I picked up Flawless because both the cover and the story seemed very 90’s to me. Nostalgia does influence our actions, you know. Something about a young woman entrepreneur in the beauty industry and some tragedy reminded me very much of Danielle Steel. The LA or Beverly Hills setting promised some glamour. And so I dived into yet another new book, from an author I had not read before.
Verena Valent (alliteration going strong here) heads Valent Swiss Skincare, a line of exclusive beauty products founded by her grandmother Mia. Orphaned as a teen, Verena heads the business and takes care of her family, older frail grandmother and barely thirteen twin sisters. We learn a lot about how exclusive Valent is and their rich and famous clientele. Verena is feeling the pinch from the economy, and is short on money. Boyfriend Dick, sorry Derrick ropes her in on the orders of his boss Roper, who is a ‘vulture’ capitalist. Thus begins a tale of deception and tragedy.
Verena has three staunch friends. Scarlett is a clever lawyer who works in New York but conveniently has a LA assignment so she can proof read all the legal paperwork Verena has to wade through. Dahlia is in the perfume business, also founded by her grandma who was a struggling immigrant just like Mia. Fianna is a dress designer on her way up. All the friends frequent the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel where Verena runs into the handsome executive chef Lance Martel. They feel a pull but Verena ignores it as she is engaged.
Throughout the book, I wasn’t really able to figure out whether the Valents are rich or just struggling to pay the bills. Admittedly, there is a mention of how they put everything they earn back into the business. Verena chooses to borrow money instead of laying off a few people. And she makes a pact with the devil. She borrows money on atrocious terms, and signs away all her rights to the business and her products. All this in spite of everyone advising her against it, but apparently, not strongly enough.
So the sky falls in and all the friends say how this was expected all along. Where were they when Verena was signing it all away? Lawyer Scarlett tells Verena that she has no choice but to agree to all the ridiculous conditions of the contract, but after the worst happens, she tells Verena that the fund she borrowed from was infamous for such shenanigans. Couldn’t she have learned this before? Her job was to have her friend’s back after all, which she fails at.
I was tense with anticipation for a large part of the book, and I kept mentally urging Verena to have some common sense. But the character turns out to be quite naïve. Many of the plot points didn’t really add up for me. On one hand, Valent is trying to make a big foray into Asian markets, and on the other hand Verena herself gives facials to her clients. She wears real pearls and antique jewellery but fails to recognize that the huge hunk of ice on her finger is a Cubic Zirconia!
If evoking emotions in the reader’s heart was the objective, the author has greatly succeeded. By the way, the readers will see a lot of Lance Martel, who thankfully appears now and then to give some respite from the tension. Danielle Steel’s heroines always seemed tragic or helpless, some were wronged, some were passionate and adventurous, but they never seemed like fools. Verena Valent largely came off as a fool with blinders on who gambles away a 60 year old company, on the advice of her boyfriend who she doesn’t even love or trust.
Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore Flawless. And that, according to me, is the greatest compliment you can give an author.