Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips is not your average romance novel. It has its dirty parts, mind you, but it’s much more of a story, which I quite thoroughly enjoyed.
The story starts off with Fleur Savagar, also known as the Glitter Baby, returning to high Manhattan society after a six-year absence. You immediately want to know what the heck happened to make her leave, but first we must get the back story to the back story: Fleur’s mother, Belinda, escaped the Hoosiers of Indiana for the glamour of Hollywood in the 50s, chasing down her dreams of becoming a world-famous movie star and the love of James Dean’s life. She was distraught beyond belief when her beloved Jimmy died in that awful car accident, but then she was saved by another famous movie star named Errol Flynn (who is apparently real, which I learned upon Googling him for this here post). Belinda and Errol had an emotional and physical affair, one that left her pregnant with Fleur, but unfortunately Errol lost interest in Belinda and ran off with the next youngest wannabe-starlet, leaving her with one option (or so she thought): tricking Errol’s old enemy Alexi Savagar into marrying her and convincing him the baby was his. Alexi realized the baby was not his but not before marrying Belinda and bringing her to his palatial French estate, so he sent the baby to be raised in a convent and only allowed Belinda to see her twice a year. Then everything changed when Fleur turned 16 and left the convent.
Alexi, a disgustingly perverted man, wishes to seduce Fleur from the moment he lays eyes on her gorgeous 16-year-old body. Belinda, horrified but not surprised, realizes this instantly and does everything in her power to prevent him from succeeding, even though Fleur believes Alexi is her real father. Belinda takes Fleur to New York and turns her into the world’s most famous fashion model, allowing Belinda to live out her long-lost dreams through her daughter. Fleur yearns for her mother’s love and approval more than anything so she does everything Belinda says, but all the while she feels heinously disproportionate, ugly and untalented. Belinda eventually pushes Fleur into doing a movie with Jake Koranda, the next generation’s James Dean (not a real person), but filming gets messy as Belinda tries to seduce Jake, then Fleur falls in love with Jake, then Belinda tries to get Jake to seduce Fleur for the success of the movie (quite the love triangle). Fleur finds out about her mother’s relationship with Jake and has a (totally understandable) meltdown, the catalyst in her disappearing for 6 years.
The last part of the story is about Fleur reinventing herself in Europe via gaining some weight, cutting off all her hair, wearing less-than-glamorous clothing, taking college classes and eventually becoming a pretty successful talent agent/publicist. She finally returns to New York to open her own agency, but to get it off the ground she needs to go back to being the Glitter Baby, which brings us to the scene at the beginning of the book. Fleur must somehow balance the old her with the new her, embracing her exceptional beauty while also flaunting her intelligence and business savvy. The return of Jake Koranda in her life throws her for a loop, though, as does Alexi attempting to destroy her new business to get back at her for rejecting him all those years ago. I don’t want to give away too much more, but the end is pretty darn good.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book — I guess I’m not giving up on this romance genre quite yet, eh?