My grandma was a feisty, funny, fabulous woman.
Before she passed away, my grandma spent several frail years pretty much confined to either her bed or her favorite chair, and during this time she took up several new hobbies including crocheting, doing word searches and word finds, making Christmas tree ornaments, and, my favorite, reading “historical fiction.”
Let’s be clear: by “historical fiction” I obviously mean “bodice-ripping, long hair-flying, white knight horse-riding, damsel in distress-crying romance novels.” I would take those suckers back to the library by the dozens, and, of course, I read a few of them while I was staying with my grandma and helping to care for her before she passed on. So, when I hear the term “romance novel” or “adult fiction,” a certain type of book comes to mind. Scarlet Lies, however, is not my grandma’s romance novel.
Are you a misogynist? Do you hate laughter? Do you love reading about heroines with flawless figures and predictable, cookie-cutter perfect personalities? Do you spend your spare time kicking puppies and making children cry? If so, this book is not for you. BUT, if you like your romance feminist-friendly, if you love a good laugh, and if you prefer heroines with real flaws, complex relationships, and depth of character, you will LOVE Scarlet Lies.
Right off the bat, I could tell Scarlet was going to be a relatable, likeable character. The story opens with Scarlet boarding a plane to travel from Las Vegas to Samoa for her successful, beautiful, self-absorbed younger sister’s wedding. Scarlet’s fear of flying and hilariously wild imagination, coupled with the anti-anxiety meds her doctor prescribed for the trip and the complimentary champagne served in business class, makes the airplane scene one of my favorite parts of the book. It is from this portion of the novel that the name, Scarlet Lies, emerges. To distract herself from her fear of flying, Scarlet alternately chugs glasses of champagne and chats up the uber hunk sitting next to her. Over the course of the flight, she weaves an entirely fictitious tale starring herself as a Vegas showgirl, toilet paper made from recycled tires, and the incredibly gorgeous Jason Momoa. Lies. All lies. All hilarious, snort-inducing, laugh-out-loud funny lies.
And, lest you think that all of the humor is exhausted in the first chapter, here is a golden little excerpt from the wedding. Scarlet sneaks out to the parking lot for a breather and this scene unfolds:
…I take a moment to breathe. My feet are dying in my stupid shoes and the fat squeezer is impending my circulation in troubling ways.
A cautious look over my shoulder. No-one’s around. I slip my shoes off and hobble over to stand on the grass..wriggling my toes in the cool wet grass. Now for the torture girdle. I move into the shadows, put my hand up under my dress, a squirm, a wriggle, and then an unpeeling of Spanx, down…down. The greedy fabric doesn’t want to let go of my fat folds and it hurts to drag it down my legs and step out of it. A quiet exult, “Yes! Free at last.”
“Isn’t that my job?”
His quiet voice from somewhere behind me has me leaping a few feet into the air with a muffled shriek. “What the hell are you doing, creeping up on people like that?!”
So funny. And so something that would happen to me. I love that Scarlet is a flawed, relatable character. The humor alone makes this book a great read. However, humor is not its only asset.
My favorite thing about Scarlet Lies is its multifaceted dimension. Scarlet is not just the stereotypical “funny fat friend.” By using a plus-sized character and giving her a colorful, sometimes painful, often poignant backstory, the author creates an atypical protagonist who experiences life in much the way most readers probably do. I also really appreciated the familial interactions in this book. As a fellow Polynesian woman who rarely sees in print the kinds of extended family relationships experienced by Samoans and Tongans alike, I enjoyed reading about Scarlet’s interactions with her aunties, siblings, and parents. Scarlet’s character is clearly shaped by both her life experiences and her relationships with her family, and as I read this story, I felt compassion, righteous indignation, embarrassment, love, frustration, elation…so many complex feelings were inspired as a result of Scarlet’s depth of character and imperfect lovability.
And, lest you begin to question whether or not this is, indeed, a romance novel, I will leave you with a brief taste of the kind of sizzle you can expect from Scarlet Lies:
He clasps my fingers in his and brings my hand up to his lips. Still with his gaze on the road ahead, he slowly kisses each of my knuckles. A feather light touch that sends an invisible wire of heat razing through me. It’s heat that powers my next move. Something I’ve been wanting to do for days now. I tug my hand out of his and dance my fingers along his broad thigh, reaching down and brushing ever-so-quickly against That-Package-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. It’s only the lightest, most ethereal of caresses, but it’s enough for me to establish that someone is very happy about being in the car with me.
Scarlet Lies, Book One in the Scarlet series is available for purchase here. Pick up your digital copy today. You’ll be so glad you did.