Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
Published by Doubleday Canada on June 30th, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Retelling, Romance
“But I see you. I see the beauty inside you, and also your sadness, your fears, your flaws. I see exactly who you are and I love you for all those things, Lucie.”
*ARC received by Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.
I’m not lying when I say that I screamed when I found out about this book. I was mad at myself for not knowing about it sooner and I was in agony waiting to see if I would get an ARC from Edelweiss+. So let’s give a huge shout out to Edelweiss+ for hooking me up with this ARC!
In Sex and Vanity, Kwan’s hotly anticipated follow up to his bestselling series, Crazy Rich Asians, a young woman named Lucie Churchill finds herself torn between two worlds—the WASP establishment of her father’s family and George Zao, a man she’s desperately trying to avoid falling in love with.
Lucie arrives in Capri to attend her childhood friend’s wedding. It’s there that she sets eyes on George Zao and immediately can’t stand him. Her cousin Charlotte teases her when she finds out about the attraction. “Your mother is Chinese so it’s no surprise you’d be attracted to someone like him.”
Daughter of an American-born-Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucy has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George.
But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton where Lucie’s weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucy is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world and her heart.
So… I didn’t love this. Trust me, I’m pretty disappointed I had to write that. Unfortunately, this didn’t hit the mark for me. I don’t think it stands up to the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.
Even if I weren’t to compare it to the series, I didn’t fall in love with this story or the characters.
I could chalk that up to not being familiar with A Room with a View, but I think the problem lies in its characters.
Nobody had any substance to them! Lucie is spineless, whiny, and quite frankly, stupid. She’s annoying and I couldn’t find anything to connect with her on. Her only redeeming quality was her valid emotions around not feeling like she fit in with her Asian side of the family and her WASP side of the family. That loneliness is something I wish was explored in more stories about mixed race people!
Every side character is over the top and there’s no understanding of why they are the way they are. The reason why these characters tropes worked in Crazy Rich Asians was because we eventually understood their reasoning. We got their backstory so we could understand their motive. There was more to them than just being a stock villain character.
Cecil would’ve been a great “villain” except we only know that he’s a brat who likes expensive things and treats Lucie like a plaything.
And for a romance, I’ll say that there wasn’t any. I didn’t buy why Lucie was so against George. It didn’t make any sense!
There was no real conflict there. Lucie and George barely get to know each other throughout the years that it seemed like they only got together in the end because he was her only other option.
I will say that I had a lot of fun reading the first part of the book in Capri. The opulent settings, the decadent food, and extravagant fashion leapt off the page. After that, I felt bored reading about Lucie’s life post-Capri and post-George.
If you liked Kwan’s style of writing—hilarious footnotes, extreme detail about rich people and all that money can buy—then you’ll get a kick out of reading Sex and Vanity. And if you’re looking for a beach read, this will do. But don’t expect this to replace your love for Crazy Rich Asians.
Now I’ll patiently await Kwan’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice because you know that would be amazing.