Lovell packs in as many celebrities as possible, which makes for an entertaining book but not one likely to end up on a...



Lovell (The Churchills: In Love and War, 2011, etc.) turns her attention to the French Riviera between the wars and into the 1960s.

Like the author’s tale of the Mitford family, this is a gossipy book with courtesans and famous politicians hopping from château to château and bed to bed. Though British wealth ruled the 1920s and ’30s, after World War II, the Americans and Europeans took over. Within this glamorous milieu, one always needed money, but breeding, talent, beauty, sociability, and a good sense of humor were also very important. The author anchors the story with a biography of American actress and businesswoman Maxine Elliott (1868-1940), a grande dame of the scene. Though she is relatively unknown today, Elliott amassed a fortune—with helpful advice from J.P. Morgan—and built the much-visited villa the Château de l’Horizon in 1932. Invitations to her events were always highly sought-after, and she gave parties from morning to night. Winston Churchill, in his wilderness years, found sanctuary with her in his own suite of rooms to accommodate his staff. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, at loose ends after WWII, depended on Elliott for privacy and a safe haven. The list of guests is endless and includes Daisy Fellowes, Doris Castlerosse, and Lady Diana Cooper, ladies well-versed in enjoying the moment. The postwar years without Elliott made it a sunny place for shady people, until it was sold to Aly Khan, whose fascinating best friends were Elsie de Wolfe and the incomparable Elsa Maxwell. It was Maxwell who introduced Khan to Rita Hayworth, which led to the wedding of the century. As the rich and famous built larger and flashier homes along the Riviera, the days of Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward gave way to visits by the Kennedy family, Onassis family, and other high-profile guests.

Lovell packs in as many celebrities as possible, which makes for an entertaining book but not one likely to end up on a reference shelf.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-515-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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