Curling up to read “Pretty Guilty Women” (Sourcebooks) by Gina LaManna is like grabbing a bowl of popcorn and settling in for a game of Clue with your friends and family.
As the game begins, here’s what we know: It’s August. Friends and family are flying cross-country to California to attend the lavish DeBleu/Banks wedding at the Serenity Spa & Resort, known for its relaxation, romance and wellness. Yet, the night before the bride walks down the aisle, in an instant all of that peace and harmony collapse when the rehearsal dinner is rudely interrupted by screams.
A man is dead.
And that’s about all we know. We haven’t a clue where the body was found, who the deceased is, how he died…or why.
Have no fear. Detective Ramone arrives on the scene and, in turn, interrogates his prime suspects — four women who all claim to be guilty of the dastardly deed.
First up is Lulu. Sixty-eight-year-old Lulu is a wealthy serial bride, with five marriages under her belt. After arriving for the weekend festivities in her fur coat, she bellies up to the resort’s bar bemoaning the possibility of another divorce. In scenes reminiscent of when bar stools were for men only, Lulu greets three of the bride-to-be’s college roommates, who have brought oodles of regrets and boatloads of baggage.
Next is Emily, who hates weddings and is content to drink her sorrows away. Contrary to Lulu, Emily has no sparkle. She lost it when her baby died ten years before. Under the influence, she tried to get a bit of it back when she hooked up with a stranger on the flight from Chicago.
Then there’s Kate: “slick like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.” Generous Kate is intent on maxing out her boyfriend Max’s credit card as just revenge for his dumping her as they checked in at the front desk merely because she was ovulating.
And lastly is Ginger. While Emily and Kate want children, Ginger has her hands full with her three kids and her doting husband. She’s family-centric, always the worrier, forever the protector, especially when it comes to her rebellious teenage daughter, Elsie.
If four drama queens weren’t enough, a fifth shows up in the person of Sydney, perched on a bench in the lobby with a crying newborn on her lap. Stay tuned.
But they have a wedding rehearsal dinner to gussy up for and attend. And a dead body to explain.
On the surface, the novel appears to be a typical yet intricate whodunit. Underneath, LaManna meticulously crafts subplots bestowing on each character her own unique raison d’être. In the process, the reader is bound to ask, “What are these pretty women guilty of?”
Intriguing stories are nothing new for LaManna; writing a murder mystery is. The following interview provides her insights into the subject.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing a multiple point-of-view novel?
Weaving them together to create a seamless flow between chapters while still advancing the overarching plot. It felt a lot like putting together the pieces of a very complex puzzle!
When I got the idea for the book, it came to me as a story that would need more than one narrator. We needed to hear from each woman — their thoughts, lies, and dreams — to understand why each would confess to murder.
The story is rich with themes, among them friendship, wealth disparity, marriage, abuse, honesty. Yet, you chose motherhood to predominate. Why?
Having recently become a mother myself, it’s been intriguing to explore this theme from two points of view — first, as a daughter, then as a mother myself. I have a whole new perspective on the way my mom raised me now that I’m learning to navigate parenthood myself.
You are a prolific writer across genres. How did your writing style change as you moved into women’s fiction? Why change genres now? What’s next?
I’ve always wanted to write suspense/women’s fiction, but I had been intimidated by the complexity of writing from multiple points of view. After dipping my toes into the mystery waters for nearly five years, I finally felt ready to tell the bigger story I had in my head.
I am always looking to try new things, and women’s fiction was a challenge I was excited to tackle. I will always love cozy mysteries and humor, which I believe leaks into my women’s fiction as well. While the tone of my writing changes with each series and book that I write, I think there are some common themes between all my books — family, humor, and suspense among them.
As for what’s next, I am planning to continue all my current series, and I have another women’s fiction/suspense in the works that is in the vein of Pretty Guilty Women.
I’ve read you have an imaginary dog. What breed is it, and what is its name?
Haha! A teacup Yorkiepoo named Sprinkles!
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