As I mentioned in my Ready Player One post, I’m terrible at writing reviews. I either give away too much or too little or don’t talk about the right (which I totally just started to type as write) things… so, even though I might use the TAG “Reviews” on this blog post, just think of it as my book thoughts, okay? Less pressure and expectation setting for everyone.
So, a few months ago, P.S. Literary agency was celebrating their company birthday and doing a giveaway for a book called She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop, which I’d heard described as something akin to Gossip Girl meets The Great Gatsby, and I knew I wanted to read it. So I took to Twitter and lo and behold…
Whaaaaaat?? That’s ME! YAAAAAAAY!
(Okay, yes, I literally won back in February and, yes, it took me until May to write this blog post I AM SORRY LIFE IS CRAZY OKAY???)
I’m telling you this because I do feel it’s important to include the how of getting a book happens – whether it’s a recommendation, a gift, a giveaway win (yay!), a pre-order, a “on-a-whim” purchase, etc. Why? I feel like transparency is important in these matters, especially when it’s something I got for free (book or otherwise). Plus, I really am excited that I won.
So, the book arrived…
…and, it still took me forever to get started with it. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about reading it — I really was! — but I was in the middle of two other books, and I really struggle having multiple works of fiction going at a single time (the other book I was reading will be the topic of a future “book thoughts” post…)
Anyway. Now that you’ve made it through the background story, here are my thoughts on She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop:
The back cover of the book, which I always read before beginning any new reading adventure, says the following:
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from Manhattan, who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise.
Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan, to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long-dead scandal involving the family patriarch – not to mention setting off some new ones – as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever truly belong in their world?
Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale of family, fortune, and fate – and the dark side of wealth.
Based on this, before I even opened the first page, I felt a warmth towards and a sadness for Laila. Poor little orphan girl. Trying to hard to fit in. New York can be such a terribly competitive and overwhelming place.
LOL, OH BOY, WAS I WRONG.
Now, let me just say, there are some horrific things that happen to Laila during her attempts to climb the social ladder, including (spoiler, but also trigger warning) being sexually assaulted, and I absolutely felt terrible for the character in those moments. There was no sense of retribution or like she “deserved it” or any such dreadful things — these were awful acts, and in those moments, she deserved sympathy and sadness…
…in general, though, I totally hate her. She is manipulative and vindictive and cruel. That’s not to say she’s poorly written; oh no, Laila is a fascinating and well-developed character. She’s just a terrible person.
In fact, most of the characters in this book are terrible people. So, if you don’t like reading books about terrible, terrible people, then this book is likely not for you. (The only good people in this book – the kind, decent, charitable, honest ones – all end up getting screwed over in one way or another, so do not expect a “good triumphs in the end” story here…well, maybe…hang on…). But if you find terrible people interesting, and enjoy the juicy, salacious, “thank God I’m not them but I sure enjoy reading about just how f**ked up they are”-ness of it all, then I think you’d like this story quite a bit.
One of the interesting things to me about Dunlop’s style is that she writes in a third person omniscient voice, but in ways it’s also a third person shifting-limited voice. When the scene centers on Liberty, we get more insight into what Liberty is thinking/feeling but we don’t see that from the other characters. When Nora’s at the center, we get Nora’s thoughts. The constantly shifting viewpoints makes it feel like there are multiple (all pretty unreliable) narrators guiding the story, which leaves the reader the responsibility – and, the pleasure IMO – of filling in the gaps and trying to “read” the other characters in the scene both through the eyes of the focal character and around that character’s biases.
While it can be difficult to see a complete lack of comeuppance throughout the bulk of the novel, there are at least moments where some characters try to seek out justice for the various levels of wrong. That’s why I’ll give you a “well, maybe” to the good triumphing in the end. There’s a good deal of cliffhanger for most of the characters, though it seems like at least one will get some retribution, but others…they just…get away with it (maybe).
If I were to offer one minor critique/complaint of the book, it’s that it packs a LOT into its 382 pages (89K words, per the publisher) and there are so many questions I still have unanswered. We never really get a confirmation to one of the big family secrets, and some characters seem to appear and disappear far too quickly. Then again, I suppose that complaint is a sign of how much I enjoyed the book — I just wanted to know more.
She Regrets Nothing was unlike books that I normally tend to pick up and gravitate towards, which is why I’m so thankful the Twitter giveaway caused it to fall into my lap. I found it to be so easy and enjoyable to sit back and indulge in the over-the-top glamazon existence of the wealthy elite in NY with the seedy underbelly bursting to knock it all down.
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