Cress, Kate and Tor (short for Victoria) have been good friends for years but their relationship is tested to the limit when the suave Harry enters the lives. He rose to fame after the publication of his book, Scion, and is the bachelor-about-town who's never short of attention from both press and public, but is his arrival on the scene all it seems?
Cress - Harry's publisher and a mother-of-four married to Mark. She's thrilled to discover Harry and make her publishing company a big player in the literary scene but has she bitten off more than she can chew with this coup?
Tor - She suspects her husband isn't entirely faithful but isn't prepared for the events that follow. As she tries to rebuild her life, she becomes increasingly thrown by Harry's mind games against another character.
Kate - Married to Monty but their struggle to conceive is putting strain on their marriage. Also a libel lawyer who quashes celebrity scandals, which comes in handy for her many big-name clients. She's employed to 'handle' Harry's press but is she prepared for his games?
I like all three of the main females in the story and they were all strong characters at heart . Even if one of them does become a tad manipulative as things progress but it's easy to see that this isn't entirely her fault. Harry was a character that I really disliked, not least because he was manipulative and full of his own self-importance and the extent of this is built up gradually as the plot moves on. I found myself desperately wanting him to get his comeuppance, such was the intensity of my dislike. That isn't to say that I didn't like the book. Far from it actually, as my dislike of Harry made me root for most of the other characters (who I liked).
I'm a big fan of the Bagshawe sisters' books and this is along similar lines. It's fast paced, and as the chapters are very short on the whole, the plot moves along at a good pace even though the timeline of the plot takes place over many months. There are a few sex scenes (as you often get in books of this kind) but these aren't all that plentiful or crude and don't seem like unnecessary attempts to 'sex up' the story. It's quite a long book at well over 500 pages for my paperback version but it doesn't feel like it's dragging on. There are various twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing and there is also an element of mystery that gradually unfolds and that I found more riveting than I expected.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. There are some similarities to the Bagshawe sisters in terms of style and pace but it's by no means a copycat and is every bit as good in its own right. A good read, in my opinion!
In a similar style to the Bagshawe sisters, "Players" by Karen Swan tells the story of three women, all friends and all dealing with their own set of hopes, dreams, problems and crisis'. All three friends find their lives turned upside down when enigmatic Harry Hunter comes along. Cress and Harry share a secret that has grudgingly pulled them together making her his publisher, Kate is is lawyer and Tor is interior designer. His good looks, charm but equally ruthless and cruel nature means that he manages to get in between all three women and ultimately split them apart. Will they ever see through Harry and rebuild their lives?
I have to admit, this was a bloody good book, one that I enjoyed probably the most out of all my holiday reads, and that is probably because of its similar style to the Bagshawe books. If anyone reads my book reviews fairly regularly, you will know that the horribly named "Chick lit" genre of books is really not my favourite, full of drippy heroines, chaste kisses and miscommunications that anyone with two brain cells would have worked out and ended up with the "hero" of the book before page one.
Swan falls firmly in, what I like to call, the "sizzle" category of books and therefore is much, much more entertaining. The women are feisty, the story has impact, drama and scandal, and the story moves along in a good and pacey way. Each of Swan's heroines are clearly defined and have their own qualities that make them endearing to the reader for different reasons. In fact, her characterisation is definitely one of Swans strong suits when creating books as I liked each one individually for their uniqueness. I've since read an interview with Karen Swan herself and I was interested to read her take on each of her characters and how my opinions lived up to how she wanted them to be, and so I thought for this review, I would tie this in as the three women play such a strong role in making this book a success...
Tor - Happily married (or so she thinks) with two children. We are introduced to Tor in the very first chapter, but by unusual means. The first chapter is written from her husbands perspective as he thinks about the difference between his wife and his mistress, whom he has just been with. In fact, although I felt sympathy immediately for Tor, the way in which Tors husband described her wasn't flattering; she came across as cold as well as snobby, especially when he says he thinks his wife would describe his mistress as fat. Not a phrase that would endear the skinniest of female reader surely!
Luckily, Tors husbands perceptions are utterly skewed, and the introduction of Tor shows a soft but vunerable woman with many insecurities. Definitely the "weaker" woman of the three friends, Tor suffers a blow early on in the book which, although doesn't put her in the background, certainly makes the other two women appear much more interesting in their storylines. Author Karen Swan describes Tor as "the emotional heart" of the book, and to underline my point about the first chapter she actually says "Traditionally the heroine of the book needs to be likeable and to bring the reader on side immediately, but I wanted more of a journey with Tor, so I wrote the prologue scene in order to undercut the supposed perfection that she initially projects about her life, and only as she gets broken down by the events of the story, does she gradually thaw and show her fragility." This certainly did the trick for me. Swan goes on to say that she didn't want Tor to be the drippy one, and so for a lot of the book she does come across a bit "prickly" which then gives her that little bit of spunk that she needs to be interesting still! Her overall journey and the conclusion of her part in the book Is probably the most satisfying purely because she IS the most emotional character in the book.
Kate - Much more like the heroines you see in Bagshawe books, Kate is the "ballsy" one as Swan puts it. All three women are described as attractive, but Kate appears to have it all; a devoted husband, beautiful home and successful career. She has quite a steely nature, and I could see that it could be quite hard to like a character like her as she seems very driven and determined - almost superhuman even! However, her relationship with her friends warms her slightly. Added to this it appears Kate doesn't have everything she wants - having tried for a baby, Kate is having trouble conceiving but yet she carries on, making her a hugely likeable character as this story develops. Talking about Kate, Swan says that "She really propels the action through the middle section of the book..." and this is certainly true. Out of all of the women, Kate seemed the least likely to fall for Harrys charms, and even more so, to believe his lies. Kate's story development is the strongest of the three women and really does make this book a real page turner, when this story could've flopped a bit towards the middle.
Cress - My favourite character, and it seems, Karen Swans favourite character too! Cress is like Kate, but a bit more human; a doting husband and small children, she is a career woman trying hard to make her publishing company a success, but finding it hard to bond with her children and get the work/live balance right. Her own struggles in this book are home related and work related, although Cress is also involved in the bigger plot which isnt fully revealed until the end of the book. Of Cress, Swan says, "It was like having my own voodoo doll to bend to my will. She's so outspoken and fierce and unreasonable - she really made it easy to put a lot of humour into the book, which is one of my favourite aspects of writing - but I had to keep reminding myself to give her a softer, more vulnerable side as well so that she wasn't a cartoon character." I think it was this humourous side that made Cress so likeable, Cress is someone so easily identifiable that some of the situations she gets herself in are funny and you cannot help but adore her. I also found her the most frustrating of all the characters; blinded by her need for her business to succeed, she seemed blind to how her home life was falling apart, and having warmed to her so much, it was sometimes hard to read about it!
Overall, I found this book to be an excellent debut, Karen Swan clearly has a knack for this sort of genre. I found the characters absorbing, the little twists interesting and the book just an engrossing read in the sun. I'd definitely pick up another by her again.