Up until now, Anna Maxted’s novels have been firmly lumped in with the Bridget Jones/chick-lit category of women’s fiction. Although her earlier works sometimes tackled darker subjects, they did so in a way laced with plenty of humor and lighthearted romance. Now, with RICH AGAIN, Maxted takes her fiction in startling --- and surprisingly dark --- directions.
At the center of the novel is hotel magnate Jack Kent. Devastated by the untimely death of his first wife, Jack retreats from his adopted daughter, Claudia, and rejects his newly adopted son, Nathan, to a life of foster care. Convinced that he could never love again, Jack surprises himself when he falls head over heels in love with Innocence, a beautiful but ruthless young woman who is not exactly what she seems.
Innocence (née Sharon Marshall) has learned the ways of the upper crust from being their servants, all the way up to the Royal Family. She knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, and is utterly ruthless in her pursuit. After a whirlwind courtship with Jack, Innocence’s new marriage alternates between feeding her ego and her insecurity. She despises Claudia --- her reminder of Jack’s earlier life --- and plots to get control of some measure of Jack’s massive fortune. Meanwhile, Jack and Innocence’s daughter, Emily, raised amid a level of wealth beyond most people’s imaginings, seems to have inherited her mother’s acquisitiveness, longing not only for a fabulously glamorous lifestyle but also for a love affair with genuine nobility.
As an adult, Claudia has chosen a humbler path, including taking a job she doesn’t really need. Events in her childhood have made her skittish about sex, but she has found love. That is, until anonymous notes start delivering grim warnings about her fiancé.
After an acrimonious parting --- involving much of Jack’s wealth --- Innocence and Jack seem hell-bent on destroying each other. But unknown to everyone, someone else has been watching the family (and plotting against them) for years and has plans to strike fear and terror at the heart of the Kent family and fortune.
RICH AGAIN is a masterpiece of escapism, the kind of novel that simultaneously indulges readers’ desires to immerse themselves in the lives of the fabulously wealthy and reminds them that being rich isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Stretching from the 1960s through 2006, it drops names --- of designers, rock stars, actors and royalty --- with abandon. With its broad range of privileged characters and glamorous locales, and surprising (sometimes bizarrely so) interconnections among them, the novel might remind some readers of the work of Penny Vincenzi, except with more (and hotter) sex scenes. With its chilling and often disturbingly violent portrayal of a psychopath, it is also reminiscent of psychological suspense novels by authors like Ruth Rendell.
Delicious, dark, and more than a little naughty, RICH AGAIN is a bit like that piece of exquisite dark chocolate you savor both for its richness and its bitter undertones.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 23, 2011
- Publication Date: December 22, 2009
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
- ISBN-10: 0312570287
- ISBN-13: 9780312570286