When Robin Lear's dying father decides his jet-setting daughter needs to learn a few lessons in business and life, he gets more than he bargained for. Arrogant, materialistic Robin unwillingly puts her nose to the grindstone and her heart in the hands of a sexy contractor.
London's well-crafted story of Robin's emergence from her Versace-clad cocoon is initially marred by a relentlessly negative portrait of the protagonist, who is downright unlikable for a third of the book. What redeems Material Girl is the author's sensitive portrait of Jake, a hardworking craftsman looking for his dream. Until a ride on the back of Jake's motorcycle to see a field of wildflowers suggests Robin may be worth more than her Hermes handbags; however, it's hard to grasp just what Jake sees in her.
London's strength lies in her ability to create vibrant characters and lifelike settings with a light touch. The first book in a projected trilogy, it leaves the reader with an appetite for more. (Aug., 400 pp., $6.99)