Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

Instructions for setting the perfect scene to read Ruthless Women: i) scarlet mani-pedi, ii) youtube playing ‘soothing waves’ in the background, iii) a glass of something chilled and delicious, iv) a dangerously vertiginous pair of killer heels … to sit down in!  You’re now ready to enter the studios of Falcon Bay.

Does for TV what The Devil Wears Prada did for fashion … The must-read novel of the year.

what it says on the cover …

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive …

PUBLISHED: 18th February 2021
SHELF: fiction | checklist
AUTHOR: Melanie Blake
PUBLISHER: Head of Zeus
FORMATS: Hardback | Paperback | Kindle

‘The whole table looked surprised – even Helen, whose face rarely showed much expression due to her love of Botox.

my review

When my copy of Ruthless Women arrived in the post (thanks to the very lovely Bei at Midas PR) I needed a quiet moment to admire its stylishly eye-catching design.  This is certainly a book that’s going to dominate bookshop window displays over the next few weeks … it’s striking colour palette and simple, iconic image send out loud, clear signals that this is one sassy book.  

My advance copy came with a media pack from the publishers, and that’s the first time I spotted the divisive word, ‘bonkbuster’.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, and I devoured Jilly Cooper’s novels back in the day, but when a book becomes all about the bonk then the story usually suffers for it.  But phew! my initial blushes were spared … Melanie Blake has packed these pages with a moreishly readable plot, fabulous characters, beautifully rich settings, and a classy helping of passion.  

Falcon Bay is the doyenne of television drama.  For thirty-nine years this ‘soap’ has been broadcast to a global audience, whose love for the characters is matched only by the cast and crew’s love for their jobs.  But their once perky ratings are sagging somewhat, and its future now lies in the hands of a steely, spike-heeled, new network owner.  Almost overnight, long-standing friendships are torn apart, insecurities are weaponised, and rivalries worthy of any tv drama become the new norm, both on-set and off.  There’s only one thing that unites everyone at C.I.TV, and that’s the opportunity to make an explosive and unforgettable comeback for their fast-approaching fortieth anniversary show.  As cast and crew battle to save the show, and their jobs, they set in motion an escalating chain of encounters that will make and break careers, hearts … and Jimmy Choos.

Reading Ruthless Women had the distinct sensation of being granted a prestigious behind-the-scenes tour, where cougars prowl the corridors, and scruples are left at the security gate.  The scenes, both on set and in the production offices were so vivid that I could feel the tension in the boardroom whilst Jake bullied and humiliated his staff; I could hear the sea lapping the beach whilst Catherine recited her lines; and I could watch Amanda and Dan’s office romance flourish. And, I couldn’t hear a thing when I passed Helen’s sound-proofed office; absolute privacy is essential for auditioning hunky actors (winky face!!).

All the characters in the book are fully formed and fabulous.  In this male-dominated world, its the women who shine, and it’s the female characters who propel the plot forwards. Yes, Madeleine is cast as quite a bitch, and the very epitome of ruthlessness, but I was intrigued by the fleeting glimpses of fragility beneath the calculating, shrewd, and surgically enhanced veneer.  And then there’s Helen who was easily my favourite character; her humour and confidence are infectious, and I adored the joy she took in riling Jake.  The women have got this particular business by the proverbials, and they’re quite prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure their ambitions aren’t thwarted.  

Ruthless Women cuts a fresh, glossy, perfectly manicured path right into the hands and hearts of lovers of contemporary fiction.  It’s a celebration of women in their prime; women who broadcast their strength, talent and beauty with pride; women who fight for what they want and what they believe is right.  

Beneath the show biz sheen, however, lie some inconvenient truths that no amount of airbrushing can expunge. The author has seized the opportunity to shine a dazzling stage-light onto the cruelties and abuses faced by women every day; the childhood sexual abuse suffered by Sheena, Jake’s gaslighting of his wife Amanda, the gender inequality that’s kept Farrah from a directorial role she’s more than capable of.  These very real, very relevant issues add depth to the story and characters, whilst paying a respectful homage to the #MeToo movement.

Ruthless Women is a hugely enjoyable, page-turner, whose short chapters and ostentatious twists will have you voraciously devouring the story. The drama and pace reflect the appetites and stamina of some of the book’s most enjoyable characters, building up to a resoundingly triumphant and deeply satisfying climax; one in which 50-something Madeleine and 70-something Catherine play their star roles.  An intoxicating cocktail of deliciously catty encounters, glamorous locations, divine wardrobes, and scandalously carnal inter-office liaisons make this a marvellously fun, escapist, binge-read book.

my rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to Midas PR for sending me a fabulous hardback advance copy of Ruthless Women in return for an honest review.

melanie blake

As one of the UK’s most successful agents, managers and publicists for soap actresses, Melanie Blake has represented some to the most famous faces on British television and international screens.

Where her debut novel, the no1 bestseller The Thunder Girls, was inspired by the early years of her career spent working in the music industry, her followup novel, Ruthless Women is heavily influenced by the last 15 years Melanie has spent representing more female actresses than any other agent in her genre. Nicknamed The Queen of Soaps, there is no one better placed to write a novel based around a continuing drama and its leading ladies.

#RuthlessWomen | @MelanieBlakeUK | @HoZ_Books | @midaspr
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