Book Review: She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop
My rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ (4 stars)
Publisher: Washington Square Publishing

Well this was certainly a page-turner. I don't want to say too much and give the whole thing away but I wish to tell it all in a spoiler-filled rant (mostly about one character). I picked this up because the author has a book due out this year (We Came Here to Forget: A Novel) that I'm looking forward to reading and wanted to read one of her works to get a feel of her writing style. I had no expectations but the blurb did sound interesting so I dove in.

Liberty Lawrence had no way of knowing that her act of kindness in her and her siblings reconnecting with the remaining member of the estranged branch of the family would set off a chaos bomb in their lives in such short order. Because unfortunately cousin Laila, is more than anything else, a grasping and greedy creature. And she's here to take what she sees as her due and frankly, anything else she perceives holds any value to anyone else or isn't nailed down.

Liberty was the saving grace here as characters went and I admit to being far more interested in her story than Laila's. I wanted to know more about Liberty's life before we drop into the story and also for things to work out for her. I pulled for her love life and adored the fulfillment she found in her work and charitable endeavours. I most wanted her to have a happy ending and when that wasn't to be possible, I wanted justice on her behalf. It's simpler to give a shout out to the one character, other than Liberty, who displayed decency throughout than detail all the others who were on a continuum of awfulness so know that Reece, Liberty's BFF was a favourite of mine.

The central mystery of what event precipitated the estrangement of Gregory Lawrence from the rest of the family is laid out at the beginning of the story as is Laila's provenance and held a lot of interest for me. Sadly, it is drawn out too long by two simple things, never having Ben, Gregory's brother have occasion to talk with Laila or more believably, Laila tracking him down and pushing for answers (she's a bull in a china shop in all other attempts at finesse so why not here?) and secondly, grandfather Frederick is kept off stage "in Europe" so long he becomes more plot device than character and has no other use in the story than to give the big explanation/reveal and then even that is denied. The mystery that draws the reader in and gives Laila her raison d'Γͺtre is ultimately never directly answered or proven and consequently felt like a ploy. A great disappointment for this reader.

There are plenty of misdeeds to go around in the rarified strata the Lawrences inhabit. None of it surprising until the final act. The collision course is set in motion early on by Laila in her never-ending game of latching onto a man she thinks will be the one to either care for her or catapult her into a situation in which she'll find another man who will. It never occurs to her that this behaviour may have unintended consequences. While I found Simon thoroughly disgusting, it turned out he doled out a most relishing moment in the story when he told Laila he could see her, because like knows like and game recognizes game. When he told her that her entitlement was appalling, I cheered! Simon wasn't a character I wanted to cheer for, so that should tell you something about how I felt about Laila. More than any others in the book they're true soulmates. In the end, disaster strikes and the fallout is terrible and completely out of Laila's control though she tries her darndest to harness and salvage the best outcome for herself. Of course. But then one thing happens that she nor others expected. Someone stepped up and proved that even the most gilded cesspool of morally bankrupt people can produce an idealist and a true friend who wouldn't let justice go unserved. Those two made the whole book time well spent.

Amid the froth and scandalous deeds, this book had some very keen insights and observations about wealth, gender value/worth and aspiration. I thought the multiple references to the expiry date of women was disturbing. It was pretty clear they were seen as worthy of marriage as their ability to make progeny lasted. This was in great contrast to the men who seemed to all have gone through several wives & had children with each. Also highly disturbing was the idea that women were responsible for the mental maintenance & to be the cleanup detail of the men in their lives. Husbands, fathers, brothers, it was non-stop because the men were seriously weak and made poor decisions that had consequences that spiralled out from messy to disastrous. I didn't know quite how to take that but then I had a very strong and orderly father, have no siblings, married in my twenties (to a very together man of the same age) and never experienced the worry the women here had about finding a mate or ministering to the men in their lives generally. While some of it seemed a choice or acceptance of their inevitable lot, the expectations were stifling and I felt a bit sorry for the women here. Even Laila.

Final thoughts, Beau was right to exile himself in, according to the twins tenuous and fluid grasp of geography: "Banff near Alberta, in Alaska or some tiny town in Canada" and Laila continued as she began, absolute & unabashed trash. I'm wishing for bounty hunters.

Summary: the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York 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 ten years before.
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. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. 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 family scandal—not to mention setting off several 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 about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

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