by Erica Spindler
She’s got nothing to lose and everything to prove.
Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Bend, Mississippi, Becky Lynn Lee doesn’t have the luxury of dreaming. With an abusive father and a broken mother, she always thought that this was it. But after the ultimate betrayal, Becky Lynn can no longer live the nightmare.
Determined never to go back, Becky Lynn escapes to Hollywood. As a photographer’s assistant, she discovers a talent for spotting beauty and capturing the perfect shot. When the camera eventually turns on her, the awkward, shy Becky Lynn of her childhood disappears. But when the success she’s achieved is threatened, Becky Lynn must find the strength to embrace her new identity and put the ugliness of her past behind her forever.
Review: Fast-paced, Spindler strikes straight to your heart.
**Spoiler Alert: Do Not Read Beyond This Point If You Don’t Want To Know**
Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks” and labeled as “white trash,” Becky Lynn can only look at the pictures in fashion magazines and dream – not only of the people in the pictures, but the pictures, the photography itself. She works for Ms. Opal at the Cut & Curl, sweeping and shampooing customers. Her abusive father takes most of her paychecks, her mother too broken to defend herself or her children against his abuse, a brother who’s the football star at school, Becky Lynn feels completely alone in her little world. After an attempted rape, Becky Lynn is confronted by Ms. Opal, who believed Becky Lynn to be sleeping around until she realized the fear was real. When she pressed Becky Lynn to tell the authorities or the boys’ parents, Becky Lynn begs her not to. They would just jump to conclusions, much as Ms. Opal had at first, for Becky Lynn was nothing but “white trash.”
Ms. Opal drove Becky Lynn to and from work every day, and Becky Lynn became a prisoner in her home, the fear of Ricky and Tommy so strong she never went anywhere but work, school and home. A few months go by and Becky Lynn starts to relax. One night, Ms. Opal leaves early for a pep rally and one of the girls promises to give Becky Lynn a ride home. But after Ms. Opal leaves, Becky Lynn waves away the offer of the ride, for she knew Tommy and Ricky would be at the pep rally. She was dead wrong. They waited for her on her route home, and that’s when it happened.
At the same time, she learns of the ultimate betrayal, for Ms. Opal had broken her promise and had gone to the boys’ parents. When she finally makes it home, her father calls her a whore and that she better not get pregnant. Her brother looks at her guiltily; he knew what was happening, what happened, and didn’t stop it. Her mother simply says to go to bed, everything would be better in the morning. That was the final straw: Becky Lynn is gone. That night, she takes her meager savings out from under the loose floorboard in her room and takes off for Hollywood.
Jack Gallagher, eight-years-old, has already been all over the world. His mother, Sallie Gallagher, is a make-up artist for fashion shoots, and Jack’s seen it all. After learning his father is the top photographer, the amazing and incredible Giovanni, Jack confronts him, only to find out that Giovanni and Sallie have an “arrangement,” and that Giovanni has only one son, Carlo. At that moment, Jack makes a promise to himself: One day, he’ll be a better photographer than Giovanni, even if he has to do it alone.
Becky Lynn makes it to Hollywood, and just when desperation sets in, Becky Lynn meets Sallie, who gives her a job in her salon. Becky Lynn meets Jack, and Jack is curious about the girl, for she refuses to be alone in the room with him or any male, but she has a determined mind, and quickly learns that Becky Lynn has a natual talent for photography. He offers her a job as his assistant, and Becky Lynn is eager to learn.
What she didn’t count on was falling in love with Jack. But Jack refuses to give his heart, for his heart is cold with his own determination to beat Giovanni and his son, Carlo.
**I worried at first. At the beginning of the book, Ms. Spindler admits that “Red” might surprise us, the readers, for it doesn’t hold her trademark suspense/thriller and high body count, but she does promise her hallmark drama, fast-paced plot with complex relationships and an emotional edge. I soon learned that I had nothing to worry about.
She wasn’t kidding. Lots of drama – I was an emotional reck in the first half of the book! Ms. Spindler aims right at the reader’s heart and you cry just as much in sadness and bitterness as in anger. Immediately you feel for Becky Lynn, and you end up wondering how she’d ever trust men again.
Becky Lynn, everything that happens to her so early in life, grows to be one of the strongest, most determined characters I’ve ever read. Determined to put the past behind her and move forward, she’s taking baby steps, but she gets there, even when her heart gets broken, she trudges on. And even with all of the backstabbing, she still remains a kind person, reading to help at a moments notice, without hesitation.
Jack… What can I say about Jack. In many ways, he became his father, until the realization breaks through when he hurts Becky Lynn in the only way that matters. His determination to be better than his father, than his half-brother, filled his heart with anger and bitterness, and it’s a shame, for Giovanni pitted Jack and Carlo against each other. Deep down, I believe that Jack and Carlo could have really cared about each other, could have become great friends. Giovanni, a man you will hate right to your core. I hate saying that, as I’m Italian, but that man gives Italians a bad name.
But Jack does get Becky Lynn back. Randy, her brother, finally stands in her corner, and when her father figures out where she is and tries to destroy her by making accusations, Becky Lynn fights back.
An emotional roller-coaster. I highly recommend this book. I’ll bet you you’ll feel the same way about this book as I did. I guaranty you won’t regret it.