"Palm Beach is no vacation for society dame"
Reviewed by Andrea Johnson
Posted February 10, 2019
Women's Fiction Contemporary
It was wonderful to begin reading A PALM BEACH WIFE
on a day that was cold and dreary, forecast to go from
all-day rain to overnight snow. On a day like that, I
welcomed the escape to the tony Floridian world where people
"divide their summers between Greenwich, Aspen, and the
Everything in this novel radiates warmth: the rubies hanging
off charity dames, the ticking hoods of Maserati, the
sun-soaked tennis courts.
So too: the flush of Faith Harrison's face when her husband
tells her they've lost everything, the hot boozy breath of
trophy wives standing too close, the ballroom lighting that
suddenly transforms into a probing spotlight.
Why Edward has decided to share this news at a black-tie
gala is beyond Faith and me, but it certainly is dramatic.
What happens when you lose all buying power in a social
circle that values clout over all else? Do you put up as
collateral your successful high-end resale store? Or do you
cling to it and watch your husband dig out of this hole by
Now consider: it isn't just you and your social standing at
stake, but also that of your daughter. Like all Palm Beach
mothers, Faith has pushed Katherine "toward the best
colleges in the northeast, the caveat [being] that [she]
would come home, sport a mild tan, marry well, and be on as
many committees as time allows -- factoring in tennis, golf,
shopping, then lunch on the Avenue."
This is Faith's dilemma. It provides ample opportunity for
displays of conspicuous consumption though less for
To my taste, some of the tossed-off references to obscene
wealth landed flat: the Mar-a-Lago lunches; the paid-for
grad school in Manhattan; the love of housekeeper Inez who
Faith considers "a confidante and family friend." Right.
But there is always some degree of fantasy to the best
romance novels. Susannah Marren's intimate scenes stole the
show. It takes some real skill to write decent sweet
nothings, and she pulls it off.
And there are glimpses of depth here: as Faith clings to her
position in Palm Beach society, her daughter questions
whether she really wants to fall in step behind her.
So, read A PALM BEACH WIFE for warmth, not light.
For readers of Elin Hilderbrand, a delicious and
irresistible commercial novel set among the high society
galas and gossip of Palm Beach.
Amid the glamour and galas and parties of Palm Beach, Faith
knows that image often counts as much if not more than
reality. She glides effortlessly among the highest of the
high society so perfectly that you would never suspect she
wasn’t born to this. But it wasn’t always so; though she
hides it well, Faith has fought hard for the wonderful life
she has, for her loving, successful husband, for her
daughter’s future. In this town of secrets and gossip and
rumors, Faith has kept a desperate grip on everything she
holds so dear, built from so little. And yet even she—the
only one who knows just how far she has to fall—never
suspects from which direction, or how many directions all at
once, betrayal will come.
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