A woman recovers from a traumatic assault by becoming a top model, with no help from her illustrious kin.
Veteran bestseller Bradford (The Heir, 2007, etc.) lays the groundwork with a prologue set in the English countryside that describes a hit gone wrong. A contract killer pauses to rape his target, giving her time to clobber him with a rock and escape. Weeks later, this resilient young woman has taken an assumed name, “M” for short, and moved to Manhattan to wait tables while making the rounds of modeling agencies. The child of powerful, wealthy parents, M conceals her identity to prove she can make it on her own. With her Audrey Hepburn-esque gamine charm—and the author’s impatience with anything resembling an actual obstacle— “M” can’t not succeed. Soon, French designer Jean-Louis Tremont must have M as the face of his new haute couture line. Instant global fame is sweetened by engagement to Larry, the talented scion of a storied London theatrical dynasty. Larry’s own family issues have contributed to his Vicodin addiction, but after a near-overdose, he speedily reforms. To avoid hoopla, the couple marries secretly. In Paris, M’s runway debut merits thunderous applause, but she sprains her ankle offstage just before the catwalk collapses, injuring other models and spectators. It was tampered with, and at first the disaster is chalked up to terrorists. Bradford conceals M’s origins until about two-thirds of the way through her usual doorstop-sized tome. So as not to ruin the questionable surprise, suffice it to mention that ancestral skeletons are rattling closet doors, and that terrorists are pussycats compared to the Famous Family’s nemesis, back from the dead to wreak havoc.
Clunky structure and tedious exposition will not deter Bradford’s fans.