Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With protagonists more pained than passionate, Spindler's narrative (Heaven Sent, A Winter's Rose) spins a Cinderella story of Becky Lynn Lee, who rises from the ``wrong side of the tracks'' in Mississippi to the pinnacle of Los Angeles's modeling world. Fascinated by fashion and desperate to leave her family's abusive, alcoholic home, 17-year-old Becky Lynn is thrilled when L.A. photographer Jack Gallagher hires her to be his assistant. Jack soon finds Becky Lynn both professionally indispensable and personally irresistible. But Jack is driven by a need to best his father, a famous Italian fashion photographer who has refused to acknowledge him, and succumbs to the lure of designer Garnet McCall. Shattered, Becky Lynn accepts an offer from Jack's hated half-brother, photographer Carlo Triani, to transform her into a star model. Reinvented as Valentine, Becky Lynn reaches the apex of model stardom but continues to be plagued by the psychological aftermath of abuse as she comes to care for Carlo, who is wrestling his own dark demons. While characters are sketched with depth and complexity, Spindler's workmanlike precision lacks the lusciousness readers will expect. (July)
Read an Excerpt
Bend, Mississippi 1984
No place in the world smelled quite like the Mississippi Delta in July. Overripe, like fruit left too long in the sun. Pungent, like a drunk's breath at the edge of a whiskey binge. Like sweat.
And it smelled of dirt. Sometimes so dry it coated the mouth and throat, but most times so wet it permeated everything, even the skin. Becky Lynn Lee lifted her hair off the back of her neck, sticky with a combination of perspiration and dust from the unpaved road. Most folks around Bend didn't think much about the smell of things, but she did. She fantasized about a place scented of exotic flowers and rare perfumes, a beautiful world populated by people wearing fine, silky fabrics and welcoming smiles.
She knew that place existed; she'd seen it in the magazines she poured over whenever she could, the ones the women at Opal's snickered at her interest in, the ones her father raged at her about.
None of that mattered. She had promised herself that someday, somehow, she would live in that world.
Becky Lynn picked her way across the railroad tracks used not only to ship rice, cotton and soybeans out of Bend, but to divide the good side of town from the bad, the respectable folk from the poor white trash.
She was poor white trash. The label had hurt, way back the first time she'd heard herself referred to by those words; it still hurt, when she thought about it. And she thought about it a lot. That's the kind of town Bend was.
Becky Lynn lifted her face to the flat blue sky, squinting against the harsh light, wishing for cloud cover to temper the heat. Poor white trash. Becky Lynn had been three the first time she'd realized she was different, that she and her family were less than; she still remembered the moment vividly. It had been a day like this one, hot and blue. She'd been standing in line at the market with her mother and her brother, Randy. Becky Lynn remembered clinging to her brother's hand and looking down at her feet, bare and dirty from their walk into town, then lifting her gaze to find the other mothers' eyes upon them, their stares filled with a combination of pity and loathing. In that moment, she'd realized that there were others in the world and that they judged. She had felt strange, self-conscious. For the first time inher young life, she'd felt vulnerable. She had wanted to hide behind her mother's legs, had wanted her mother to tell the other women to stop looking at them that way.
Becky Lynn supposed that had been back before her daddy had turned really mean, back when she still thought her mother to be an angel with magical, protective powers.
But maybe she had already realized that her mother wasn't an angel, that her mother didn't have the ability or the strengthto make everything all right, because she hadn't said anything. And the women had kept staring, and Becky Lynn had kept on feeling as if she had done something wrong, something ugly and bad.
Most times now, the respectable folks, even the customers she shampooed down at Opal's Cut 'n Curl, looked right through her. Oh, while she shampooed them they talked to her, but mostly because they liked to hear the sound of themselves and because they knew she was paid to listen and agree with themsomething their husbands almost never did. But when they came face-to-face with her on the street, they looked right through her. She wasn't sure if they pretended they didn't see her because she was one of Randall Lee's brood or if they truly didn't recognize her 'cause they'd never really looked at her in the first place.
But whichever, she'd decided being invisible suited her just fine. In fact, she preferred it that way. She felt less different when she was invisible. She felt
Becky Lynn took a deep breath as she cleared the railroad tracks. The air always seemed a bit sweeter this side of the tracks, the breeze a degree or two cooler. She stepped up her pace, hoping to get to the shop early enough to spend a few minutes looking over the Bazaar that had come the day before.