Rupert James
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Buy *Silk* by Rupert James online

Rupert James
Cleis Press
480 pages
February 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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A powerful name in the international garment industry, Massimo Rivella heads one of the most prestigious manufacturing companies in Milan. Respected and rich, Massimo enjoys the kind of lifestyle that playgirl Victoria Crabtree has dreamed of: money, leisure, and beautiful clothes. She swims in the pool at Le Murier, Massimo’s hideaway villa in Sainte Maxime, and thinks of how lucky she--unmindful of his wife and child in her desire to be with him.

Forceful, daring and never to be underestimated, divorce lawyer Christine Fairbrother is about to take the final step and realize her ultimate goal: to become a Queen's Counsel and take “silk” by the time she’s fifty. A specialist in big, juicy divorce cases, Christine is well aware how this ugly business brings out greed, spite, anger, and malice in people. Rather ironic, considering that Christine has recently divorced her own husband, Andy: “I can handle the hottest divorces in the world, but couldn’t manage my own marriage.”

Isabelle, Christine’s firstborn, blames her mother for driving her father away. A real designer with artistic vision, Isabelle--with the help of her best friend, Will--is channeling all of her self-worth into the birth of her “Cisse label,” which she hopes will rocket her to stardom. But Isabel proves to be a girl on the edge, unable to control her impetuous, sudden weight loss or her stress. Her promising career is being jeopardized by a serious cocaine habit, and there's no shortage of it in Hoxton and Shoreditch.

A lifetime of hard work and frustrating decisions have led to the moment the novel opens. Christine feels like just another middle-aged, “menopausal woman” who has allowed herself to be taken in, regardless of the consequences, by sexy Joel, her studly personal trainer. By the time she's finished with Rivella's case, he’ll seem like a “repentant philanderer” willing to admit his mistakes but driven to infidelity by a cold, grasping wife who uses their son as a pawn in her game of emotional and financial blackmail.

Massimo’s wife is a distraction Victoria can ill afford. After ten years, Victoria still hangs on to a false promise that one day her lover will be there for her. Victoria’s lack of impulse control and careless indulgence in whatever she fancies (mainly coke and sex) presage a hunger that cannot be satisfied by occasional lovers. Throughout, Massimo, “the Italian Stallion,” remains her self-confessed addiction. It is only natural for Victoria to manipulate the people around her while imbuing Massimo with extraordinary qualities despite his dishonesty and emotional void.

In James's fashion world, secrets are attracted to secrets and money is tied to class, access to nice restaurants, and regular, uncomplicated sex. Massimo is forceful, daring and never to be underestimated; Victoria, to her detriment, morally skews the proceedings. Her sojourn as romantic kept woman rapidly turns into the territory of nightmares. In edgy, urban tones, James presents the grit beneath the glamour as London’s foggy days and morning mists threaten rather than clear, presaging a sense of decay that ripples throughout all the characters’ lives.

As Massimo’s true colors are once again revealed, jealousy and tempers flare when Victoria takes matters into her own hands. While James’s plot threatens to run aground in the last half, most of the novel is as explosive and outrageous as Victoria, Christine, and Isabelle’s vision of an untroubled life is in danger of being sabotaged by Massimo’s unexpected duplicity.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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