To say that I was disappointed in this book would be an understatement. I have read and enjoyed other books by this author. However this one did not work on any level for me.
The book starts out when the heroine, Seneca, is in her late 30s and is retired from modelling. A biographer who is doing a book on famous models is at her home interviewing her for her portion of the book. She begins to tell him about her beginnings. At this point the book goes into flashback mode and starts the narrative when Seneca is an 18 year old college student and sometime catalog model.
It is at this point that everything falls apart in the book for me. At first I was a little disoriented because in the prologue talking to the biographer, Seneca is 37 years old. When the flashback narrative begins she is 18 years old. So there is a 19 year difference there. I expected us to flashback to the early 90s. But while she is at a party meeting a handsome athlete, she starts musing about athletes and models getting together and references Tom Brady having just married Gisele Bundchen as a trend starting. And there are other things mentioned that waaay post-date the early 90s such as the movie The Departed
. So, okay, we are in 2010 in the flashback. That must mean the flashback
is present time and the prologue is 19 years in the future, 2029? Ok I can live with that ....except when she retires she talks about going on Larry King or talking to Barbara Walters to talk about her retirement. Now, I suppose Larry and Babs are still kicking 20 years later, but Larry would be around 97 years old and Barbara would be 100. So at this point, I try to ignore timing inconsistencies and get on with the story.
But then I keep getting distracted by weird little things. Like the info dumps and the repetitive phrases. Every time we meet a new character, that person's background, thoughts, personality traits and a complete description of height, weight, skin color and clothing down to the designers is given to us. We need to know (in detail) what Seneca thinks about each person and what each person (in detail) thinks about Seneca. And oh, btw, we need their complete biography as well. And this is just at the character intro. There were also phrases that popped up a lot. People didn't just talk to each other, they 'crooned'. I checked my kindle and there were 17 instances of the phrase "crooned'. There were also several 'pregnant pauses' and 'peering through lashes.' BTW, I tried to peer at someone through my lashes and I either looked like I was sleeping or squinting. Maybe I don't have long enough lashes?
Also, people were referred to by both their first and last names. A lot. Sometimes we got full middle names as well. At one point Seneca and her brother are having a casual lunch and talking about their mother needing full time care and her brother says 'Dahlia Houston is my mother, I can't abandon her.' Who talks like that?
Okay so, the repetitive phrases and the need to refer to the characters by both names throughout the book, are relatively minor things. Those are nitpicky. In any book the three things that loom large in my opinion are: characters, plot and writing. Overall my opinion of the writing in this story is that it came off as stilted and awkward. Again a huge disappointment because I know this author can be a very good writer. But this book could not prove that for me. Ans really, I can overlook even awkward writing if I am entertained enough. I wasn't.
Which leaves the characters and the plot.
The plot is fairly basic. It is the story of the rise of this woman Seneca Houston to the heights of supermodel super stardom. And I guess her fall. But not really. My first problem with the plot is that for something that takes place in 2010 (..there I go with my timeline again....) it felt very dated. I often felt like I was reading one of those glitzy 80s women's fic books by Judith krantz or Jackie Collins. And the second, probably biggest, problem with he plot is that so much of it hung on Seneca.
Which brings me to characterization.
I hated Seneca. The author did her level best to make Seneca all wonderful things to all people. She was intelligent, strong, articulate, she knew her mind, she had a hard shell and yet she was innocent, vulnerable, and victimized. She was also drop dead gorgeous. Every time she walked in a room, people stopped and stared, men all wanted her. Conversation would cease and all heads would turn. Her face is perfectly symmetrical. Her figure is wand slim, yet curvaceous at the same time. The first time working with a runway choreographer she was told her walk was terrible. so what happens? Seneca tells him to put on some music, she closes her eyes to envision a butterfly taking wing and voila! she has a perfect signature walk! She is plucked out of catalog modelling obscurity and made into the featured model on her very fist, high fashion runway show.
Because Seneca was so many (perfect) things, I could never get a handle on this character. I couldn't find a single trait that made her at all sympathetic to me. She annoyed me because everyone else was wrong and imperfect and she was always right. Every single person turned on her. They were either jealous of her beauty or fame or they were resentful of her money and her connections. With the exception of the fashion designer who only ever designed clothes with her in mind or the photographer who loving photographed her perfectly symmetrical features, not a single person was portrayed positively. Her mother, her brother, her sister, her sister-in-law, her roommate, her boyfriends etc, etc. Every single other character was made into some type of garden variety villain in some way with Seneca as their favorite victim. Rather than making me like her, it actually made me scratch my head at how wildly inconsistent the characters were portrayed. People who were reasonable in one scene turned into raging crazies in the next scene just to create conflict for poor Seneca.
Truthfully, I was disliking this book about 25% of the way through and it should have been a DNF, but I slogged through. Not recommended.