Julia London’s first contemporary romance is a nice take on the theme of the spoiled heiress who has to learn to fend for herself. Most books that I have read with this storyline were screwball comedies, but Material Girl is fairly serious, although it has its lighter moments. A nice story and very likable characters combine to make this the beginning of what looks like an enjoyable trilogy.
Aaron Lear is a self-made multimillionaire. His wealth has not brought him family happiness though – he is estranged from his wife and his three daughters are not happy in their personal lives. Robin, the oldest, works for Aaron’s company, but her cushy job has no real responsibilities. Rebecca is married to a philanderer while Rachel is a perpetual graduate student. When Aaron learns he has cancer, he decides to make some changes. He takes Robin off her cushy job and pairs her up with Evan, the firm’s acquisition specialist. No more make-work for Robin, she’s going to work hard and have real responsibilities.
Jake Manning is the only good branch on his family tree. His father left them, his mother is bitter, one brother is dead from driving drunk, and the other is in jail for armed robbery. Jake is the responsible, sensible one. He studies architecture while renovating his own home and has a restoration business. While bailing out of one his workers, he meets Robin, who was arrested after speeding, spouting off to the police officer, and leaving her license in her other (Hermes) bag. The two trade insults, and it isn’t until later that Robin realizes the man she insulted at police headquarters is the man who is renovating her house. And she’s not too happy about it.
Robin is in a tizzy over her new work responsibilities, especially since she has to work with Evan, with whom she once had an affair. He wants to resume their relationship, but Robin does not. The fact that her father thinks Evan is perfect causes her even more anxieties. While Robin isn’t too happy to discover that Jake is her contractor, they soon settle down. Can the self-made Jake, who counts every penny, be happy with a woman who thinks nothing of flying off to Paris just to eat dinner?
Robin has her moments when she acts really spoiled and snippy, but that’s only to be expected since she’s been the spoiled darling for all her life. However, her good qualities soon shine through. She’s not a bit lazy, she’s smart, not afraid of work, and she could never settle down to a life filled with nothing but shopping and doing lunch. Robin’s relationship with her father is not a good one, and this gives her a touch of vulnerability that softens her. It also gives her the motivation to work hard and show him she can succeed.
Jake is an admirable, hardworking man who takes on so many responsibilities that he needs to clone himself. Not only a student and business owner – he also wants to take on responsibility for his troubled nephew Cole. He is attracted to Robin, but at times he thinks she is spoiled and snobbish. She spends more on one pair of shoes than he spends on his entire wardrobe in a year, and her friends look down their noses at anyone who isn’t in their tight little circle. Snobbery does go both ways though; Jake’s mother thinks Robin is nothing but a spoiled rich chick out for a fling.
All in all, Material Girl is a good start to the beginning of a trilogy. I liked Robin, loved Jake, and enjoyed the story overall. I hate reading a book where the characters don’t grow and change over the course of the book. Robin and Jake both go through some hurts and heartaches in this book, and emerge a stronger and happier couple for it.
The book does have a few problems. Robin drops brand names all the time. I guess it is to show how status-conscious she is, but every time her grandparents came on stage, she mentioned they were wearing Easy Spirit shoes, which wasn’t at all necessary. Robin is a bit inconsistent as a character. One minute she is happily watching a baseball game and scarfing down a baloney sandwich, and the next minute she is going “ewww” at the idea of riding in a pick-up truck. And who wears Versace and Manolo’s to inspect a packing company?
But these were only petty glitches in what otherwise is a good book. I enjoyed the story, which ended on a cliffhanger, and I loved the characters. Julia London has a smooth writing style, and Jake is going on my short list of favorite romance heroes for 2003. If you’ve read and enjoyed Julia London’s historical romances, give this contemporary a try. I think you’ll be pleased.