Scandalous behavior, a scheming opportunist and the upper echelons of British society provide fodder for this irresistible rags-to-riches saga by Coleridge (Pride and Avarice, 2010, etc.), president of Condé Nast International.
Never down on her luck for long, Cath Fox is bold and single-minded in her ferocious pursuit of what—and whom—she wants. Her upward climb, which begins in the 1980s and spans 30 years, delivers prime-time soap appeal à la Dynasty as Cath, with her tattoos and earthy sex appeal, molds herself from punk rock raw to Alexis Carrington–chic and beyond. Before her 18th birthday, she has daughter Jess with a nightclub bouncer, catches him in a compromising position with her own mother and flees the slums of Portsmouth, England, with nary a backward glance. With chameleonlike ability, Cath creates new personas and plots/sleeps her way to the top. Her ascent from the fringes of society into the highest echelons is not always seamless, but Cath is wily and takes advantage of each opportunity. She works as an assistant matron at a private girls school, meets student Annabel Goode and launches into a doomed affair with Annabel’s father. Her skills and willingness to provide extra services as a “masseuse” result in a very brief engagement to Lord Charles Blaydon, an octogenarian whose final moment of bliss occurs during their private betrothal celebration. And Cath's stint working in a magazine house leads to a chance meeting with soccer star Ryan James, who becomes the first of her husbands and whose notoriety and riches whet her appetite for more. While Cath climbs to the social pinnacle of British society, Annabel’s life takes a more conventional route, though it’s not without its own share of tribulations, and Jess becomes a journalist after spending her childhood with a loving adoptive family. The three women’s lives intersect on different occasions over the years, which sets up a predictable, yet satisfying, conclusion. Throughout, the author adeptly balances the different threads, maintains a polished and briskly paced plot, and provides readers with a story that's an absolute delight.
Coleridge’s smashing epic delivers a wealth of entertainment.