The very first time I started Judith Krantz’s DAZZLE I got mocked by a co-worker of mine. It was in the late ‘90s and I was working night shift—not by choice, mind you—and the second I took the day-glo yellow paperback out of my backpack, she blurted out a big: “But this is women’s fiction...” Meaning I couldn’t possibly be reading this shit. Moi, a guy. I wish I could say that I told her to fuck off with her prejudices but I didn’t. I just remember mumbling something very awkward while putting the book aside. I also remember feeling the heat rising up my face as I tried my best not to let it get to me. Of course I failed big time. Here I was being ridiculed because of my reading choices and it didn’t suit me at all. I never touched that novel that night. In fact, I got rid of it afterwards, unread. I bought it back a few years later but it took me almost two decades to get back to it. Which brings me to this review.
After charming us with titles such as SCRUPLES, PRINCESS DAISY and MISTRAL’S DAUGHTER, Judith Krantz definitely hit a wall. As grand as she wants DAZZLE to be, it fizzles out rather quickly (yes I went there). Oh, she tries hard to glamourize us with colorful characters, opulent settings and a rich narrative but the overall effect has a deep sense of déjà vu (from her earlier work and other novels on the market) that ultimately verges on boredom. Not that the book is a flat out dud. There are moments of pure joy notably when the heroine’s former stepmom and power antagonist Lydie Kilkullen steps in. She is one cold beotch, let me tell you. She makes Cinderella’s wicked stepmother a sweetheart. In fact, DAZZLE is a hearty knock off of the Charles Perrault classic story (complete with the two self-centered, manipulative stepsisters). The only thing missing is the prince that got away. On second thought, we got that one too. Only he’s a ranch hand and he’s as clumsy and as bland as the novel itself.
Now the plot: DAZZLE is the surname of the heroine (nee Juanita Isabella) and to her father’s eyes she is Miss Little Perfect. To me, however, she’s just a pain in the ass; sassy, beautiful, successful as a photographer to the stars perhaps but still oh-so stupid when it comes to the opposite sex. As much as the author wants to make her likable with pages after pages of situations and hardships it never reaches that end, even when Dazzle’s old man croaks leaving her the ranch and part of the land. Of course she ends up fighting tooth and nails her siblings (and stepmom) who want to sell the land for condos. Anyway, to make a long story short, good prevails over evil as in any good sleazy novel should but it hardly matters since no one really cares up to that point.
The thing I hated most about DAZZLE is the feeling of having been cheated. Here I was thinking I was investing my time with a sure bet when the end result was nothing but. Despite this realization, I still have respect for this author. The reason is simple: like Susann or Collins before her, she paved the way for other big names (such as Gould, Conran, Vincenzi). She made the genre much more accessible and I respect her for that. Now about those flashy covers. I know it’s asking for a lot since I’m not included in the targeted demographics but can we butch them up or something? It would make my life so much easier. Though on the other hand I could just buy myself a book cover or download novels whenever possible on my Kindle and that’ll be the end of that problem. Or I could just say fuck them all and still go at it commando.
Until next post—Martin