Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Review: "China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Kevin Kwan's first book, Crazy Rich Asians, was a fun, campy look at the outrageous lives and foibles of people in Singapore who are richer than you probably can even imagine. There was drama, intrigue, gossip, scheming, and a whole lot of shopping and eating. Kwan has brought most of his characters back in China Rich Girlfriend, giving you even more glimpses into the world of the ridiculously rich and infamous.

China Rich Girlfriend picks up where the first book left off: American-born Rachel Chu and her fiancé, Nick Young, have overcome the machinations of Nick's family and others who believed that one of Singapore's most eligible bachelors deserved a more worthy bride, and are preparing for a relatively quiet wedding in California. But if there's one dark cloud over the couple's happiness, it's that Rachel still doesn't know who her birth father is, despite the couple's trying everything in their power to find him.

But when Nick's mother, Eleanor, finds herself getting involved with a wealthy family in distress, she figures out the identity of Rachel's father. And while he is happy to discover Rachel's existence, his wife is not, to say the least. Rachel finds herself in the middle of more family drama, although she has the opportunity to build a relationship with some fascinating people, including Colette Bing, a fashion icon and web celebrity, whose wealth and consumerism is enviable and outrageous. But while Rachel and Nick have the opportunity to travel in ultra-first-class fashion, and shop and eat beyond their wildest imaginations, they don't know what risks they face.

Meanwhile, former television actress Kitty Pong, now married to the heir to the Tai fortune, is desperate to become accepted in society, yet no matter where she spends her money, or how many magazines she appears in, no one will give her the time of day. And Nick's cousin, Astrid Leong, is having problems of her own. While her husband Michael has become the IT guru of Singapore, their relationship is again on an uneven keel, as Michael's celebrity rises (much of his own doing), and the pressure and his expectations rise exponentially as well.

Kwan ups the soap opera quotient in this book, but doesn't skimp on the shopping, societal dramas, and, once again, the descriptions of the food, most of which made me incredibly hungry. I cannot even imagine a world or people like this, although I know they exist. While I really liked many of the characters, I found this book became a little rote after a while with the recitation of every designer and product that these people owned or wanted to possess. And when the melodrama ramps up toward the end of the book, I felt it took away from the core of the story.

Still, China Rich Girlfriend is another look at lifestyles you might not be able to fathom, but it does so in a fun way. It's like watching an episode of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills or some other show, but you don't want to slap most of these characters. (Most of the time.)

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