Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

In My Father’s House by E Lynn Harris: the beautiful people writ large

Only the world’s most beautiful models make the roster of Picture Perfect Modeling agency, and they only do shoots for the most elite photographers and magazines. They are fashionista royalty – and the owners, Bentley Dean and his beautiful partner, Alexandria, know it. But even Picture Perfect isn’t immune from hard times, so when Sterling Sneed, a rich celebrity party planner, promises to pay a ludicrously high fee for some models, Bentley finds he can’t refuse, even though the job is not exactly a photo shoot … He agrees to supply fifteen gorgeous models as eye candy for an A-list event, with instructions to look good, be charming, and, well, entertain the guests. They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, but …
His models are pros and he figures they can handle the pressure, until one drops out and Bentley asks his protégé, Jah, a beautiful kid whom Bentley treats as if he were his own son, to substitute. Suddenly, the stakes are much higher, particularly when Jah falls in love with Seth Sinclair, the hottest African American movie star in America, who is very handsome, very famous, and very married. His closeted gay life makes him very dangerous as well. Can Bentley’s fatherly guidance save Jah from making a fatal mistake?

Lordy, but after that blurb, how I longed for an ugly person, or at least someone without designer hair, clothes and make-up who might be carrying an extra few pounds here and there. Anyway the short answer to the question posed at the end of it is (look away now to avoid spoilers …), um, no and then yes, sort of. Which is possibly all there is to be said about the plot of this book (plot? What plot?) as it’s a story that tells us that there’s a lot of beautiful people in America with picture-perfect (ha!) lives but that behind them all lurks the dark shadow of evil, mainly cast by characters whose names begin, frequently, with an ‘s’. So yes, a cliché writ large in every sense and a story not really worth anyone’s time as it’s all been said before and far more elegantly.

Luckily, however, we have Bentley, who’s a great character despite being obsessed with beauty, his own and that of others – though I can forgive him that as it is after all his trade. He’s a long way from being perfect of course and I also gained the distinct impression that he’s far deeper and more interesting than this particular author is able to write him, which is a shame. Perhaps we would have gained a more rounded picture if Harris had lived and continued the series, of which this novel is apparently the first, but sadly Harris died in 2009 and Bentley is therefore also no more, alas.

First of all, I loved Bentley’s startling honesty in matters of love. Here he is with his fiancée just before coming out:

“Will we always be this happy, Bentley L. Dean?” Kim asked with her soft, after-sex voice. As she gazed at me, the black makeup smudged around her eyes intensified her pouty, sexy gaze that demanded an answer. Now.
“Probably not” I replied quickly.

Harsh, but I couldn’t help but smile, particularly as it’s a question impossible to answer anyway and which should never ever be posed, by anyone. Ah well, poor Kim – though she gets the last laugh later, I must say, in that increasingly bizarre and somehow charmingly unbelievable plotline. Good on you, Kim.

In the midst of all this, there are the obligatory meetings Bentley has with his therapist, none of which really rang true to me, though Bentley is himself off-the-wall so perhaps it’s the only way of handling him. Indeed it seemed to me to be a novel full of set scenes we’ve seen countless times before: the therapy sessions; the sex-crazed parties of rich folk; the camp model who comes to a sticky end; the young beautiful boy in danger whom our hero (or possibly anti-hero) must try to save; the equally beautiful female business partner who is choosing a baby on her own and wants our hero to be the godfather; the split family who are finally reunited (though very shakily, I feel) in a manner both overly-emotional and somehow shallow, etc etc.

Still, after a lot of meaningless conversations, mainly about beautiful people and food, way too much prevarication, and a sprinkle of naughtiness and sex, Bentley does have the balls to come through for poor Jah and in a pleasingly take-no-prisoners way, so I was definitely rooting for him. Here he is playing his one moment of high drama for all it’s worth, bless him:

“Word. What are you talking about?” Sterling shouted. “What word?”
I paused for dramatic effect. This was, after all, Oscar night. Then I did a Hitchcock whisper into the phone: “Wentworth.”
And the world between me, Sterling, and Seth suddenly became silent.

Actually I think in that moment, we see the real heart of Bentley, both ironically humorous and brave, which the author couldn’t seem to get to grips with in this book, and, as I’ve said, I’m sorry we won’t see more of him. So, a great character, or a potentially great character, in an averagely written novel. It’ll keep you entertained well enough on the beach but you’ll wish for a better story for the man, I’m sure.

In My Father’s House by E Lynn Harris, St Martin’s Press 2010, ISBN: 978-0-312-54191-0

[Anne finds beautiful people rather too depressing for her tastes, but is always a sucker for a character who doesn’t quite fit.]

About annebrooke

Anne Brooke lives in Surrey, UK, and writes in a variety of genres, including gay erotic romance, fantasy, comedy, thrillers, biblical fiction and the occasional chicklit novel. When not writing, she spends time in the garden attempting to differentiate between flowers and weeds, and in the allotment attempting to grow vegetables. She also loves the theatre and is a keen fan of crosswords and sudokus, as long as they're not too hard! Her websites can be found at:,, and (for fantasy fiction).

8 comments on “In My Father’s House by E Lynn Harris: the beautiful people writ large

  1. Lisa
    January 13, 2011

    Not sure I’d read this one, but checked out some of his other novels and some of them looked good. It seems like many of them were hugely successful bestsellers. Surprised I’ve not heard of E Lynn Harris before. Anyhow, thanks for the review, Anne.

  2. annebrooke
    January 13, 2011

    Yes, I think he did well, Lisa – perhaps this one was affected by illness? And no, I hadn’t heard of him either.


  3. rosyb
    January 13, 2011

    I have to admit I love the sound of any book with a character called Sterling Sneed in it though.

  4. annebrooke
    January 14, 2011

    It is a great name, Rosy! 🙂

  5. Nikki
    January 15, 2011

    Oh the names! I love the names, such glitz! This really isn’t my sort of book. I cannot bear beautiful people who live gleaming lives with a seedy underside. But thank you so much for a review that made me grin!

  6. annebrooke
    January 15, 2011

    Glad to have brightened your day, Nikki! 🙂

  7. Jackie
    January 16, 2011

    I’ve read a few of this author’s books, but this one doesn’t sound familiar. I might’ve avoided it because I can’t take models seriously, but I can see why someone would set a book in that world, as there are many angles to explore.
    Sterling Sneed sounds like the name of a villain in an old-silent movie, doesn’t it?

  8. annebrooke
    January 16, 2011

    It certainly does, Jackie! 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 13, 2011 by in Entries by Anne, Fiction: 21st Century, GLBT Fiction and tagged , , , , , .



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