Monday, February 8, 2010

Review: Tara Hyland's Daughters of Fortune

The blurb on the back:

William Melville's daughters are heiresses to the world's most exclusive fashion dynasty. Beautiful and rich, they are envied by all. But behind the glittering façade of their lives, each girl hides a dark secret that threatens to tear their family apart.
Smart, ambitious Elizabeth knows how to manipulate every man she meets, except the one who counts: her father.
Gentle, naïve Caitlin, the illegitimate child, struggling to fit into a world of privilege while staying true to herself.
Stunning, spoilt Amber, the party girl with a weakness for bad boys; more fragile than anyone realises.
As each of them seeks to carve out her own destiny, Elizabeth, Caitlin and Amber face difficult choices, which will take them in wildly different directions. But as old wounds resurface and threaten to destroy the foundations of the Melville empire, their paths will cross again. Because the simple truth is that, no matter how far you go, you cannot escape the claims of family.

My thoughts:

I received this book in the mail unexpectedly from the lovely people at S&S UK. I had other things to do on my to do list and meant to only start this book because I felt like reading at the time, and put it down after a couple of chapters. No such luck.

At 567 pages, this book seems imposing. It is Tara Hyland's first novel, but does not read like a debut. Hyland knows her characters, and she's done her research. While I don't know much about fashion, I found myself enjoying even the business aspects of the plot and you know she knows what she's talking about. Her characters are bold, realistic, and enjoyable. Her plot has twists and turns you don't expect. Her descriptions give the impression of glamor, focusing on colors and textures but allowing enough room for imagination.

I adored these characters. Unlike some debut novels, none of her characters are stereotypical (with the exception of Johnny Wilcox and some other side characters if you want to go as far as analyzing minor characters). An example: Elizabeth is ambitious and manipulating, but she longs for love, from her father and from her husband. Even though she is stuck up at first, she is also one of the first to reach out to Caitlin. Each character is multifaceted. Just like people in real life, everyone in this book makes mistakes- big mistakes- and they all face up to the consequences. They all say things and do things that they don't mean and they have to ask for forgiveness or try to change things. And, you love them anyways- because they're just like you and your family and friends and Hyland makes you love them.

Hyland knows how to keep you on edge- she writes from many different viewpoints so you can get a feel for the different thoughts of the characters. The viewpoints change quickly sometimes but it is not hard at all to follow. I found myself saying "just one more section" so many times but I could never keep to that because the writing was so compelling.

My one qualm was that there was so much sex. But, I suppose that is more of a qualm with our culture than with the book itself. People do have affairs, people do visit prostitutes, people do have relations outside of marriage. And, in regards to this, Hyland is realistic- she stays true to the culture though I personally would prefer the sexual content to be more subtle. There is a large chunk in the middle where it seems that all anyone is doing is...well.... each other.

Opening the book for the first time I was a little dubious- fashion? Affluence? Glamor? If you're like me, you don't know anything about these topics. But we all know people- lots of people, different kinds of people. And that's all you need to know in order to enjoy this book. Even though the fashion industry runs through this book as a common thread, the book is really about the people involved, their relationships and how they deal with situations and each other. And for that, I give Hyland an A+. Daughters of Fortune has great realistic characters, love, family, suspense and a truly compelling and original plot. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Tara Hyland.

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