Devil in the Junior League

( 58 )

Overview

Former Junior Leaguer Linda Francis Lee has crafted a scandalously delicious novel that takes you deep into the heart of Texas blue-blood society.

The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, is très exclusive. Undesirables need not apply. Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware (Frede to her friends) is a member beyond reproach...until her life begins to unravel. When her husband betrays her, steals her money, and runs off to places unknown, it's something Frede would prefer to ...

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Overview

Former Junior Leaguer Linda Francis Lee has crafted a scandalously delicious novel that takes you deep into the heart of Texas blue-blood society.

The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, is très exclusive. Undesirables need not apply. Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware (Frede to her friends) is a member beyond reproach...until her life begins to unravel. When her husband betrays her, steals her money, and runs off to places unknown, it's something Frede would prefer to keep under wraps. The last thing she needs is to become fodder for the JLWC gossip mill. And to make matters worse, there's only one person in town who stands a chance at helping her get revenge—Howard Grout, a tasteless, gold-chain-wearing lawyer who has bought his way into Frede's tony neighborhood. But there's a price: She has to get his tacky, four-inch-stiletto-and-pink-spandex-wearing wife, Nikki, into the Junior League.

The crème de la crème of Southern royalty should sit up and take notice, and hang on tight for this irresistible tale of getting in and getting even.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An antidote to run-of-the-mill chick lit, Linda Francis Lee's novel gives a hilarious inside look at the world of backstabbing Texas socialites." -Marie Claire magazine

"Not even the requisite happy ending can blunt Lee's deliciously sharp jabs at Texas blue bloods." -Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-)

"Lee's details about how the blue-blood women dress, talk, decorate, entertain and conduct themselves… keep the pages turning." -USA Today

"Fresh and funny, original and outrageous, this novel is fabulous from start to finish." -Kristin Hannah, author of Magic Hour

"I giggled out loud at this wickedly funny peek into the back-stabbing socialite-eat-socialite world of the rich and catty." -Karen Quinn, author of The Ivy Chronicles

"[A] witty and provocative look at the lives of Texas high-society bluebloods." -El Paso Times

"Super-smart and fun" -Glamour

Publishers Weekly
Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware ("Frede" to her friends) is a 28-year-old extremely moneyed member of the "tr s exclusive" Junior League of Willow Creek, Tex., and lives her life according to unwritten club rules about fashion and etiquette. So when her husband, Gordon, has an affair, steals her family money and flees the country, Frede wants to keep the disaster quiet to maintain her elite status. The only person in town she can turn to is her tactless neighbor, Howard Grout, who agrees to be her lawyer if Frede gets his wife, Nikki, who is far from a charming Southern belle, into the Junior League. As Frede sands down Nikki's gaudy edges, she learns a few simple lessons about life (paramount among them is that money doesn't buy love and happiness). Howard, meanwhile, proves to be a formidable attorney and follows Gordon's money trail all the way to a satisfyingly vengeful ending. Lee (Simply Sexy; Sinfully Sexy), a former debutante, certainly knows her material, though it's hard to muster much sympathy for an airy narrator who lives and dies by the shallow strictures of Texas society, maddeningly refers to herself as "moi" and prefers to spell, but not say, m-o-n-e-y. 100,000 announced first printing. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When Junior Leaguer Fredericka "Frede" Ware's perfect husband steals her money and hightails it out of Willow Creek, TX, with his mistress, she is desperate to keep up appearances and not let anyone in her circle know. She feels she has no choice but to hire her neighbor-the gaudy but ruthless lawyer Howard Grout-to find her wayward hubby and get her money back. He agrees, but there's a catch: Frede must get Howard's unrefined wife, Nikki, into the Junior League! Frede agrees to play Henry Higgins to Nikki's Eliza Doolittle but has her work cut out for her. Nikki curses, favors tight clothes and stiletto heels, doesn't like beige, and wears diamonds before 6 p.m., among many other high-societal infractions. Despite Frede's haughtiness, she is an endearing character who is just a product of her environment, as is the genuine and likable Nikki. Readers who enjoyed Mary Kay Andrews's Savannah Breeze will also enjoy this hilarious tale of another bilked woman who will do whatever it takes to recover what is rightfully hers. Movie rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 Pictures for a 2008 release. Recommended for all public libraries.-Samantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Southern belle wronged by duplicitous husband seeks revenge. Speak softly and carry a large diamond seems to be the motto of narrator Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware. Known as Frede (pronounced Freddy) to her fellow Junior Leaguers, this lady-of-leisure's special gift is her ability to put together a stunning ensemble for any event. A bigger challenge than matching shoes to handbags, though, is tossed Frede's way when her husband steals her money and marries another woman. Our desperate heroine seeks assistance from her loudmouthed neighbor, an ill-bred but tenacious lawyer who's willing to take the case for free. Of course, there's a catch. In return for his help, Frede must secure a spot in the local Junior League for the lawyer's tacky wife, Nikki, who turns out to be an old school chum. Back in high school, Frede had ditched Nikki because she wore the wrong clothes and came from a poor family. Now it's the Junior Leaguer's turn to feel what it's like to be ostracized and penniless. Primary among the story's many problems is Frede's selfishness and unlikable nature, expressed in antiseptic language that leaves readers cold. Some may put the book aside before imperious Frede is given the chance to atone; the author simply waits too long to start her protagonist down the path toward redemption. Lee does provide a few intriguing ancillary characters among the wacky League ladies, but that's about it for the plus side. The prose is stilted, and Frede's habit of tossing in freshman-year French is annoying, though not as bad as her tiresome affectation of spelling out words Leaguers find vulgar ("m-o-n-e-y"). Numbered lists of character motivations match the plot in their obviousness.Lee, who's churned out more than a dozen mass-market romances, seems to have run out of fresh ideas. A barren highway with few diverting pit stops. First printing of 100,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312354978
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 419,453
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Francis Lee is a native Texan who now lives in New York City with her husband. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University, a former Texas Debutante, and once competed for the Maid of Cotton crown. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) After serving on a very real New Projects committee, she became a seriously seasoned Junior Leaguer. She is the author of several romance novels, which have been nominated for numerous awards, including the prestigious RITA.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, is très exclusive, one of the oldest and most elite women's societies in the country. And we work hard to keep it that way. Outsiders need not apply.

I know it sounds terrible. But really, if I don't explain everything exactly, in all its unvarnished truth, how will you ever understand how it was possible that I got myself into what I now call the "unfortunate situation" and how all the gossip about moi got started.

So yes, it's true that we at the Junior League of Willow Creek are all about being made up of the crème de la crème of society. Do you believe the richest of the rich in Texas would donate money, weeks on their sprawling ranches, or lunches in their elegant mansions to just anyone? I think not. And how do you think we raise all those bundles of money that we turn around and give away to the needy?

From the above-mentioned rich.

I am Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware, and despite the antiquated sound of my name, I'm only twenty-eight years old. My friends call me Frede—pronounced Freddy. My husband calls me "Fred."

I like to think of the collective members of the JLWC as a sort of female Robin Hood (though better dressed since, God knows, not one of us would be caught dead in tights) who cajoles money out of her rich husband and indirectly out of his rich company as she lies in bed at night rubbing her perfectly manicured toes up against his leg.

It goes something like this:

Laying the groundwork.

"Sweetie, if Basco, Branden, and Battle donates a trip on their private jet for the League's Christmas Fair Silent Auction, whisking the lucky winner away to Aspen for a week of skiing, I'm sure it would be one of the top money earners, if not the top earner at the Fair."

Framing the competition.

"Of course you heard, didn't you, that Robert Melman has offered up his company yacht for a Caribbean cruise? Mindy Melman, bless her heart, gloated all through the last General Meeting when she got to announce the news."

Closing the deal.

"You know it's tax deductible, sugar. And after Basco got in that tiny little tiff with the State Bar Ethics Committee last month, I'm certain if the firm donates to a charity of our stature it will certainly give Basco a big gold star. Besides, you remember, don't you, that the Ethics Committee chairman is Jim Wyman, Cecelia Wyman's husband?"

Sex follows some of the time, though the donation is guaranteed.

To be completely honest, not every member is married, and certainly not every member of the JLWC is fabulously wealthy. Mind you, no one is headed for the poorhouse—well, maybe a few are who invested badly, pretended they had more than they did, or got tangled up with nasty habits that cost beaucoup amounts of m-o-n-e-y to support. And really, who wants that sort of member anyway, so the sooner they get to the poorhouse and can't pay their dues, the better. Why prolong their misery, I say.

I know, I sound even worse than terrible now, but truly, it's the charitable thing to do to give a gentle nudge out the door so they don't keep spending what they no longer have in an ill-fated attempt to save face.

As I mentioned, the JLWC is made up of the crème de la crème of Willow Creek society, no question, but within the League, there are different tiers.

Tier One: Wealthy members with socially prominent names, which trumps . . .

Tier Two: Members with socially prominent names but no significant wealth, which trumps . . .

Tier Three: Members with m-o-n-e-y but no name.

To secure a place at any level in the JLWC, a woman's reputation must be beyond reproach, she must gain the full endorsement of six members in good standing who have known her for a minimum of five years—be they active members or "retired" members called "sustainers"—and pass the interview process with the membership committee. It's not so unlike the president of the United States trying to get an appointee approved by Congress.

You are probably wondering where I fit into this caste system. It just so happens that I'm one of the few members with my own wealth and my own good name, which is how I get away with having a j-o-b and no one blinks an eye.

Yes, a job.

You see I own an amazing art gallery with a full-time staff that thankfully does most of the work. I provide the good taste and the (endless stream of) funding. I feel it's my duty to support poor starving artists (as long as their art is fabulously chic and never tacky), plus the write-off makes my husband and accountant beyond happy.

To put me in an even higher stratum, my husband is Gordon Ware, the youngest son of the Milburn Smythe Ware family. You may have heard of him.

The Wares have a fine old Texas name, even if they no longer have the fine old Texas wealth their patriarch gained when he struck black gold in his backyard at the turn of the last century. Sometimes I think Gordon has never gotten over this, and if everyone didn't say that I was the most beautiful woman in Willow Creek—which isn't entirely true since Anne Watson is a former Miss Texas . . . though she is in her thirties now—I would fear my husband married me for my bank account.

Even though the wealth is mine, Gordon manages it, which means I still do the toe dance to convince him that "our money," as he now calls it, is put to good use.

Not that anyone I know ever discusses the toe dance. How could we since we at the JLWC never talk about sex. Instead, my friends and I talk about the usual:

1. Their kids because their husbands never listen

2. Trends in hair, clothes, and household staff

3. Who is losing or has lost their m-o-n-e-y

We have a few other topics that we discuss regularly, which need a bit more explanation:

1. Anna—the type of anorexic woman who swears she eats everything in sight, but darn it all, just can't gain weight. I say it would help if she stopped sticking her finger down her throat so she can maintain her size-four figure.

2. Blue Light Special—having nothing to do with Kmart. In this case, BLS would be those unfortunate souls who bleach their teeth so white they look blue. This sort of woman is usually seen with a cup of coffee in her hand at all times, only drinks red wine, and more often than not comes from places like California.

3. BJ—stands for "breast job," not "blow job," since Junior Leaguers really aren't the blow job sorts. Too messy.

4. Jolie—fake lips.

5. NC—a person with No Class, pronounced Nancy. Using it in a sentence would go something like this: "There's a Nancy with a Blue Light Special, a really bad BJ, and Jolies the size of inner tubes."

Next comes our favorite topic, Categories of Men. There are three varieties:

1. Rich, good-looking men—otherwise known as "Pay Dirt," because just about every rich man in Texas has made his money from oil, land, or cattle

2. Poor, good-looking men—commonly referred to as "A Shame"—for the waste of good looks

3. Poor ugly men—well, frankly, why bother giving them a name

I can just hear all those feminists in the blue states having a fit over the things we talk about, not to mention the modus operandi of using our wiles to get donations from our husbands. As it turns out, it was some of those feminist types who threw very public fits, forcing the Junior League's national office to establish democratic guidelines for admission.

Texas has not succumbed, with varying degrees of success, and still fights against weakening our exclusive ramparts just as our ancestors fought against the Spanish, the French, and eventually the Union Army. In the Lone Star State it is still easier to gain entrance to the Governor's Mansion than it is to gain membership to the Junior League of Willow Creek.

Now, rest assured, the Junior Leagues in Texas, and even the JLWC, have complied to the letter of the new law by removing the age-old blackballing process, and applying "democratic" standards for admission. Perhaps those standards are a tad on the high side (see above) and only the most prominent women in town can meet them. However, if standards are met, she's in. I swear.

It's all very democratic. How can we be blamed if a woman hasn't known six JLWC members for a minimum of five years who would be willing to put their reputations on the line to get her in?

I've ruffled feathers, I know. But really, I had to give you a little background so you can fully appreciate how the Junior League of Willow Creek works and how the "unfortunate situation" got started.

What amazes me is that on the day my life went awry, I woke up in the most fabu mood. I got out of bed early and all of the sudden I realized I felt queasy. Sick! Me!

Excited, I dashed to my marble bathroom—a luscious room that I dare say is bigger than most every home on the wrong side of the Willow Creek railroad tracks—leaned over the commode and managed to gag a time or two. Okay, I didn't actually get sick, but it was close and I was elated. Morning sickness!

As further proof of my delicate condition, my always flat stomach was puffy—from pregnancy, I was certain, not from the five pieces of double chocolate fudge cake I'd had the night before due to serious depression over my lack of petit Fredericks or petite Frederickas.

I didn't need any other proof. After six long years of trying, six long years of, first, spontaneous sex, then charted sex, followed by every sort of fertility treatment known to man, I was pregnant. The toe dance had finally worked for more than a donation.

Which was why I was distracted that day at JLWC headquarters when I was attending the New Projects Committee meeting. Only the executive members of the committee were in attendance that day as we tried to determine which new project we should select for the coming fiscal year. I'm not sure I could have taken the entire group of eight and their gossip disguised as important news. While I'm all for gossip, it can make meetings drag on for ages, and that day—chop, chop—I was in a hurry.

"Frede, how many applications for funding have we received?"

This from Pilar Bass, head of our committee.

I had known Pilar most of my life. In first grade she and I started a little group of best friends. We swore we would be friends to the end. But schoolgirl promises have little to do with reality—at least that was what Pilar said, a realist, I realize now, even back then at the ripe old age of six.

As it turned out, she was right. She and our devoted little group fell apart our sophomore year of high school. Every time we see each other now we pretend we didn't spend every Friday night sleeping over at each other's houses, freezing each other's training bras, sharing secrets and clothes, or pricking fingers to become lifelong blood sisters.

In high school Pilar was voted Best New Debater. I was voted Most Beautiful. By the end of our tenure at Willow Creek High, she was president of the Debate Team, I our Homecoming Queen. After high school, she made the mistake of going up north to college, then took a job in New York City. By the time she returned to Texas they had managed to take quite a bit of the Texas out of the girl.

She came back to town wearing boxy black clothes and glasses. Out with the contact lenses, in with the horn-rimmed, thick-framed spectacles that . . . well . . . by Texas beauty standards turned her into a spectacle. And the hair. Does anyone in New York really think all that flat hair is attractive?

But I digress.

As an adult, Pilar had become an ambitious Leaguer, approaching every issue like a savage corporate warrior and trying everyone's last nerve. She had forgotten that it was possible, and decidedly more desirable, to wrap one's true feelings up in "bless your hearts" and "aren't you sweets." She'd forgotten that ferreting out true meaning from words swathed in smiles was an art form—Texas girls learning the skill just like they learned the waltz for their debutante balls. She had become direct, forgetting the rules of acceptable behavior that were learned like secret handshakes, passed down from generation to generation.

Now, don't misunderstand, it's not that Texas women don't have opinions or share them. We do. It's just that we wrap them up in honey and smiles and hugs until a sharp rebuke can feel like a compliment, the true meaning not sinking in until later, hitting like a left hook to the jaw. As the saying goes, a Texas woman can tell you to go to hell, and make you think you're going to enjoy the trip.

"Frede, are you listening?" Pilar asked, her tone grating, her perfectly straight, blunt-cut black hair swinging militantly across her shoulders.

No didn't seem like the perfect answer. (See above reference to rules on acceptable communication.) Besides, truly I was distracted. While I was certain I was pregnant I had no official confirmation. The second I could slip away from the meeting I would, skipping the practically required after-meeting lunch at Brightlee, the Junior League tearoom. Everyone would expect me to be there for the rest of the afternoon. By leaving early, I would be free of interference, phone calls, or demands on my attention. I could go home to use the Clear Blue pregnancy test I'd picked up at the drugstore on my way to the meeting.

Not willing to share any of that, I scrambled around in my brain for some snippets of the conversation that might have sunk in.

Pilar sighed. "I asked how many applications for new projects we've received."

"Oh, yes, of course." I adjusted the cream-colored cashmere sweater that draped elegantly across my shoulders, then pulled out my personalized frede ware notepad and scanned it. "We've received twenty applications, only sixteen of which included a detailed proposal. When it was all said and done, I narrowed the running down to five."

An ominous moment of silence passed.

"You narrowed it down?"

Her tone was imperious and the other girls of the New Projects Executive Committee came to attention then pressed back in their straight-backed chairs. Gathering myself, I glanced from face to face of our little group. There was Lizabeth Mortimer, who was thirty-two if she was a day, though she swore to anyone who would listen that she was twenty-eight. Unfortunately for her, she had been a senior at Willow Creek High School when I was a freshman, and I knew for a fact she wasn't twenty-anything. But the thing was, she had been dating that cute Ramsey boy who was only twenty-six, and really, what woman wants to be older than her beau. That is, unless she's forty and catches a twenty-six-year-old, in which case I say, Brava!

The other woman present, besides yours truly, Pilar, and Lizabeth, was Gwen Hansen. Actually it was Gwendolyn Moore-Bentley-Baker-Hansen. She'd been married and divorced three times, was approaching forty and the Sustainer years, when members of the JLWC are forced from an active role to one that is more supervisory. We all knew she had slept her way through Willow Creek and never would have gotten into the JLWC if she hadn't already been a member when she decided to turn sex into a sport. Just as with those Supreme Court Justices, it's très difficile to get a woman out once she's in, short of having her head for the poorhouse.

Unfortunately for the JLWC, Gwen had more money than even moi, so we had resorted to trying to get her married for a fourth time in hopes that she would settle down.

As to Pilar and her ominous glare, she didn't make me nervous. What was she going to do? Kick me out? Me, Frede Ware?

She might be ambitious, but everyone who was anyone knew that I would no doubt follow in my own mother's footsteps and one day become president of the Junior League.

I smiled at her with the patience of a saint. "Pilar, sugar, if you want to take the applications and go through them yourself, fine by me." I retrieved the Louis Vuitton messenger bag I had bought especially for this committee, and retrieved the stack of official forms and thick stacks of detailed proposals.

When I extended them to her, she sniffed. "Fine, we'll consider the five."

I swear I didn't gloat. I simply began my little talk with a graceful smile.

"Maurice Trudeaux's wife sent in a form requesting we start a sculpture garden around Maurice's work."

A heavy sigh of boredom shimmered through the group, and Lizabeth and Gwen resumed their glossed-over stares.

Maurice Trudeaux might be one of Texas's finest sculptors, having trained in Europe, but he was short and not particularly blessed in the looks department. It didn't matter that Trudeaux's Pietà was one of the most exquisite, and had been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At least, it didn't matter to the other members of the committee. I, on the other hand, cared a great deal, and as president and owner of Hildebrand Galleries (not to mention with my degree in art history from Willow Creek University), I felt it my duty to give opinions on all things art related.

"His work is simply perfection. A true Texas gift. His wife says we could get the garden started with a hundred thousand dollars and ten to twelve volunteers."

Pilar was scribbling as fast as she could on her own (boring spiral) notepad.

"Next on the list," I went on, "is a horse camp for autistic children. Ten thousand. While I love the idea of helping autistic children, I don't think we could get the twenty volunteers needed to staff it from within our membership. All that mucking out of stalls."

The women murmured their agreement.

"Project number three is an after-school tutoring program for underprivileged children in South Willow Creek which needs thirty thousand and eight volunteers.

"Number four is a physical fitness program for a senior citizens' community that needs sixty thousand and ten volunteers.

"Lastly, we have a request for two fabulous, brand-new neonatal machines for St. Bethany Hospital, and five volunteers. Each machine costs a hundred thousand dollars. It fits our profile best, plus, Margaret James has been hounding me every day since she's the one who is ringleading the project. If the League agrees to the proposal, she and her husband will match our funds."

At the mention of Margaret's name, the not-so-young-but-sweet Lizabeth stifled a laugh (barely), Pilar pressed her lips closed in distaste, and our very own Gets-around Gwen got a superior look in her eye. Margaret's reputation was worse than Gwen's, though it had nothing to do with sexcapades. Also unlike Gwen, Margaret was bending over backward to redeem her sullied reputation after her husband had gotten crossways with the law.

Fortunately, all had been straightened out and he had gotten little more than a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, he had done the most NC sort of thing by hiring the infamously vulgar attorney Howard Grout. I had never seen the lawyer and I hoped I never would, but I heard he was the worst sort of hound dog, was said to be wild, wore gold chains and tasteless clothes, and had beaucoup amounts of new m-o-n-e-y. In short, he was the worst sort of cliché.

He was also my neighbor.

I lived in The Willows of Willow Creek, an exclusive gated community. About two years earlier, Howard and his flashy wife bought the old DuPont place next to mine, which was bad enough. But then they immediately tore it down and proceeded to build the most disreputable foreign-looking, palacelike structure, which had outraged the neighborhood.

"Enough, ladies," Pilar said, breaking into the gossip that had erupted in our ranks. "While I think all the projects are worthy of attention, each one is similar to something we are already doing. Frede, I want to go over the entire group of applications, after all. In fact," she added, with not a little smugness, "I have an idea of my own that I think we should pursue."

Lizabeth and Gwen sucked in their breaths. I went very still as Pilar considered me through her horn-rimmed glasses, but I wasn't about to be undone by a blue-state convert. I simply smiled and handed over the stack.

"You are so completely right, sugar. You should go through the files." I gave Pilar a sympathetic look. "I'm sure you have plenty of time to do your work and mine too. And no doubt you have a fabulous idea."

Or not. Everyone knew that Pilar was not an idea woman.

I stood and blew kisses all around. "Ciao, girls. I have to dash."

"What about lunch?" Lizabeth asked, recovering from her shock.

"Sorry, sugar. I have some unexpected business to take care of."

I made my escape and my heart beat in time with the click of my Manolo flats (stilettos are très NC and no one would be caught dead wearing them to a committee meeting) as I hurried across the parking lot to my white S Class Mercedes. Soon I would be getting my very own mommy car, a top-of-the-line Chevrolet Suburban, so I could careen through the streets with my progeny chatting amiably to one another in the backseat as I chauffeured them from one activity to the next. At least on the nanny's day off.

The nearly spring Texas weather was glorious, not yet hot and no rain, the sky wide open and clear. I turned the ignition and headed for The Willows feeling gloriously optimistic with visions of polite, exceedingly well-behaved little children dancing in my head. My emerald-cut pink diamond ring flashed in the sun, the Clear Blue pregnancy kit sitting in its plastic bag on the seat next to me, as I hurried away. Without braking at the intersection that led out of headquarters, I waved at Blake, the policeman who regularly patrolled the area, and smiled at him when he shook his head at me for running the Stop sign.

I raced through the curving, narrow, tree-lined streets of Willow Creek, driving past Willow Creek Square and the quaint shops, the courthouse in all its sandstone and Doric-columned glory, then the university campus and the college students whom I told myself I couldn't run over.

Minutes later, I pulled up to the guard station at The Willows.

I sat patiently as I waited for the guard to swing the electric gate open. Oddly, the man just stared at me while his mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.

I buzzed down my window. "Juan, sweetie." (I'm always sweet as pie to service personnel.) "I'm in a hurry. Please open the gate."

"But, but . . ." The buts trailed off and he said something that sounded like "Madre mía," before he pressed the button.

I didn't ask questions or give it much thought as I flew up the cobbled length of Blue Willow Lane to my sprawling mansion and the bathroom so I could pee on the stick.

I pulled into the driveway lined with neatly trimmed shrubbery, then bypassed the long brick path that would have taken me back to the garage. I veered right, curving around as I headed for the front door. The minute I crested the ridge (the satisfying sight of my whitewashed, red-brick, formal Georgian home coming into view) I saw a faded brown car of indeterminate origins that I had never seen before.

My live-in maid used a cute-as-a-button Ford Focus we had purchased for her—plus, Wednesday was her day off.

The gardener drove a truck.

Gordon played golf at the Willow Creek Country Club on Wednesdays.

Which meant the drive should have been empty.

My heartbeat sped up in a way that I rarely felt, and to make it worse, there was a foreign urgency mixed in that made the world shift into slow motion. Call me a drama queen, but that was really how it felt, fast and slow at the same time in a way that I didn't like at all.

With a calm I had perfected over the years, I parked nose to nose with the unfortunate vehicle. Pulling out my house keys, I had the sudden vision of myself opening the door and stepping into the two-story foyer, then heading up the long, curving staircase to Gordon's and my bedroom. I had a sinking feeling I knew what I would find. But when I pushed into the house, it was to voices and hysteria.

Two women were there. My maid, Nina (dressed in street clothes rather than her uniform, a 1950s-era handbag swinging on her wrist), and a strange woman, whom, like the car, I had never seen before.

It took a second for the occupants to notice I was there. When they did, silence reigned for one blissful moment before Nina started carrying on in Spanish. I only made out bits and pieces, but it was enough to understand that my maid had forgotten her grandson's birthday present, had returned to get it, found this . . . this . . . woman in the cheap department-store suit, and I should call the police because the woman wouldn't leave.

I can't tell you the relief I felt. You probably guessed what I had thought—that Gordon was upstairs having an affair with another woman, in our house, in our bed, on my nine-hundred-ninety-thread-count French sheets. But this mousy plain Jane could not be a mistress, at least not my husband's mistress.

"Nina, sugar, calm down."

I walked over to the stranger with all my elegant grace, then I extended my hand.

"I'm Fredericka Ware. Can I help you?"

The mouse stood up from the mahogany bench with its damask seat cushion where she had planted herself, and didn't offer her hand. For the life of me, I couldn't imagine what she wanted as she stared at me defiantly, especially since I could see she was shaking.

"My name is Janet Lambert," she said, "and I am pregnant with your husband's child."

Copyright © 2006 by Linda Francis Lee. All rights reserved.

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Reading Group Guide

The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, is tres exclusive. Undesirables need not apply. Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware (Frede to her friends) is a member beyond reproach...until her life begins to unravel. When her husband betrays her, steals her money, and runs off to places unknown, it's something Frede would rather keep under wraps. The last thing she needs is to become fodder for the JLWC gossip mill. And to make matters worse, there's only one person in town who stands a chance at helping her get revenge: Howard Grout, a tasteless, gold-chain-wearing lawyer who has bought his way into Frede's tony neighborhood. But htere's a price: She has to get his tacky, four-inch-stiletto-and-pink-spandex-wearing wife Nikki into the Junior League.

 

Linda Francis Lee has written an hysterical novel about the cremem de la creme of Texas society, the lengths to which one woman goes to bring her cheating husband to justice, and how taking on what seems like a "Mission Impossible" can change you in ways you could never have imagined.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 58 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2006

    Return to writing historical romances

    Linda Francis Lee needs to return to writing historical romance. She excelled in that area and my books became keepers. This book is not a keeper. There were really no likeable characters. The heroine is self absorbed. I got tired of the French especially moi, fabu, and verra. I could not relate to these people and had no emotional ties or really cared about them. The average reader will not be a junior leaguer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2006

    Smart and funny

    I loved this book. Reading about the very proper Frede Ware trying to teach the spandex and feather-wearing Nikki how to fit in and be a lady was truly funny, but also touching to watch their friendship grow. And Howard Grout is priceless. All around, a great read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2006

    Boring!!!

    This was my first and last book by this author. The story repeats it's self to many times. Goes on and on about not much. Save your time and money and skip it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2006

    Loved this book!

    This is Lee's best! I couldn't put it down! I was laughing out loud because, not only does she hit the mark with so many of the characters, but she tells a great story. Frede is a hoot, Nikki is a riot, and Nina had me laughing to the point of tears. I hope Lee follows up with a sequel. If you want something fun and clever, this is the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Funny Read.

    I thought this book was a great way to spend a few hours. Seeing the way that Frede and Howard brought Gordon down and then watching Gordon squirm when Frede finally bested him totally made up for all of the times that Frede's Southern lady crap popped up. The whole Pilar thing caught me by surprise but I'm glad that things ended the way that it did.

    The ending was a lot different from what I'm used to but I didn't exactly hate it. I enjoyed the book overall and was surprised by how funny it was. I enjoyed the little adventures that Frede went on while trying to whip Nikki into a gentle lady. But my favorite part of this book was most definitely Nina. She flat out rocked!

    If you haven't read this book and you enjoy chick lit type romances then I would definitely recommend this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    Twenty-eight years old wealthy Fredericka ¿Frede¿ Mercedes Hildebrand Ware belongs to the chic exclusive Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas. Frede adheres strictly to the rules of behavior so she dresses in an acceptably fashion and behaves accordingly avoiding scandal at all cost. When her husband Gordon has an affair, she ignores it as long as the tryst remains covert when he absconds with her family money, fleeing the country, Frede keeps silent because status is everything.------------------ She turns to her neighbor attorney Howard Grout, who would never make it as a club member, for assistance though he is uncouth he can be trusted to keep quiet. However, the legal fee may be too high for ¿Queen¿ snob Frede Howard wants her royal Frede to gain membership admittance for his wife Nikki to the Junior League of Willow Creek though the woman is a garish outsider. Reluctantly Frede agrees, but first works on toning down the tawdry lawyer¿s wife to make her less unacceptable while Howard follows Gordon¿s money trail.---------------------- Frede is obnoxious and has her values so engrained in image that she comes across as a cold egotistical person and that leads to fans cheering Gordon for splitting her spelling out words and broken French 101 add to the reader¿s dislike of her. Still the other Junior Leaguers add eccentricity and the relationship between Frede and Nikki, which goes back to high school, is fun to follow as both begin to understand wearing the other¿s shoes. Fans of Linda Francis Lee will enjoy this lighthearted romp narrated by a protagonist who most will agree deserves the Grout treatment.----------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    Quick witty read

    Love these charicters, so texas bless your heart.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2012

    This was just a fun book

    The author has created an over-the-top heroine, Frederika, who is so full of herself that she could be completely obnoxious. But Ms Lee keeps her under control with a series of life changing events which are greeted by Frede with a combination of denial, desire for revenge and attitude. You'd like to not like Frede but watching her change is fun. And so is the book! Not my usual read but what a great change.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    Fun

    Fresh, funny, and orginal. Linda Francis Lee creates a winning world of Southern Charm. This book is adorable and I highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 11, 2011

    I loved this book. Read it 2 times

    I just re-red this book and liked it better the 2nd time around. I liked the character Frede (a SMART southern bell) and all her friends. I highly recommend this book

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    Just plain fun!

    This book will never become a classic, nor will it ever be a literary hit. But I had fun reading it. People looked at me crazy when I would break out laughing while reading it. It took the stereo type for the young rich (old money, of course) texas lady, and stetched and twisted it until it was just plain hilarious!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Great book...

    Lots of good characters, good laughs! Highly recommended!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    Love It

    I have actually read thid book twice. It's a great read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Once you get into it...............

    I purchased this novel on sale and did enjoy reading it.
    Overall, a light and fun book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2007

    Clever

    This book had my attention from start to finish. The struggles Frede (the main character) goes through are outrageous, but not so much that they aren't believable. It really makes you think of what you would do in her situation. And no matter how hard things seem to get for her, the author balances things out with just enough humor. I really liked how you got to see the backgrounds of the characters as well, so you know where they are coming from. They make themselves self explanatory. I would reccomend this book. It kept me laughing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2007

    Great! Loved It!

    This book was great, entertaining, and funny. It does not necessarily reflect the Junior League of today, at least in my city, but is funny in its satire of the organization.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    LOVED IT!

    This book had my hooked from the first page. It was filled with surprises and self discovery as well as humor. I really enjoyed this book and highly recomend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    Fun, Sassy, Sensitive and Full of Southern Charm

    I'm so glad that Linda Francis Lee is back writing. She¿s a genius in telling the tale of The Devil and the Junior League. if you love 'he¿s done me wrong', took my money, is having an affair, plus my high society reputation is at stake, then you've got to read this book. It's Dallas and Desperate Housewives and more....it's sassy, sensitive and at times sad. The story takes place in a small Texas town where you're no one if you're not in the crème of high society and a member of the Jr. League. All Hell busts loose when the once beauty and homecoming queen, and high society Frede's finds that husband had an affair, runs off with all of her money and her reputation is at stake. She hires the loud, bawdy lawyer next door to find her husband and represent her. His fee is to get his 'tacky' wife who wears animal print and spandex into the Jr. League. Besides being a good read, there are lots of life's lessons to ponder. I highly recommend this book for women of all ages. I can actually picture this book being made into a movie and I can see Reese Witherspoon in the role of Frede.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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