Prada & Prejudice
by Katie Oliver
Published by Carina Press
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5
I’m all for happy endings. Really. I love them. I am a hopeless romantic who believes that fairy tales come true.
Make of that what you will.
But when a happy ending seems so utterly and transparently manufactured, when it comes so easily that it wrecks the story, I lose that love.
Such is the case with this book.
Well, one of the cases. The other one is that Prada & Prejudice can’t quite decide what book it is. Cheesy romance novel? Homage to Jane Austen? Rip off of Bridget Jones? Money grab?
The plot, such as it is, is simple: Natalie Dashwood (see: Sense & Sensibility), a rich, spoiled heiress (see: Emma) to a department store scion, is faced with the unfortunate fact that her family’s store is leaking money like a BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Her grandfather brings in the cold, supercilious, enigmatic Rhys Gordon (see: Pride & Prejudice) to fix things. One of the things that must be fixed is Natalie herself; her spending habits are ridiculously silly and need rehabilitating.
Quicker than you can say “Netherfield Ball,” the two develop an interest in each other that extends beyond spreadsheets. We can see why she’s attracted to him, but Natalie is drawn as so flighty and self-involved that we cannot figure out why he’s attracted to her. He sort of explains it in one scene – she’s some kind of light blah blah blah – but it truly makes no sense.
In addition to their stories, there are a couple of subplots, one involving Rhys’ father. That one signs out with a thud. It’s sort of mysterious past – mysterious past – mysterious past – BOOM, over. We don’t even know why what happened happened. Katie Oliver completely misjudges this one, and it is to the detriment of the novel. (I blame her editor: surely someone saw how problematic this story line is.)
Another subplot involves the family of one of the senior managers of the store. Again, why? Why are these people cluttering up the tale? Is it to have the Wickham-esque story in there somewhere? At least George Wickham was entertaining. There is no entertainment in this story line at all. Much like Rhys’ father, we’re left scratching our heads, wondering why this is in there.
The third subplot, centered around the husband of one of Natalie’s friends, is equally as ridiculous. For one thing, it requires such a leap of faith to play along with what’s at play here, and we take it, just because we need to trust the writer. But it is so tidily resolved that we feel cheated.
The only worthy story, then, is the central one, between Natalie and Rhys. Where this goes wrong is in its attempt to mirror Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet’s character flaw is that she thinks she is always right – that her insight into other characters has no defects. As she discovers, time and again, how wrong she is, she has engendered enough sympathy in us that we want to pull her to us and comfort her. Natalie Dashwood, on the other hand, is so flighty and dingy that I kept hoping Rhys would tell her to stuff it.
As for Rhys, he is the most interesting character in the novel, which says a lot because he is woefully underwritten. The thing with his father? Please explain. And his brother? And his attraction to Natalie?
By about the 2/3 mark of this book, I started skimming. I had lost all interest in it, save for how Katie Oliver would wrap up her story. It wasn’t worth it.
There could be a good book here. That’s the bothersome part. With a stronger editor, this could be something better than it is.