If you devoured Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper novels back in the day, you’re going to absolutely love Ruthless Women. It’s a throwback to the ‘bonkbuster’ novels of the 80s and 90s, with a large cast of attractive, driven men and women all sleeping with people they shouldn’t be, drinking champagne and a fair few of them doing drugs as well, as they manipulate their way through life. With the almost too on-to-nose setting of a popular soap opera’s cast and crew, actors and writers more than willing to stab each other in the back to get ahead, it’s both hilariously over the top - something even the characters themselves note at times, their reaction to the major character being eaten by a shark plot was screamingly funny - and also extremely believable. Honestly, with the author being an agent to many real-life soap stars, I absolutely believe she’s seen more scandals than a lot of us have had hot dinners, many of them just too salacious and incredible even for fiction.
While for sheer number and variety of sex scenes this rivals any of those old-school blockbusters, all of them are fairly short and not all that explicit. It’s not going to be a novel with the pages dog-eared so you can share the naughty bits with your friends (come on, we all knew where those bits were in Riders or Lace). It’s going to appeal to those of us who were reading those books back in the day in particular, though, because of something that does set it apart from them; none of the strong women featured are twenty or even thirty-somethings. The youngest of them is in her forties; several are in their fifties, one is seventy and utterly unashamed of her sexuality.
It’s unashamedly over-the-top, everyone is as beautifully manicured as on an episode of Real Housewives and just as bitchy. The only thing I thought it lacked was a real ‘central heroine’ to root for, though Amanda comes close, we don’t get quite enough in her POV. There was an inaccuracy about female fertility which bugged me too; as someone who’s been through IVF, it definitely isn’t a fix for failure to carry to term. IVF helps you get pregnant when you couldn’t, not stay pregnant. It wouldn’t have helped Amanda with her issue.
Despite these flaws, I honestly loved the book, for its fantasy, escapism, and the wonderful depiction of fierce and fabulous women ruling their queendoms well into middle and later life. I’ll give it five stars and I’d love to read more by this author.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via the author’s representative.