I like rags-to-riches stories, so when I read that the heroine of Fern Michaels’ Pretty Woman is an unhappily married woman who wins the lottery, it sounded worth a look. While I wouldn’t recommend this book, it does deserves props for what it does well.
Rosie Bliss is fat. No two ways around it. Her husband Kent makes no secret of his physical revulsion for her, and she knows he sleeps with other women, but for the three years of their marriage, she’s supported him. They live in the house she owns and he drives the Porsche she bought him.
But on their anniversary, when Kent fails to come home for dinner, she snaps. Throwing his belongings out, she tells him she’s going to file for divorce, and she decides to lose weight. The next day, still on a doing-things-differently-now roll, she buys a lottery ticket.
You won’t be surprised to hear that she wins three hundred million dollars, but here’s where the story takes a twist. I’ve come to expect certain things of lottery-winner stories, such as the Shopping Spree Montage, but Rosie sits on her ticket (literally, she puts it under the cushion of a rocking chair). If Kent finds out she’s a winner, he’ll try to take half of the money. Unable to support himself in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, he’s already demanding alimony, so she refuses to claim her winnings.
But the clerk who sold Rosie the ticket talks about it, and Kent becomes suspicious. Rosie fends him off while embarking on her new physical fitness regime, which is where the romance finally kicks in. Her personal trainer, Jack Silver, is the exact opposite of Kent. Although he’s wealthy, he takes his job seriously and is a warm, pleasant person. Rosie soon falls for him. Being married to Kent has done a number on her self-esteem, but as the pounds come off, Jack assures her that a very attractive woman is emerging.
As you can tell, this isn’t one of those books where the heroine is beautiful no matter what her size, or where the hero encourages her to eat whatever she likes. It didn’t really bother me, but that was because very little in the story felt believable. Jack is relentlessly nice, except when it comes to training Rosie, at which point he’s just relentless. More than once, he pushes her to go on even when she’s crying from the pain. Talk about tough love.
As for Kent, he’s a complete caricature. He uses women, he doesn’t tip, he steals whatever he can lay his hands on – you name it, he does it which, ironically, that made him the most entertaining character in the book. He was so over-the-top in his clichéd malevolence – and yet so ineffectual – that I found myself reading for moments like these:
“You aren’t going to get away with this,” Kent snarled, his face turning ugly.
“You’ll pay for this,” Kent yowled in pain.
“You aren’t going to get away with this, you mountain of blubber,” he snarled.
The story has him hit rock bottom, realize this, and reform, which is a new twist, but the emergence of Good Kent would have needed a whole ‘nother book to be made plausible.
As for Rosie, this isn’t a rags-to-riches story because she was plenty rich enough to begin with. She has a home-based business that brings in almost half a million dollars a year, and I found the business hilariously unrealistic, because she collects weeds and makes them into floral arrangements. A box of spray-painted pine cones sells for fifty dollars, and customers line up to buy all these, to the point where she’s employing about a dozen full-time staff. Even if she hadn’t won the lottery, she would be rolling in money.
The plot has a kitchen-sink quality. Rosie finds a stray dog that she adopts. Jack is a widower, but his wife’s spirit hangs out in his garden, approves of Rosie and smacks Evil Kent around (no, there’s nothing in the blurb about this paranormal element). Finally, the writing is pedestrian, often spelling out the obvious. Characters chirp and bleat their dialogue. I can’t imagine ever re-reading Pretty Woman, but it was entertaining enough in a farcial way. Only in a book like this could a woman become wealthy from selling dandelions.