Social climbing and the lengths people will go to in order to make a better life for themselves can be fascinating. In The Gatecrasher we have one such anti-heroine, but thankfully, she is surrounded by some of the most interesting and likable characters I have met as of late.
Fleur Daxeny crashes funerals in order to meet rich, vulnerable men, and take as much as she can get from them before moving on. She's been doing this successfully for a while and has her routine down pat. When we meet her, she is in the process of getting ready for the new batch of funerals coming her way, charging her stylish new black outfits to her unsuspecting, soon-to-be-deserted, Greek lover.
Her target at Emily Valour's memorial service is, of course, Emily's bereaved husband Richard, a rich man who mourns the wife he's lost but at the same time realizes the he's never really known her. What Richard has never had is a passionate soul mate, a woman who can make each day come alive and instill in him the desire to truly live. Fleur is determined to be all that and more.
Little by little we see Fleur stealthily become an integral part of Richard's life. Damn his club and his gossipy acquaintances, Richard thinks. For the first time in his life he desires and is desired, although guilty thoughts of Emily do pop up whenever he's tempted to make love to Fleur, who knows that Richard must succumb physically in order to be completely hers.
Richard's children are, of course, dysfunctional. Young Antony lives in shame of the birthmark that made him imperfect to his mother and his social life is painfully awkward and nonexistent. Daughter Philippa is married to the odious and greedy Lambert, the man Emily said would be the only one to marry an such an undesirable package as she. Needless to say, Fleur soon realizes that Emily was far from a kind person, be it in the capacity of wife, mother, or sister, and is soon charming Richard, his children, and Emily's own sister, the initially reticent Gillian.
It is never part of Fleur's plan to linger so long at Richard's, but first the lack of sex, and then the fact that he hasn't yet given her a Gold Card (Fleur's preferred method of getting her hands on her target's money) serve to stall matters. Finally, Fleur's daughter Zara arrives, creating all sorts of complications with Antony as a triumphant Fleur, Gold Card finally in hand, gets ready to leave and move on to her next victim.
Richard is the most likable of men - a little clueless when it comes to his children, but he definitely means well. His feelings where Fleur is concerned are pure and tender, and I couldn't help but feel for him as Fleur became increasingly bored with him.
Much like Zara does when she finds herself up against her mother's machinations, I found myself losing patience with Fleur, and honestly wished that she'd gotten more of what she really deserved. The ending only works if one believes that the selfish, vain, greedy Fleur of 99% of the book has really changed.
The secondary characters, however, were priceless. Philippa's pathetic marriage to Lambert is truly sad and real, just as Antony's desire to belong is heartbreaking. Gillian, who at first so hated Fleur, made me smile as she succumbs to Fleur's charm and wears the blue scarf Fleur gives her - every single day.
This book will probably not be for everyone. Fleur is cold, ruthless, and calculating as she begins to ensnare Richard, who never has a clue about the captivating woman he's met. But if you're in the mood for a sort of Absolutely Fabulous storyline with a bit less comedy, then I recommend you try The Gatecrasher.