If you like your summer reads to come with a side order of glamour and sizzle, then Rival Passions is one for you. Set amid a stunning backdrop of five star hotels and swanky champagne-fuelled parties, this is definitely a book to pack for your summer holidays.
Serena Taylor and Jack Devlin are twins who have taken over the running of the family hotel, Tamarisk Manor, from their mother Charlotte. While Jack has been getting over his wife’s death, Serena has thrown herself headfirst into the business of ensuring Tamarisk remains the haven of choice for well-heeled celebrities, but she is struggling to balance her roles of businesswoman, wife and mother; just one of the ‘rival passions’ which is addressed in the book and a familiar conflict which many readers will identify with.
While taking time out in France at Tamarisk’s sister hotel ‘La Mimosa’, Jack meets Jenni, a young waitress, and starts to put his life back together. Meanwhile, despite the financial pressures of the recession and the fact that her husband Paul has discovered she is deceiving him, Serena continues to chase the elusive accolade of ‘Haven of the Year’.
In addition to the pivotal story of Serena’s failing marriage and her fraught relationship with her distracted brother, there are interesting sub-plots offered through family friend Kim, who is fed up of the single thirty-something party scene and also has a very soft spot for Jack, and also in the flashback’s to Charlotte’s life.
With scenes set among the beautiful people of Dublin society, this book rips along with designer shoes, stunning dresses and passionate liaisons at every turn. But bubbling underneath the glamorous façade of the main character’s lives are secrets and anxieties which provide several interesting twists and turns.
If I had to describe Rival Passions as a meal, it would be an aperitif of Kir Royale, a starter of oysters, and a main course of succulent fillet steak. There would be no dessert; just more of the finest champagne money can buy!
For sheer escapism, this has to be a book that ticks all the boxes and would be best enjoyed while on a sun lounger in your bikini – preferably with a cocktail to hand, just to keep you cool!
Rival Passions is published by Hachette Ireland and is available now priced €13.99. Zoe’s previous titles are Guilty Secrets and Sinful Deceptions.
I spoke to Zoe, who is married with three children and lives in south county Dublin, about Rival Passions and her writing life.
How did you start writing – and why – and when was your first novel published?
I’ve been writing since I was young – I still recall standing in a library at age seven, filled with wonder at the shelves of books, knowing that I had found my life’s passion. I was first published as a freelance writer, with articles and short stories. Eventually I realised that if I wanted to write a novel I was going to have to carve out the time somehow. There were lots of hiccups along the way but Guilty Secrets was published in 2009, Sinful Deceptions in 2010 and Rival Passions in 2011.
And having established yourself as a successful author, what’s the most exciting moment so far?
Signing my book deals and getting onto that bestseller list! A writer’s life is 95% working at the laptop in solitary confinement, but I’ve had a few glamorous moments at various book launches, the Hachette Summer party, and champagne occasions with Sheila Crowley, my agent. Recently I had a glitzy moment at my launch for Rival Passions when Ireland’s newly crowned, most stylish couple, Nicky Byrne of Westlife and his lovely wife
Georgina popped in to say hello.
Oh, I don’t think I would enjoy that at all (ahem). Rival Passions is set in several stunning locations. Do you always write about locations you’ve spent time in?
Yes, in all my novels I like to include a foreign location I’ve already visited; Italy, Paris, the French Riviera… I think you need to have been there to write with authenticity. A great excuse, I tell myself, to plan a trip to the Maldives! Or the Seychelles… (wishful sigh)
Is Tamarisk Manor based on a real hotel?
Tamarisk is based on the best that Irish hotels have to offer. I had planned to base most of Rival Passions in France, then I realised it was a golden opportunity to showcase Ireland’s beautiful scenery and great hospitality. It was fun checking out 5 star hotels and enjoying the spa and facilities. I’d love to say I go to lots of glamorous parties, but have to admit that I research some of this online.
How do you develop your characters and are any of the characters in Rival Passions based on real celebrities (oh go on, tell us)?!
I watched a girl stroll out of a café in Old Town, Nice, and Jenni from Rival Passions walked right into my heart and sparked a whole book. Generally my characters are an amalgam of lots of different impressions. I develop them by making some initial background notes and focussing on the human relationships between them. By the time I’m finished a novel, I’m emotionally attached to my characters as though they are my family, and I hate saying goodbye. I’d never consciously base a character on a real person or celebrity – I think they need to come from your heart.
Which three words would best describe your writing style?
I like to think my trademark style is a heartfelt and passionate story, under the facade of glamour. I like to unravel the hopes and fears behind the glossy persona my characters present to the world, the life experiences that shape them and compel them to behave as they do. Then, no matter how many mistakes they have made, there is still hope for the future.
If you could be a character from any book, either one of yours or someone else’s, who would it be and why?
Hmm… tough question, Hazel! It would have to be a mixture of the best of some of my characters, please! I’d like to have the success of Lia Lacey, novelist in Guilty Secrets, with a string of bestselling novels, who enjoys worldwide, whirlwind book tours, but without her skeletons in the cupboard. Mix this with the fun of Jenni in Rival Passions, then add a touch of Serena with the sexy Paul …
Wow. I think we’d all like to be that person! So, which celebrities would you love to play the main characters in Rival Passions?
Cameron Diaz for Serena and Jude Law for Jack, when they take it to the big screen. (another wishful sigh)
Have you ever spotted anyone famous reading one of your novels?
Georgina Ahern Byrne bought a copy of Rival Passions at my launch. I think she is keeping it for her hols and I hope she is spotted lounging by the pool, thoroughly engrossed in it!
Are you working on your next novel (and can I come and help with the location research)?!
The draft of my next novel – Bold and Beautiful – has just been sent off to my agent and my editor in Hachette, and right now I’m suffering major withdrawal symptoms! Locations include New York, Hong Kong and London. It’s about three glamorous sisters and what happens when the consequences of a family scandal holds the mirror up to their lives and reveals who is the most beautiful of them all…. and who is the boldest…
Oooo, I can’t wait for that one!