The Gatecrasher
By Lucia Nelson
Nov 26, 2007 - 5:06:33 PM

Fleur Daxeny is a wealthy woman—but she’s made her fortune by seducing recently-widowed men at funerals. She watches the newspapers for funeral announcements, then shows up, consoles the widower, and makes herself charming, irresistible, and indispensable. Once she has what she wants, she disappears.

Richard Favour is a pleasant man who is grieving the loss of his wife, Emily. Emily was never given to displays of emotion, and Richard feels like he barely knew her, though they were married for years. When Fleur appears at Emily’s funeral, describing herself as a distant friend of Emily’s, Richard reaches out to her, hoping that Fleur could provide him some details of his secretive wife’s inner life. However, Fleur has other intentions, and she slowly begins to infiltrate his life. Richard soon finds himself falling in love, and Fleur finds herself wondering how much money Richard really has. If she’s going to put in the time, it has to be worth her while.

Within a few months, Fleur is living at Richard’s country estate and getting to know his family, including his daughter Philippa, trapped in an unpleasant marriage with Lambert, who married her for her money; and Antony, Richard’s son, who is going through an awkward teenage phase. Both children take to Fleur immediately, as does Emily’s sister, Gillian. Emily had been cold and critical of all of them, and Fleur’s fun-loving ways are a breath of fresh air. When Fleur’s daughter Zara appears, the Favours welcome her with open arms, and she soon becomes close friends with Antony. Soon, the entire Favour family soon finds themselves wondering how they ever survived without Fleur—which is Fleur’s signal that it’s time to take the money and run, even though she’s grown comfortable with the Favours and even started having true feelings for Richard. Can this gold-digger have a change of heart?

Madeline Wickham, who writes the popular Shopaholic series of chick-lit books under her pen name Sophie Kinsella, has written yet another breezy story about a flawed woman with a good heart underneath her shallow exterior. Fleur is a bit irritating at times—you wonder how she can not have feelings for Richard and his family—and her motivations are not always clear. Still, she’s got many positive qualities, and she makes the people around her feel like they are special and important. Fleur’s friendship with Emily Favour’s dowdy sister Gillian transforms the middle-aged woman into a fashionable lady who is no longer forced to live in her glamorous socialite sister’s shadow.

Philippa’s husband Lambert makes a convincing villain. He’s very similar to Fleur in that he uses people for their money, but rather than using charm, he uses cruelty to get what he wants. Richard is an all-around nice guy who just wants to figure out how his late wife really felt about him—and when he does find out, he’s both surprised and dismayed. The relationship between Richard’s son Antony and Fleur’s daughter Zara makes for a sweet subplot—bad-girl wannabe Zara helps geeky Antony gain confidence, and Antony gives Zara the stability and the feeling of “family” that she’s been looking for.

This is a quick, enjoyable read that fans of Wickham’s other books will devour. If you’re looking for something light and funny for an airplane ride or an escapist afternoon, look no further.

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