For readers of Elin Hilderbrand, Susannah Marren's A Palm Beach Wife is 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 shethe only one who knows just how far she has to fallnever suspects from which direction, or how many directions all at once, betrayal will come.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
SUSANNAH MARREN is the author of Between the Tides and the pseudonym for Susan Shapiro Barash. She lives in New York City and teaches gender studies in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College.
Susannah's list of books include Tripping the Prom Queen and Toxic Friends.
Read an Excerpt
The black-tie affair, to benefit animal activism, takes place in the Shelteere Museum. Chandeliers hang from the double-vaulted ceilings, illuminating the work of Hopper, Eakins, O'Keeffe. Coiffed and studied, women wear gowns glimmering in taffeta, satin, and jewel-encrusted silk, while men sport their mandatory tuxes. A sense of promise bounces around the salon. It's the first gala of the 2014/2015 season — anything is possible. No one has yet been excluded, shunned by a seating chart, or bewildered yet again at how clannish Palm Beach can be. Together, Faith and Edward Harrison whisk through the galleries, passages filled with guests — charmers, climbers, and interlopers.
"We should leave by ten," Edward says quietly to Faith.
"We've just gotten here," Faith says. Isn't he the one who likes to stay past midnight?
"Faith, Edward!" Neighbors, friends, and clients are gliding toward them.
Edward lifts his hand in a gallant wave. "By ten at the latest."
"Let's see how it goes." Faith smiles outwardly and waves along with her husband.
His hand is on her elbow in too tight a grip. Faith shakes her arm slightly for him to let go. Gamboling into the ballroom, she focuses on the festivities of the night ahead. What could be more critical than the kickoff Rose Ball for keeping count of exes and present wives, mistresses and lovers, stray friends? Who knows better the intricacies and hypocrisies than Faith, owner of Vintage Tales, the famed resale shop on Worth Avenue? Almost every woman at the Shelteere is a client — treated carefully and discreetly. "I make a living keeping women's secrets. I'm better than a shrink or a psychic," Faith likes to tell Edward.
The band plays "Moondance" by Van Morrison, selected when the charity wants to be less than stodgy, not quite adventurous. Together, Faith and Edward join those on the dance floor, Edward sidestepping as if it's a dance move, Faith slightly swaying to the lyrics, wishing she dared to twirl and dip toward the center. She lip-synchs her favorite lines, "A fantabulous night to make romance" ... Edward puts his mouth to her ear.
"Listen to me." He is edgy, his voice sotto voce.
Couples collide briefly — the Norrics, the Carltons, the Finleys — and pull away deftly. A spinning disco ball lights the room, and Faith notices dark and bright spots across the dancers' shoulders. The band shifts to sing "Bette Davis Eyes," ramps the sound up a few decibels. Suddenly Edward stops and slouches, morphing from tall to muffled, slightly spasmodic.
"Are you all right, Edward? I can't hear you." Faith poses in a wifely, majestic mode.
As he leans nearer, Edward's lips brush her jawline. "I said we have —" "Faith, at last," Mrs. A interrupts, leading her dashing young escort, supposedly Romanian, precariously close to the Harrisons. "You are impressive! How gorgeous you are."
Alicia Ainsworth, known only as Mrs. A, a ripened debutante, favors Faith. She takes in Faith's dress and jewels, upswept hair, and height in heels. Although Mrs. A might overlook one's social register or lack thereof, she is all about women at least five-seven and thin, mostly blondes (such as Faith), those who know paradise is a tricky game. "Perish the year-rounder," Mrs. A likes to say. "Anyone who lives north, west, or south might be in Palm Beach County but isn't in the same league as islanders." Mrs. A plays hard in season and leaves with her pack by May. It is she who taught Faith to divide her summers between Greenwich, Aspen, and the Hamptons. Occasionally Faith imagines what it would be like to have a mother such as Mrs. A, a taskmaster who believes that beauty and money are the criteria for friendship, love, and country club memberships.
To Mrs. A's left is her team of dowagers, women aged sixty or more. Faith calls them "the mighty" and secretly admires their tenacity. Short of a 104-degree fever, these women buy a ticket and fill the chairs.
As Mrs. A drifts off, Edward tugs Faith to his chest. "Faith, listen to me. ... We have no ..."
Faith gazes at him, hearing enough of what Edward is saying to wonder at how concerned he seems. "No" might mean no progress on the Maserati Quattroporte GTS that he is customizing. Or no time for next week's couples' golf tournament at Longreens. Or something more routine — no room left for more bougainvilleas meant to grace the front of the house.
"No what?" Faith speaks up against the cacophony of five hundred guests.
"No need for you to steal a husband," Priscilla, Faith's loyal client and former neighbor, comes close and announces. Priscilla's fiancé, Walter, hangs on to her. Shriveled and short, at the age of eighty-four Walter is a future husband on the wane, except for his great wealth and charity standing. Priscilla is part of a clique Faith labels "the aspirationals." In their mid-thirties to mid-forties, these women might be matriarchal in their own sphere, but rely on the men, husbands and fiancés, to provide "the life."
"Edward is devoted." Priscilla still speaks only to Faith. "And he looks good."
"Usually," Faith says. She admires his thick head of hair, which is neither transplanted nor yet gray, how he moves — toned and fit. At the moment he is squinting his sky-blue eyes. Perhaps looking for someone, perhaps toward the door.
Other women would not have stuck with Edward years ago when he was using, despite his sexiness, his polish, his potential. Only if you're flawed yourself, she thinks, would you sign on for an Edward. Only if you have your own past could you carry him to safety. Faith's commitment to Edward has paid off. Ever since Katherine was born, twenty-three years ago, he's been in recovery. His cocaine use and drinking are a long-ago memory. Today he is an ace tennis player, scratch golfer, lithe swimmer, dedicated to lifting weights. Edward and his partner, Henry Rochester, at their company, High Dune, are known as the boutique fund managers of Palm Beach. They manage bond funds for prospering clientele, risk-averse investors. And while most of the women choose not to work, Faith has spawned Vintage Tales. When Edward bought the building on the Avenue and gave her the shop, twenty years ago, he said, "All of it, Faith, proceeds ... the building ... are yours. The reward for saving me." She too owes him a debt — and loves him in a dedicated, wifely way.
Ten feet past Mrs. A and Priscilla's squadrons, Betina Gilles, consigner of Priscilla's evening clutch (rare turquoise and crystal, circa 1970, bought yesterday at Vintage Tales), stands with her husband, fresh out of prison for tax evasion. Among the hub Faith spots a woman whose Chanel crystal choker, circa 1982, was sold at the shop this morning by Katherine.
At the thought of it Faith scans the room without spotting her daughter, who should have arrived by now.
Paned floor-to-ceiling windows frame a dusky sky — not the usual starry South Florida night. Guests move in a cattle drive toward their assigned tables. Edward stops when he sees Henry Rochester, and together they become ensconced with a handful of men who are neither fit nor paunchy, neither friendly nor chilly. Were they at someone's home, their group activity would be lighting up Cuban cigars. At the Shelteere they drone on about the market, golf scores, cars, and travels. Edward is oddly distracted, not talking but kicking his left heel with his right shoe. Faith realizes how off center he has been, and while the wives chat among themselves, she stands, watching him. The women, too, drone on about similar topics with a female twist — their conversations are more detailed and always include wardrobe. When Faith is adjacent to the women, she mini-smiles, her focus on Edward. If he turns toward her, she will rescue him, lead him toward the anteroom. If he doesn't, she will keep her eye on him anyway.
And ahead of her is Allison Rochester, lotioned and polished with her steely dimples, unaware of Faith's approach. On the wall behind her are portraits of fashionable, sophisticated women, painted by Sargent and Chase.
"Well, who wouldn't be busy, as the single chair. You know Faith's held on to it, solo, for the Arts and Media gig for months," Faith overhears Allison saying.
Margot and Lucas Damon, back in Palm Beach after five years in San Francisco, listen, rapt. Posturing as if on a date rather than fueling a ho-hum marriage, they nod at Allison while looking around. Lucas, whom Faith loved when she was twenty, the boyfriend who brought her to Palm Beach before ditching her, props himself close to his wife. As Faith watches him, the others fall away; only Lucas is in the room. His deliberate posture elongates him to a requisite six feet, and his untamed cowlick is slicked down by some sort of hair product. His limber runner's body is evident even in a tuxedo — as if he could do a steady six-minute-a-mile marathon and land at the finish line with the elite firsts. She hesitates at his eyes, dark eyes. Eyes that know you, that grasp the latitude instinctively. He's not a Palm Beach favorite, although no one is more a native than Lucas. Few would peg him a real estate developer with properties peppered throughout the country. Mostly he seems boyish, sensual — perhaps a creative type. Lucas purses his lips, big-screen style, glances at Faith and back at Allison. Or so she imagines. Margot links her arm in her husband's, and so Faith stands straighter, her cheekbones feel more angular.
"Mom?" Katherine taps her mother on the shoulder.
Faith spins around. "Sweetie — at last!" Faith and Katherine hug, genuinely, cautiously, to avoid makeup smears.
"Look, everyone came!" Katherine points toward her friends, who are off to the right, far from center, fringing the party in couples. "We're about to take a picture and post on Instagram."
Of the young men, Rhys, Katherine's longtime boyfriend, is slimmest, tallest. Still, his mouth is too narrow, and it's sheer luck that he pulls off a disarming grin. Katherine's wide smile, too wide at times, makes up for it, balancing them out. After a painful break during college, the last year in Palm Beach has brought them together. Several days ago Priscilla asked Faith if Katherine and Rhys will live together, then become engaged. Faith feigned disinterest, claiming Katherine is too young. Secretly she can't imagine a better catch, a finer young man.
Katherine's friends, young women of assorted heights, are wearing platform heels that add at least five inches. Another theme of the night is hair, buckets of it in an array of shades, pale blond, chestnut (that would be Katherine), red, mahogany, and raven. Some have it clipped up for the early evening, later to unleash it when the dance floor is packed and the songs a better beat.
"How these girls have evened out." Mrs. A appears. "Remember how some of them were little chubby things? I used to pray they'd improve — for everyone's sake."
Gathered at the Shelteere, the battle-weary daughters, having managed the pressure since fifth grade, signify a job well done. They've finessed a certain look, i.e., pretty. Too pretty as teenagers at the Academy, conjuring up trouble — jealous friends, boys who shied away, mothers who manipulated them off the invitation list. Over the years, the circle grew tighter, not wider, and the stakes were raised. Faith, like the other mothers, encouraged her daughter to be au courant, athletic and popular in lower school, adding beauty and brains by seventh grade. Pushed by their mothers toward the best colleges in the northeast, the caveat was that they 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.
Tonight only the survivors prevail. Despite their hard-earned undergraduate degrees, some young women believe in a starter marriage as next on their agenda. And within three years, a first child, preferably a daughter, will be born. Yet not everyone is a fan, and among Katherine's dearest friends, Darby is getting her Ph.D. in quantum physics at MIT and Samantha is beginning Yale Law School in the fall. "I know you want me to work," Katherine said only this afternoon to Faith, "as long as it's at Vintage Tales. Or as a journalist at a local newspaper. Something within a ten-mile radius."
Faith had laughed it off before adding, "And not too stressful — a relaxed entrepreneur, if there is such a thing."
"Mom?" Katherine rubs her wrist. "Can we have a minute, the two of us, to talk?"
Faith turns to Mrs. A. "Will you excuse us ..."
Passing a wall of Whistler's women, with their slender frames and nimble stances, Katherine leads her mother toward the ladies' room. In the sitting area they both look around carefully to make sure no one is listening. Katherine's frowning, a frown that young women can afford to have before they freeze their foreheads with Botox. Faith waits for her daughter to upset her with whatever it is she's about to announce.
"I'm okay." Katherine is still frowning and pulls out a long o on "okay." Oooookay.
"What does that mean?" Faith asks. If her daughter is about to complain about Rhys, Faith won't hear it. Rhys is a paragon of Palm Beach — with integrity to boot.
The door swings open, and Margot Damon stands before them. In the bright light radiating from the ceiling fixture, Margot is lit, like an aging actress.
"Why, it's the Harrison girls!" Margot speaks like one who has had too much Prosecco. Although her look is impeccable — Faith computes the entire ensemble: black silk pumps, a deep navy three-tiered gown, heavy gold-and-diamond earrings — Margot's breath precedes her.
"Hello, Margot." Faith smoothes the organza of her own gown. If this were a fashion critique she'd call them a tie.
"Am I interrupting something?" Margot asks.
"Oh no, nothing, not really," Katherine says.
"We're taking a powder room break," Faith says. "Primping ..."
"Well, then, let me say what I'm sure you've heard. Lucas and I are moving home, not just visiting this time," Margot says.
Faith has heard.
"That's very nice, Mrs. Damon," Katherine says. "Isn't it, Mom? Mom?"
The weight of it, as if someone is standing on her chest. "Yes, what nice news," Faith says.
"Ah, yes, very exciting." Margot walks to the mirror and looks at them through the reflection. She straightens her diamond collar. "I'll serve on boards, some of your favorites, Faith, the Four Arts, the Book Festival, the Dance Guild, and the film committee at Longreens. Maybe we'll overlap at cards on Fridays and golf on Tuesday afternoons."
Katherine offers a small, gulping laugh. "My mom doesn't do cards or golf. She's at Vintage Tales mostly."
"Definitely, I'll stop by your store. Unload my Frey Wille bangles — they've become a little common." Margot takes a lipstick out and starts to apply it. Too red and heavy a shade. "I know some say they need more shelf space when they come to consign, but I hope, I suspect, the closets in our new house will hold my things. That won't be my excuse. We're looking to buy in the estate district."
"By all means, do consign your Frey Willes. They're very popular ... they fly out of the shop."
"We should go; Dad's waiting for you. Rhys is waiting...." Katherine stands up, and her Herve dress, short with the fit of a second skin, hikes up. She yanks it down. "Mom?"
Guiding Faith out, Katherine turns. "Good night, Mrs. Damon."
"Good night, darlin'. Good night, Faith."
* * *
"A mother-daughter duo that turns heads," Edward tells Faith when she sits beside him. Rhys comes around to Katherine, and they head to the dance floor neatly, succinctly. Katherine dips and twists, while Rhys focuses on getting it right, his dance steps more self-conscious. The crowd is rocking, some with their arms in the air as if cheering, others counting steps forward and back. Let out of their virtual cages to Barry White's "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."
"Shall we dance?" Edward pulls her toward the music, trots her out, twirls her steadily, and brings her in. Handsome husband, Mrs. A likes to say. Builder of the sanctuary, partner, father.
The song slows down, the band switches to Sinatra, "The Way You Look Tonight." Edward tugs her toward him, and she looks into his face. He smells of Lever soap and Tom's toothpaste, his skin too tan in the strobe lights. Again that surge of gratitude, Edward/Katherine/Vintage Tales. But he seems weary, almost collapsible. Leslie and Travis Lestat, longtime favorite neighbors, back away. Faith sees them dance toward the other side of the ballroom.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Palm Beach Wife"
Copyright © 2019 Susan Shapiro Barash.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If i could give it no stars, i would
Palm Beach is synonymous with designer handbags, flashy cars, and country clubs. This kind of lifestyle is typical for Faith Harrison, owner of a high end consignment shop, Vintage Tales. Her husband, Edward, is a respected business man in the community who adores his wife and only daughter, Katherine. Faith's million dollar plus home is the envy of her peers, as is her place in society as she chairs the season's most prominent charity events. Many consign and shop at her upscale store, trusting Faith to keep their confidences when it comes to their designer labels. Being part of the "in" crowd is more important than the day's news for it dictates where one stands among the rich and famous. When a dark secret threatens Faith's marriage and her future within the Palm Beach society, she quickly learns who will stand by her side and who will turn away. A Palm Beach Wife is a compelling read filled with lies, secrets and drama. A guilty pleasure for Lilly Pulitzer devotees, it's the right blend of intrigue and entertainment. The Palm Beach backdrop gives it an alluring setting showing just how important status is for a woman in Floridian society. With juicy gossip and saucy wit, the shocking ending makes this latest novel by Susannah Marren a top book pick this spring.
A Palm Beach Wife is about the Harrison family. Edward a successful businessman, Faith his loyal wife with a little business on the side to keep her busy and Katherine their beloved daughter who is getting ready to go to graduate school. But it is also about what happens when you lose everything you have but in the process find everything you have ever needed. Living the Palm Beach lifestyle seems like it would be heaven, but in reality the anxiety of always being on and never making a mistake can be brutal. You are only worthy of the lifestyle for a long as your worth holds out. Faith and Edward are worth a lot, until they are not. With their lives falling apart it is up to Faith to keep her head high and to try to fight her way out of a terrible disaster. She soon finds out who her true friends are in a town where superficiality is the word of the day. She must also stay true to her husband and family although temptation is all around her. In a town where gossip is vicious and chairperson titles can be taken away at the drop of another fifty thousand dollars, Faith must try and hold herself together in order to keep her family together so they can all come out of this with their dignity intact.
In A Palm Beach Wife by Susannah Marren, secrets and lies are revealed. There was so much gossip and friendship based on looks and money. Faith owns a Vintage consignment clothing store where her so called friends drop off items such as $20,000 handbags, $500 scarves and shoes that can cost way more than a monthly mortgage payment. Faith discovers one evening that her husband Edward has lost all of their money and Faith must now struggle to keep up the facade of carefree wealth. What follows is a tale of how resourceful Faith is and how weak her husband really is but I could not help but feel sorry for him. Can Faith leave Palm Beach and its air kisses behind for good and start fresh? A major secret is revealed halfway into this book that Faith thought she left behind years ago. Faith is a strong and independent character who holds everything together for the sake of her daughter. The last sentence of this book did literally left me with my mouth open!
I absolutely love the cover and the description had me very excited to open the pages! This is a fun, light hearted read about life in Palm Beach. Faith's lavish lifestyle is dreamy and you instantly love or hate her. Unfortunately, I wanted a little more out of this book. The story comes with lots of turns and twists but the name dropping of designer labels and Palm Beach hangouts got overwhelming. The pace of the story picked up in the last pages but I am not exactly sure what happened at the end?!?! Thank you so much to St. Martins Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This book was like a private peek into the lives of the influential society women of Palm Beach. The lifestyle, the fashion, the friends, charity and social events that must be attended, all of the things the women do in order to stay within the circle of important people. But when one falls from grace, the gossip and rumors start almost instantly and they are enough to break a person. I was impressed with how strong Faith remained when her life took a turn for the worse. She put her family and business first and did what she had to so they could survive. And, she stood by her husband through all of the mistakes he made. This book hooked me right away. I have always been fascinated by the rich and famous and how they live their lives. The author did a fantastic job outlining the story and not missing any details, whether it was the people or the town of Palm Beach. It felt very true to life. But, I was a bit let down with the ending. I was ready to turn the page thinking there was another chapter, but there was nothing. It just ended like a cliff hanger. Please say this story will continue in another book.
Thank you so much to St. Martins Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was so intrigued by this book at first mainly due to the cover. It's absolutely gorgeous and after reading the synopsis of this book I thought it sounded really good, it had potential. But then it really fell flat for me. Faith and Edward are very wealthy and living a great life with their rich friends in Palm Beach. They have multiple vacation homes all over the globe and Faith runs a very successful vintage designer shop. Then her husband Edward drops a huge bomb on her, they've lost all their money and he needs help getting it back. Desperate to keep it from their friends and the community, they start trying to build back up their wealth even with betrayals hitting them left and right. This book was absolutely ridiculous to me. Instead of being worried about how they were going to pay for anything or how to get their money back Faith is more worried about how this will look to her friends and the fact that she can't get into certain areas anymore. Really?! And everything that she let Edward get away with was insane. Another thing I couldn't stand is all the designer name dropping throughout the book. I understand this is about very wealthy people and their numerous designers they love but I honestly found myself confused and thinking some of the names dropped were actually characters in the book. To me it felt like this whole book was just about a palm beach wife whining because she had no money and turning a blind eye to everything her husband was doing. I really wasn't a fan of this one.