Sometimes re-reading a favorite isn’t such a great idea after all. Case in point: Judith Gould’s DAZZLE (now out in e-book form from Malden Bridge Press). I remember devouring it the first time I got a hold of it. It was the late 80s and I had just finished SINS and couldn’t get enough of this author. So in came DAZZLE to satisfy my intellectual needs. Intellectual? Yes, intellectual. Proust may do it for some. Me? Gould and the likes satisfy me aplenty. It would take me years to figure out that this lady is actually a pseudonym for two fellows by the name of Nicholas Peter Bienes and Rhea Gallaher. Since then they have become my main men in trash fiction, and with good reasons: titillating is their middle name. Yes, some of their novels are better than others, but all have a common denominator: they (really) center around the rich. Having gone through their entire backlist, I’ve been waiting eagerly for another title to emerge, but as of now nothing has been confirmed. Perhaps they go by another pen name these days, but color me clueless as to what they have become. I’ve tried and tried to reach them via emails but as I write this I have yet to hear from them. So feeling like revisiting one of their earlier success to commemorate their undeniable talent, I picked up DAZZLE first because it’s been more than two decades since I’ve read it, and second, it was the only novel that I still had not gone over twice.
At first, everything was hunky-dory, going back to this tale of three multi-generational women caught in their own web of deception. I’ve always been a sucker for stage and screen types of novels and this one was right up my alley. But as I got deeper and deeper into it one thing began to bug me, which to this day I still don’t understand how it could have breezed through without my noticing it the first time around. There seemed to be a change of focus all of a sudden. One that ultimately took over the central plot. The novel wasn’t really about the silly problems of the rich anymore (as the back cover so proudly proclaims). No, DAZZLE was turning out to be more serious than that. Oh, it still bathed in opulence as a good trashy novel should, but it added another layer to its theme: the political kind. All about the conflict between Arabs and Jews which, frankly, might still be interesting given in small doses. But as the whole enchilada, huh, no. Of course I did persevere. I wasn’t about to abandon one fine if not perfect lengthy novel. It’s Gould we’re talking about here. You never leave royalty. They leave you. But I got to admit that I was less intrigued by the two main characters, a lot less. Oh I still craved for them two to unite, but I wasn’t as involved as I should, and this bummed me.
So who’s to blame here? Little moi who’s become pickier and pickier in my experienced years or the marketing people who have committed a big faux pas by making the reader believe he/she was set for another SINS-like thrill ride? I verge more on the marketing ploy (of course). Because were it not for their tactic ways, I would have known exactly what I was getting myself into. That said, Bienes and Gallaher still pen a good story despite its political swerve, and their narrative couldn’t be any stronger. I just wish the novel would have centered more on the Hollywood-based drama as promised. Still, I’d say give DAZZLE a go. Just be aware of its true colors.