A disclaimer: I know next to nothing about fashion that couldn’t be found in The Devil Wears Prada (and, despite reading and loving the book, a LOT that’s in the book) or overhead on the Fashion Police show with Joan Rivers and the gang. I’m happy to report as one non-fashionista to any others that may be reading this, any knowledge or hardcore interest in fashion is not a requirement for this TV crime dramedy style whodunit by Avery Flynn. In High Heeled Wonder, Ms. Flynn does all the heavy world building behind the text, placing the reader in a fully formed world where fashion is king and backstabbing his queen.
Summary: Sylvie Bissette is the adopted daughter of two of the hottest designers in Harbor City, the owners of BC. Beyond her elevated position as the offspring of fashion royalty, Sylvie is also the anonymous blogger behind High Heeled Wonder, a fashion blog that lampoons some of the people her family associates with on a regular basis while touting the virtues of fashion for everyone. She’s used to getting nasty emails from angry readers over some of the articles she posts, but when the threats escalate, her fathers decide to call on Tony Falcon and Maltese Security for help.
At first, Sylvie is reluctant to accept Tony’s help. But after narrowly escaping being mowed down in broad daylight and realizing that the police aren’t going to take the threat to her life seriously, she agrees to hire Maltese Security on one condition: Tony must go undercover as her boyfriend so no one gets suspicious. Tony isn’t exactly thrilled with this arrangement; he’s already having trouble keeping his hands off the tempting Sylvie and doesn’t know if being in such close proximity under the guise of a relationship is the best idea. But for reasons of his own, he’s determined to figure out who is behind the threat to Sylvie’s life. The question isn’t just whodunit, but whether the attraction between the stoic bodyguard and the curvy fashionista will be able to survive beyond the threat.
You guys! I LOVED High Heeled Wonder. Avery Flynn is adept at drawing the reader into the dog eat dog world of fashion she’s created in all of its self-serving glory. There are so many people who stand to gain from outing Sylvie as the creator of High Heeled Wonder and who would benefit from the site being taken down that it’s easy to lose sight of who it really is behind the threats. All of the characters that populate this book are fully formed, if not three dimensional. As in real life, some people don’t have redeeming qualities that we would get to see as people who don’t live in their heads, but even these characters are more than puppets to drive the plot along.
In the characters of Sylvie and Tony, Ms. Flynn has created a perfect storm of opposites attracting. Sylvie’s character is no shrinking violet. She knows how to infiltrate the fashion world and sniff out information on her stalker without giving anything away. Tony is an OCD-level planner with a singular focus on finding a killer, and isn’t afraid to use borderline illegal methods to get the job done. I loved their interactions together, and the attraction between them has the same magnetic affect on the reader.
I loved the twists and curves that Ms. Flynn through into the book. Every time you thought you knew something, some further complication was thrown into the mix. No one gets away scot free in this one; all of the characters that could have done it have some secrets and predilections that ensure you can’t love them, even if you can understand them.
The genre of romantic suspense walks a fine line. It’s hard to balance the characters and their romance with the need to keep pushing the plot forward. Usually, one or the other element falls short of the reader’s expectations. I think that High Heeled Wonder does a great job of balancing the two. I would recommend High Heeled Wonder to anyone looking for a fast paced read that will keep you guessing with a heroine you can’t help but root for and a hero torn between loyalty to a fallen friend and his feelings for an off-limits client. Also, a hero whose toes itch as an indication of danger (which was probably the funniest thing in the book to me).
* * * */ * * * * * (4 out of 5 stars for compelling characters, plot twists and combustible attraction)