Review: Queen of the Court by Melanie Howard and Andrea Leidolf (4/5)

Saturday, 5 April 2014
"Members are fond of saying that nothing ever changes at Belle Vista Country Club, where for nearly a century, the socially prominent and politically connected have played tennis and golf together, met and married each other, and kept aloof from the general public, all while consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
But with one swipe of a wrecking ball, down tumbles the club’s hand-carved stone sign, and with it, life as Belle Vista has known it comes to a shattering end.

Scandal arrives in the form of ex- stripper Shana Lee Jones and her television crew, who turn the century-old haven for the rich and powerful into the stage for Queen of the Court, a reality show that, in the hands of failed producer Rex Range, promises to be anything but tasteful. The Belle Vista board has sold a majority interest in the nearly bankrupt club to Shana’s husband, strip club owner and reformed outlaw biker Wayne Jones, to the distress of the elite membership, especially socialite Allie Beech and her domineering mother, Lavinia Winter.





Shana, a West Virginia dropout with a big heart hiding under her substantial chest, believes that she’s bought social respectability, along with a spot on Allie’s prestigious Belle Vista Ladies’ Tennis Team. She hopes that along with prestige and fame, belonging to Belle Vista will provide her with a circle of friends that will help fill the empty space she carries within her, and make her forget the secret she’s hidden from everyone, even her husband.

Little does Shana realize that, under their designer clothes and Botoxed facades, the Bitches of Belle Vista are hiding their own secrets; drinking, drugs, affairs, bankruptcy - maybe even murder.

Beautiful Taylor Thomas has a dysfunctional marriage and a bad habit of combining pills, liquor and triple-shot lattes before tennis matches. Divorcee Caroline Walinsky engages in random binges of eating, shopping (and shoplifting) while her mortgage goes unpaid. The second Mrs. Walinsky, former Russian junior champion Elena Dragunova, looks like a centerfold, plays like a Williams sister and dispatches her enemies on and off the court like Vladimir Putin. Karen Baker, a type-A Catholic school girl taking a ‘break’ from her high-pressure career to start a family, discovers that country club life offers sinful temptations she may not be able to resist.

Allie, determined to remain queen of this unlikely group, will stop at nothing to see her upstart rival Shana disgraced and driven from Belle Vista. But when she begins to delve into the disappearance of eccentric heiress Pippa Edgemoor in pursuit of her fortune, she unearths a secret that could destroy Belle Vista and her own family.

From the elite country club suburbs of the nation’s capital to the ramshackle trailer parks of West Virginia to the quirky environs of Brooklyn Heights, Queen of the Court combines the unlikely elements of reality television, murder, mayhem and country club tennis in a hilarious saga of social satire that will keep you entertained from beginning to end."



I liked the sound of this book from its synopsis and so accepted a review copy from Melanie Howard. I'm glad I did as it was a very enjoyable, and at times hilarious read. As the blurb says it is a social satire and so parts of the book were extremely over the top and exaggerated and the book was all the more enjoyable because of it! Living in the UK I'm obviously not a member of a tennis club but as Jackie Collins is my favourite ever author and I love reality television and Desperate Housewives I can definitely recognise some of the characters in this book. So it's important to remember that this is satire as I've read some reviews where people may have got a bit confused! My knowledge of tennis is limited watching the tournaments on television but this book opened my eyes to a whole other world.

Rich snobs, spoilt daughters... Here in the form of socialite Allie Beech and her mother Lavinia Winter. Rich people are just fabulous to read about. Lavinia is, shall we say, less than happy (understatement) about the arrival of a reality TV crew at the club to make a TV show. However this isn't a reality TV show that will improve the club and make her look great, it's headed up by ex-stripper Shana Lee Jones whose husband, strip club owner and reformed biker Wayne Jones is bankrolling the project. Produced by failed producer Rex Range it doesn't look like it's going to be a success...

I could easily (and would love) to see this book made into a TV show. It's just so fabulously bitchy and over the top it would be fantastic to watch. Bitchiness, murder, catfights, ex-wives, Catholic gone bad.. I can only praise the authors for this absolutely amazing cast of characters. I just loved reading about them. The characters are full of secrets and it was just so much fun waiting for and then watching them spill out all over the place. And my favourite character Elena Dragunova (that name is just fantastic). Never afraid to speak her mind she was easily the best character in this book. I'd love to know who these people are based on. And I can imagine the fun the authors had writing this book.

If you want a story which will make you laugh out loud (there are so many great one-liners in this book) and keep on turning the pages until you reach the end then this is the book for you. Yes it's a satire but at the same time it's a very enjoyable and entertaining read that offers plenty of surprises and more twists than any book I've read in a while. 

You can buy Queen of the Court now in paperback or on Kindle from Amazon

Thank you to Melanie Howard for the review copy.

About the authors:
Melanie Howard is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in major magazines including SELF, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Parenting, Seventeen and Family Circle. She is also a former newspaper crime reporter. Melanie is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in comparative literature. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, two children and Rocky the Airedale. Andrea Rider Leidolf is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Virginia. She was the Washington correspondent for Spy magazine and currently works as a reading specialist in the public school system. Leidolf lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three children.

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