Grace’s boyfriend dumps her very publicly in her favorite department store on her birthday. Grace, who is starting to cause a scene, is whisked away to a fancy club by a well-dressed stranger. This stranger, Vaughan, a very wealthy art dealer, has a proposition for Grace. He’ll pay her generously to be his mistress/party planner. Grace, who is in quite a lot of debt and is working a dead-end job as an assistant at a fashion magazine, is tempted by Vaughan’s offer and his extravagant lifestyle– after all, it would just be a business transaction with both Grace and Vaughan using one another to get what they want. Over the length of their “mistress contract,” though, the lines between business and relationship become blurred and the two misfits find themselves facing a possibility they’re not prepared to deal with: emotional involvement.
This is one of those books where you end up loving characters that aren’t really all that lovable. Grace has no faith in herself whatsoever, has major abandonment issues, lets people walk all over her, lies compulsively, and spends money she doesn’t have like it is going out of style. Vaughan, on the other hand, is extremely moody, demanding, unsympathetic, and completely closed off. Yet I was totally rooting for the two to work it out. Grace had potential under everything and Vaughan had moments where he was actually a nice guy.
Reading this, I kept thinking about Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Vaughan, like Rochester, is older, very rich, very moody, feels the need to play games in order to have love proven to him, and is hiding from a dark past (Vaughan’s is no where near as detailed or scandalous as Rochester’s, though, sorry), but can be very charming and sweet when he feels like it. Grace is like Jane in that she is young, practically parentless/friendless, dependent, and in need of cultivating her own independence. (Grace, however, doesn’t have the moral scruples that Jane does.) Both couples start with an employer-employee relationship, yet find that they actually enjoy the company of one another far more than they expected to. They also banter with one another similarly. Anyways, I am a HUGE fan of Jane-Rochester, so I think that is one reason why Grace-Vaughan resonated with me so much… and why I was able to forgive Vaughan for being a complete jerk at times. (Seriously, there are things Vaughan does that should make me hate him, but I don’t. I can’t.)
This was a book I had a really hard time putting down. The characters would get stuck in my head and I just wanted to know what would happen. Could they possibly overcome their massive emotional immaturity and make things work? Could Grace actually get herself together enough to feel like she deserved more from her career, her friends, herself? How would things end for these two? I’ve been having trouble staying engaged with what I’m reading lately, so the fact that this was so addicting speaks very highly of the author’s ability to construct interesting characters and to keep a well-trodden plot fresh and entertaining.
If you like romance, are a Rochester fan, or enjoy difficult characters, I would recommend you track this one down. This has been the only thing I’ve read so far this year that I have actually been excited about, so yeah, go read this book.