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A poor but determined young woman marries a wealthy older man and then stands Palm Beach society on its ear with her refusal to knuckle under: a standard rags-to-riches romance from the author of Winners (1980). Loretta Worship is adopted at a very early age by a stern, brutal revivalist preacher who uses her innocent sexuality to draw crowds to his sermons. Eventually, though, he rapes her (and then tells her beloved stepmother that she has seduced him). Stricken, Loretta flees front redneck Florida to genteel Richmond, where she becomes a nurse and meets destiny in the form of one Harrison ""Chukkar"" Dunbar, a horsy, blue-blooded, 62-year-old tycoon who has just had a stroke and is sinking into deep depression. Loretta snaps him out of it with plenty of down-home love and practicality, and the two of them fall in love. After their marriage, however, Loretta learns that Palm Beach--where Chukkar has a second home--is lying in wait for her: she's a call girl, a fortune hunter, an uneducated peasant girl, etc. She shows true grit under all the gossip by fighting to get blacks allowed into the local hospital, and Jews into the country club (her crowning glory is a dinner for Jonas Salk and his wife). One embittered and intensely jealous Palm Beach maven named Mary Dodd responds by dredging up her old preacher father and having him spread a scurrilous version of her past, but Chukkar mounts such a retaliatory campaign that Mary is vanquished, never to be seen again. In the end, Chukkar has a final, fatal stroke, and Loretta--well on her way to becoming a legend--is now accepted by Palm Beach. One of those novels that masquerades as an exposÉ of the corrupt rich, while greedily reporting their every heart palpitation. A slick read, in the shallows.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1987
Publisher: Knopf