Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: Beddington Place

By Jami Deise

Have you ever watched a show like The Real Housewives of Parsnip and said to yourself, “Hey, I could do that! That could be me and my friends!” No? Me neither. Still, just because you wouldn’t want to star in such a series doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty pleasures. And Eve Marx’s novel, “Beddington Place,” has such a Real Housewives feel, it comes as no surprise that the characters want to star in a similar reality series of their own.

Beddington Place is the real main character in Marx’s novel. A town in Westchester County, NY (where Bill and Hill call home), it’s a filthy rich, horse-centered hamlet where people cavort as if starring in their own soap opera. The story is narrated by the unfortunately named Paige Turner, a reporter for the celebrity rag Hello! Magazine. Based in L.A., Paige is at Beddington Place to cover “Princess Tatas,” who’s considering purchasing a home in the town. As the Princess makes up her mind, her real estate agent, Tamsin – anxious for continued publicity – invites Paige to stay rent-free in her guest cottage.

Paige quickly fits right in. A rider herself, she befriends the town’s horsey set, who are torn between wanting her coverage and wanting her to go away. A strange flirtation with a horse trainer, Alex, finds her in the middle of Alex’s battle with another trainer, Diandra. Tamsin and her friends all warn Paige against Alex, but when Paige is thrown out of a party, Alex is the only one who’ll rescue her. The townsfolk provide Paige with plenty of material, so she stays in town despite rumors that her L.A. boyfriend has taken up with a porn star. And when Paige is asked to help script a Real Horsewives show, she’s in.

“Beddington Place” is a juicy read. Every scene is packed with action and conflict, and the characters are completely unpredictable. Marx has done an excellent job creating the town and creating this world. In reading the book, I felt completely immersed in her world.

The novel will also appeal to riders. There are many well-detailed scenes of trail rides of various challenges. Paige is an experienced, but not expert, rider, and when she’s on a horse that she feels is beyond her capabilities, her nervousness transmits directly to the reader. At the same time, though, scenes of horses being mistreated and neglected are that much more upsetting for those who know the difference between the dressage and the hunt/jump seat.

The novel isn’t without its shortcomings, though. Other than Paige, there is not a single likeable character in the book. Paige, however, never comments on their phoniness or cruelty, but continues to treat them as if they are her friends. This behavior makes Paige seem less than bright.

The tone of the book is uneven. In many places, it’s a funny, biting satire. In others, it’s a drama of manners, with situations that set up a murder. Indeed, there is a murder, but of a horse rather than a person. Unfortunately, author Marx never follows up on this plot line, and the reader is left to wonder what actually happened.

Finally, the book ends abruptly rather than wraps up and concludes. Perhaps Marx has done this in order to pump out a quick sequel, but I found it manipulative rather than compelling.

These problems are not enough to keep the book from being enjoyable, however. “Beddington Place” is the true definition of a page turner (excuse the pun) … or a “next page” clicker, for those of us with e-readers. And if Marx does come out with that sequel, there’s at least one person who’ll be downloading it as soon as it’s available.

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1 comment:

Gail A said...

I'm so tempted by this review. Well done, Jami! Now I'm going to have to download this and check it out. Sounds a bit like a modern-day Jilly Cooper, which is enough to suck me in.