could take.
Daphne, from Amber’s perspective, has it all. From the beautiful kids the nanny takes care of, to the closet full of designer clothes, the fleet of cars and a private chef and estate-sized mansion and expensive vacations; down to the perfect, powerful, wealthy husband who provides it all, and who is, of course, gorgeous and every woman wants him. Mr. Jackson Parrish.
Listen, Elon Musk might be able to buy himself hair but he can’t make himself hot. That’s the balance of the universe. It’s reality.
Underneath the opulence and money, however, Jackson is a controlling, abusive, waste of oxygen. There are small hints, leading up to the change in POV, that there is something dark about Jackson, but the shift in perspective brings it all rapidly to the forefront of the story, because it is the forefront of Daphne’s life.
Okay, I shouldn’t say rapidly. First we need to get through how Daphne met Jackson, their first date, meeting the parents and getting married and going on a honeymoon and having a baby and like, every other major milestone in a married couple’s life before gasp! Jackson is really a total dick punch?! Say it isn’t so.
Now…this is where I start to getting angry.
Up until this point, I was willing this give this book 3 stars, call it just so-so and kind of Lifetime movie-esq, and move on with my life. Except, it is here, in the last third of the book, that the tagline really starts to reveal it’s true meaning.
“Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve.”
What Daphne deserves is to be free of Jackson. To regain control of her life, the lives of her children and move on from the prison she was living in, even if she had “everything”. Okay, great. Agreed. You can’t put a price on freedom.
But in order for Daphne to escape her personal hell, Amber must take her place in her abusive marriage. And we, as the readers, are supposed to want this. We’re supposed to cheer this. We’re supposed to think it’s inspired!
This is why the authors created such a one dimensional, unsympathetic bitch of a character in Amber. So that when Daphne’s “clever” plan succeeds – and Amber becomes the new Mrs. Jackson Parrish – we, the reader, say: “Yes, good! She deserves this!”
We’re supposed to want a woman to be a victim of domestic abuse because that is a just punishment.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I could see this coming, but I hoped it wasn’t true. I kept my fingers crossed that Daphne and Amber would find a way to join forces and destroy Jackson together. I was still hoping I would end up back at a three star rating. But noooooooooo.
I don’t care how awful Amber is, or how many heartless things she did in pursuit of her goal, this is not a thing to wish on someone. Prison time? Sure, that would have looked more like justice. But, I’m literally stunned that an active choice was made by the authors to convince readers that it’s fun and entertaining to witness an unlikable character become a victim of domestic abuse and rape.
Anyone who gave this book 4 or 5 stars really needs to examine why this “twist” didn’t bother you. I mean, if you totally loved the book, I’m not here to judge your review…but, just think about it. Because, honestly, for as cheesy and boring and soap-opera-y as this novel is, the resolution to Daphne’s problems, and what Amber “deserves”, is dark and fucked up and no one should be okay with this kind of narrative device – one that tells us some women deserve to be victims of abuse.
It takes a lot for me to hand out one star. I save those for flaming piles of shit. But, I’m making an exception in this case. I think I kind of hated this.