10 August 2012

Review: Beauty to Die For by Kim Alexis and Mindy Starns Clark

Juliette Taylor is visiting the Palm Grotto Resort and Spa in Cahuilla Springs, California, to lead a Christian retreat weekend. The ex-supermodel has a brand of exclusive skincare products, JT Lady, and Palm Grotto is one of her main customers. However, an internal investigation suggests that products are being counterfeited.

Also on his way to Palm Grotto is Marcus, an expert in disaster prevention and recovery. He met Juliette decades ago when she was at the height of her fame, and fell hard for her. Marcus has been working with the FBI on a counterfeiting case, and it seems that Juliette's business has been targetted by the criminals, which gives him an excuse to reconnect.

Another spa guest is Raven, an ex-supermodel with a reputation for diva behaviour and temper tantrums, and a difficult past. Raven's presence is a puzzle that turns into a mystery when she is found to have died during a routine beauty treatment. Juliette joins up with Marcus to protect the reputation of her products by finding the real culprit.

Beauty to Die For didn’t really work for me, despite the cool cover and the catchy title. In the beginning, Juliette and Raven have a mini-showdown in the airport before arising at the resort. As a reader, I thought Juliette was totally misinterpreting what Raven said to her, and I couldn’t understand why. I still don’t, as it turns out that my immediate interpretation of Raven’s comment was, in fact, correct. But it took Juliette most of the book to work that out, even though she’s supposed to be this switched-on businesswoman.

We are told early in the book that people don’t really understand how difficult modelling is. Well, this isn’t really a statement that is going to gain sympathy from many readers, because it just seems to show how out of touch with reality the fashion industry is (many jobs in life are difficult. Supermodels have the advantage of having found a high-paying difficult job, not a minimum-wage difficult job). Later (much later) in the book, Juliette is remembering a photo shoot, and we are actually shown the difficulties she alluded to. This scene gave me a much better understanding of the issues, and made Juliette seem a lot more likeable. But it should have come earlier. As readers, we want to like our fictional heroines and heroes, so we need to be given reasons to like them.

I also got annoyed by the supposed incompetence of the police investigating Raven’s death. They didn’t actually feature in the story, except to get things wrong or to not look at vital evidence. Instead, Juliette was all over the resort, listening in on conversations and finding all the missing links. This also seemed odd – no one questioned that a guest (albeit an important guest) kept nosing around staff-only areas? And the counterfeiting seemed to be set up to be a major plot point, but really was just a device to get Marcus in the picture. There was potential, but aspects of the plot were too unbelievable, even for fiction.

It’s not to say I didn’t like Beauty to Die For at all. I thought the action scenes were well done, the ending was lovely, and I really liked the way the spa weekend was aimed at Christian women who spend too much time giving to others was great (sign me up!). But the second half of the book was not strong enough to make up for the weak first half.

Thanks to B&H Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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