Party Crashers
Grade : C-

If I don't always have to like a heroine, I do have to respect her intelligence and her honesty. Sadly, the heroine of Stephanie Bond's latest is sadly lacking in both.

Frankly, this woman frolics in TSTL-land for a number of reasons. Within days of starting a new job she desperately needs, she engages in behavior that is not only morally reprehensible it's also guaranteed to get you fired - and all so that she can "investigate" the disappearance of a former boyfriend. Frankly, if Party Crashers was a historical, this woman would be "investigating" mysterious noises in dark corridors carrying only a candle. Moral ambiguity aside, her behavior is just plain dumb.

With her real estate career in shreds, Gary mysteriously missing, and her money situation dire, Jolie Goodman is lucky enough to land a job at Neiman Marcus selling designer shoes. Her long-term goal is a worthy one: She plans to use the hefty commissions she'll earn selling uber-expensive footwear to support herself until her real estate brokerage is up and running.

On her very first day on the job Jolie meets Beck Underwood, the gorgeous scion of an Atlanta media empire who's been spending the last few years selflessly working in Costa Rica. Right in the middle of the shoe department, white knight Beck kindly rescues Jolie from an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation involving her former boss and, to make matters even better, buys an expensive pair of shoes.

Distracted though she is by her personal situation, Jolie is nevertheless persuaded by another Neiman's employee to attend a fancy society do. Without giving too much away, Jolie has reason to believe that Gary's disappearance might well be connected to someone moving in Atlanta society. Since the police don't seem to be getting too far in their search, Jolie is determined to investigate.

Soon enough, however, Jolie believes she's being followed. And matters quickly escalate until her future - and even her freedom - are in doubt.

The party crashers of the title refer to Carlotta, a designer clothing salesperson at Neiman Marcus, and a friend who serially crashes only the best Atlanta events. And, of course, since those kind of events require an expensive wardrobe they can't afford, Carlotta supports their habit by buying, wearing, and returning clothes and shoes. (They tape the shoe bottoms and keep the clothing tags on.) And, unfortunately, within days of starting her job, Jolie - with only a token "it's not honest" protest - is quickly persuaded to do the same. Hey, Jolie, not only is it not honest, it's also guaranteed to get you in the unemployment line pretty darn quickly.

I'll come clean here. If I had known that Neiman Marcus was the setting for much of the book, I never would have requested this book for review since two of my family members work for that very store and the ins and outs of retail are frequent topics of conversation. With that said, I have it on very good authority that Carlotta's frequent buying-and-returning would be noticed, a warning would be issued, and, if it continued after that warning, she would be shown the door - no matter how much money she might make for the store. Further, new employees like Jolie are watched very carefully and the chances are very good that with this kind of behavior, she wouldn't last a week.

And then there's Beck. To say that this guy is perfect doesn't even begin to cover it. He's rich, selfless, sweet, gorgeous, always ready to ride to the rescue, and smitten with Jolie right from the start. I like an over-the-top hero as much as anyone, but, gee, this guy was just too, too, too much. (Especially since Jolie is such a mess in oh-so-many ways.)

I should also offer another word of warning. Anyone sensitive to brand name-dropping will probably find the irritation factor in this book to be off the charts. With a family working at Neiman's, I'm pretty tolerant (and not above dropping a few myself), but I was Manolo-d, Prada-d, and Kate Spade-d to death here. (The book even features a personal appearance by - Gasp! - Manolo himself!)

I've never read Stephanie Bond before, and despite my overall problems, I didn't have too much trouble turning the pages. I didn't really enjoy the story, but, nevertheless, found myself following it willingly enough.

You know, people aren't perfect and heroines don't have to be either. But the bottom line for me is that I'm just not interested in reading a book about a woman with poor judgment, questionable integrity, and intelligence she's checked at the door. And as someone who'd be more than furious if the expensive shoes I splurged on had previously been on Jolie's feet, I just can't get too worked up about her problems - or her HEA.

Reviewed by Sandy Coleman
Grade : C-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : April 6, 2004

Publication Date: 2004

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Recent Comments …

  1. Yep, that’s the long and short of it – I like her more as a contemporary writer because of this.…

Sandy Coleman

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