Two women, one already a successful tech millionaire, the other a successful model, add instant attraction and great chemistry and we have a classic whirlwind romance. On the surface “Captain of industry” is an excellent, well written story in the traditional genre, but underneath it is a much deeper commentary on the cost of success, and the price of being out.
Suzanne is a new tech millionaire, living it up in NYC as a minor celebrity and enjoying all the benefits of being young, attractive and rich. Having sold her start-up to AOL, she is the current whizz kid, self made, successful and going places – with everybody wanting a slice of her success. For her being out is not an issue, she just ‘is’ and there is no thought of any cost or consequence.
Jennifer is a successful model, just reaching the level where she feels confident to turn down work and stonewall men who think they can maul her. But her heart is set on being an actress, and she spends every spare moment working on her skills, her resume and her contacts. For her being out is not an option. She knows without a doubt that coming out will kill her career before it starts. And for her that drive to succeed is stronger than her dreams of happy ever after.
When Jennifer literally falls into Suzanne’s arms their attraction is instant, and their interactions both amusing and playful. Despite the brevity of their various encounters across the years their deep connection is obvious. But while Suzanne believes they can enjoy each other, grow and develop their relationship, see where it goes, Jennifer runs scared from anything which might damage her career. And the lies the rub, because Suzanne cannot understand, will not recognise, the cost of being out, and Jennifer will not risk it.
What we see unfold is a woman hardening her heart, pushing others away, becoming the Hollywood bitch, all for her career. Kallmaker deepens the romance into a feminist commentary on the choices women have had to make to get what they want. At the same time we have a story of personal growth; Suzanne must recognise her money cannot buy everything, Jennifer needs to gain success on her own terms, and the maturity to stand up and be counted.
Extremely well written in classic Kallmaker style, with a great supporting cast of friends and colleagues and a fascinating exploration on the social scene these women inhabit, this one is a joy to read. The humour balances the seriousness of the underlying message and the success and growth of both women puts the heartache into the perspective of a grown up wider world. And Lego? Who thought Lego could become zen?
It’s a delight to have Karin Kallmaker back at the writer’s block after her quiet years, however valuable she was as a publisher. I look forward to many more of her interesting characters, thoughtful subplots and wonderful writing.
(publisher review copy received)