Lady Be Good: A Novel

Lady Be Good: A Novel

by Amber Brock

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Overview

Set in the 1950s, Lady Be Good marks Amber Brock's mesmerizing return, sweeping readers into the world of the mischievous, status-obsessed daughter of a hotel magnate and the electric nightlife of three iconic cities: New York, Miami, and Havana.

Kitty Tessler is the winsome and clever only child of self-made hotel and nightclub tycoon Nicolas Tessler. Kitty may not have the same pedigree as the tennis club set she admires, but she still sees herself as every inch the socialite—spending her days perfecting her "look" and her nights charming all the blue-blooded boys who frequent her father's clubs. It seems like the fun will never end until Kitty's father issues a terrible ultimatum: she may no longer date the idle rich. Instead, Kitty must marry Andre, her father's second-in-command, and take her place as the First Lady of his hotel empire. Kitty is forced to come up with a wily and elaborate plan to protect her own lofty ideas for the future, as well as to save her best friend, Henrietta Bancroft, from a doomed engagement; Kitty will steal Henrietta's fiancé, a fabulously wealthy but terribly unkind man from a powerful family—thereby delivering the one-two punch of securing her now-fragile place on the social ladder and keeping her friend from a miserable marriage.
Then Kitty meets Max, a member of a band visiting New York from her father's Miami club, and her plans take a turn. Smitten, but still eager to convince her father of her commitment to Andre, Kitty and Hen follow Max, Andre, and the rest of the band back down to Miami—and later to Cuba. As Kitty spends more time with Max, she begins waking up to the beauty—and the injustice—of the world beyond her small, privileged corner of Manhattan. And when her well-intended yet manipulative efforts backfire, Kitty is forced to reconsider her choices and her future before she loses everyone she loves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524760403
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

AMBER BROCK teaches British literature at an all-girls' school in Atlanta. She holds an MA from the University of Georgia and lives in Smyrna with her husband, also an English teacher, and their three rescue dogs.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 Amber Brock

Kitty Tessler sat at the long wooden bar in the Palm on a chilly Friday evening, steadily losing confidence that her date deserved the seat next to her. Raymond had seemed like a true catch, the perfect fit for her meticulous plans. About five minutes after they ordered their drinks, however, he had begun flicking his gaze over Kitty’s shoulder with a frequency that suggested a fugitive searching the crowd for a plainclothes policeman. Perhaps a change of scenery would still his wandering eye.

She waited until he paused the stream of names he’d been dropping since her rear hit the bar stool. “Raymond, don’t you think we ought to get a table?”

“Oh. Oh, sure. Right.”

Another glance over her shoulder. Who is he looking for?

“Not to rush you.” She flashed him a coy smile. “Don’t want you to think I get too hungry for dinner at eight.”

His brow furrowed in confusion, and she swallowed a sigh. “Never mind,” she said. “Why don’t I get our drinks?”

“I can’t let a lady pay,” he said.

“It’s on my father. He has a tab here.” She motioned for the bar- tender.

“What? Nicky Tessler has an open account at the Palm?”

Kitty turned her full attention on him. No one she knew would dare to call her father “Nicky.” “Is that so hard to believe?”

“That’s usually based on a certain . . . status. At a place like this, you understand.” He sipped his drink, unaware of the approaching storm.

“I see. And what kind of status would you say my father has?”

“Don’t get me wrong. He’s done well for himself. But it’s not like he runs in my father’s circles.”

“And remind me, where is your father spinning these days?”

Raymond straightened his tie. “Well, he’s a partner at Dunham and Lowe, for starters.”

“That’s right . . . aren’t they the ones who bungled that big corruption case that was all over the papers a few months ago?”

He squirmed on his bar stool. She pressed on. “That’s right. Your father was the lead lawyer on the matter. The papers really made it sound for a while there like he was awfully tied up in the whole situation. Thank goodness there wasn’t more of a scandal. It sure went away quietly.”

He scowled. “Hold on just a minute. You don’t know the first thing about it.”

“Now, now. I’m saying it’s a good thing. He avoided losing any of that stellar reputation.” She turned to smile at the now-waiting bar- tender. “Won’t you be a dear and put my drink on my father’s account? Nicolas Tessler is the name. In fact . . .” Kitty glanced around and raised her voice. “A round of champagne for everyone in the bar. Some- thing French and old.” She pointed a manicured finger at Raymond. “For everyone but Raymond here. He can’t stay.”

His lips were a thin, tight line. He fumbled with his wallet, threw a five on the bar, and walked out without another word. She folded the bill. When the bartender returned with a sparkling glass of bubbly, Kitty handed him the five. “This is for you. And I’ll get Raymond’s martini on my tab. Poor fellow. Had a sudden upset stomach.”

The bartender nodded, then shot her a knowing look. “I’m surprised to see Mr. Leighton here on a Friday. You must be a friend of his girlfriend Carol’s. Is she coming in with him on Saturday, as usual?”

Kitty loved a chatty bartender. “Oh, yes. She and I are dear friends. And I’ll tell you what—the next time they come in, will you put Carol’s first drink on my tab? Compliments of Kitty Tessler. She’ll be so delighted.”

The bartender winked and held the bottle aloft. “All right,” he said. “This young lady is buying champagne for anyone who wants it.”

A cheer went up from a few patrons, who crowded around to claim their glasses. Kitty stewed. She had known Raymond was flawed. None of them were perfect, after all. But she’d held out hope he would prove a viable candidate anyway. All he had proven was that he was the same as the other men she’d gone out with lately: appropriately wealthy and connected, yet all with some disqualifying factor she couldn’t ignore.

A meaty hand landed on her shoulder, making her jump.

“Didn’t mean to scare you,” the man said. Kitty scanned him. Hideous sweater vest, shoes not shined, greasy grin.

“You don’t scare me,” she said, turning back to the bar.

“Hey, that’s good, that’s good.” Ignoring all signs that he shouldn’t, he took the seat beside her. He stuck out a hand. “Joe Carlo.”

“I’m not looking for company at the moment, Mr. Carlo. I hope you understand.”

“Ah, yeah, I saw that guy leave. You had him pretty hot under the collar. But he obviously didn’t know how to talk to a classy lady like you. I’m glad you let him have it.”

Kitty turned her head so her eye roll wouldn’t be obvious. “Listen, you seem like a nice guy, but I’m not—”

“I noticed you recognized my name when I introduced myself. I won’t leave you guessing. Yes, I am that Carlo. The Muffler King is my uncle.”

The confession signaled the final curtain on Kitty’s doomed evening. She downed her glass of champagne.

“Oh, look at the time. I’d better go.” She hurried out. Sharing a drink with Joe Carlo, already an unappealing prospect, would only make her situation more impossible than it already was. She would never find the kind of man she needed to propel her into the social stratosphere if someone she knew caught her consorting with the Muffler King’s nephew.

She took a cab back to the Vanguard Hotel, barely seeing the city as it whizzed by outside the car’s window. Her mental list of acceptable mates was growing shorter with each disappointing Friday night. It wasn’t really about money. She had money. Even guys like the Muffler Prince had money. She needed the warm, cocooning protection of good breeding. And that kind of security could never be hers until she had a venerable and appropriately Anglo-Saxon name attached to her own. The trouble was, only a thimbleful of New Yorkers had the right lineage to counterbalance Kitty’s own pedigree. Even more troubling was the fact that the children of those respected families had an irritating tendency to marry each other. Though she moved in their social world, the dismissive way people like Raymond still said her father’s name was a constant reminder of how far the Tesslers still had to climb.

The cab pulled up to the curb in front of the Vanguard. Kitty considered going into the club on the first floor, but her mood was too sour. Instead, she took the elevator up to the top-level suite that she and her father called home.

The suite was a unique space. The diamond-shaped living room offered double the view of the area surrounding the hotel through two sliding-glass doors that led to a triangular balcony. If Kitty leaned over the point of the triangle, she could see down to Herald Square. She rarely went out onto the balcony these days, since they’d parked the bar cart in front of the windows. Nothing like a glittering view of city lights while mixing a drink. The door leading to her room and bathroom was on the wall just to the left of the balcony, while her father’s bedroom door was mirrored on the other side of the room. Thick, cream-colored rugs and a brocade couch with heavy pillows satisfied Nicolas Tessler’s preference for a classic look. The chaise longue had been Kitty’s choice, since she liked to have her feet up when she rested. He’d also given in to her request for a television, though he hated the clunky box.

A clattering of claws on the wooden floor meant Kitty’s little dog, Loco, had heard the key turn in the lock. She bent down, and the cocker spaniel leapt into her arms. Kitty laughed as she stood up.

“Oof. You’re gaining some weight, pretty girl. Time for that diet. Nothing but cottage cheese and lettuce for you from now on.” The dog enthusiastically licked Kitty’s face until she set the wriggling bundle of enthusiasm on the couch.

Fresh start tomorrow, Kitty thought, going into her bedroom to change.

Reading Group Guide

1. Kitty claims she desires the “warm, cocooning protection of good breeding” (4). What does she mean by this, and what kind of protection is she seeking? What is she seeking protection from?

2. What do you think prompted Kitty’s father to urge her to get married or start working? Do you think his offer was unfair?

3. On page 87, Kitty notes that she prefers romance to love. How do you think Kitty defines those terms? How do they differ?

4. Why do you think Max is so interested in Kitty? What about her sends a message that there’s more than meets the eye?

5. Max says he likes Kitty best when she’s not trying to be anyone else. Who else is she trying to be? Is that person fundamentally different from her true self?

6. Why does Hen care so much about what her mother thinks? Why do you think she can’t be honest with her mother about how she really feels about Charles?

7. Does Kitty identify more with the level of privilege people like Hen have, or that of people like Max and Sebastian?

8. On page 129, Max says he can’t tell if Kitty is the “right” type of smart. What do you think he means by this? What type of smart do you think she is?

9. Is it wrong for Kitty to care about social status? Would she miss any opportunities by being with someone like Max as opposed to someone like Charles?

10. Kitty remembers her mother dying because a class-conscious doctor refused to see her. Her father later clarifies that this wasn’t the case. Why do you think Kitty perceived it that way, and how has that shaped her views?

11. Do you think Hen was right to have forgiven Kitty? Can she trust Kitty after her scheming?

12. Why do you think Kitty becomes so protective of Max and Sebastian?

13. How well do you think Max fits into Kitty’s world? How would being a part of it affect his life and Kitty’s? Do you think their relationship will continue?

For a full book club kit (featuring a note from author Amber Brock, this reading guide, and book-themed recipes for drinks and snacks), please visit: https://www.readitforward.com/lady-be-good-book-club-kit/

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