The Other Daughter comes out a month from today!
Yesterday, as part of an interview, I was asked to provide a quotation with a physical description of my heroine. Simple enough, you say. But it wasn’t. Because Rachel Woodley, my heroine, goes through a number of metamorphoses over the course of the book.
Here’s Rachel in the first chapter, on her way home from France:
The train lurched and swayed; it was deathly cold in the car, the windows so fogged with her breath that she couldn’t see out. Outside, she knew, the trees were starting to sprout their first green buds, but she could see none of that, only the ghostly reflection of her own face, her unfashionable hat drawn low around her ears to keep out the chill, her cheekbones too high, her mouth too wide, her hair dark against her pale face.
There was nothing remarkable in that face, just another nursery governess, another woman in a shabby skirt, clutching a carpetbag on her lap. Nothing remarkable except to her mother, who loved her.
This is how she appears to Simon Montfort, the enigmatic gossip columnist:
“It’s quite an amusing idea, really. If I were to pass a nobody off into society . . . it would be the stunt of all stunts. The elusive and sought-after Miss Merton— Miss Vera Merton. You have the cheekbones to be a Vera.”
Absurd to feel flattered by that, but she did, just a little. Rachel could picture Vera Merton, with her long red nails, her bobbed hair, her general air of devil-may-care. Vera Merton wouldn’t stay on the wrong side of the green baize door; she would breeze merrily past the butler, greeting everyone with a breathy “Darling!”
Vera Merton would quaff cocktails with Rachel’s cousins; she would know them all by name, whisper intimately in their ears.
What would it be like to be that woman? Not earnest, hardworking Rachel Woodley— the Rachel Woodley who didn’t really exist— but someone entirely different. Someone sophisticated. Someone hard-edged.
Someone who could approach her father on his own terms.
Mr. Montfort waved a dismissive hand. “The clothes and the hair are all wrong, of course—”
“What’s wrong with my hair?” Rachel had always been rather vain about her hair, thick, dark, and so long she could nearly sit on it.
“Nursery governess hair,” said Mr. Montfort succinctly.
After that, what’s a heroine to do but get a haircut?
The hairdresser was swift. Hanks of hair fell around her. Rapunzel hair, long ropes of it. The hairdresser lifted the cloth from her shoulders, using a soft-bristled brush to sweep the last strands of hair from her back.
Rachel’s head felt strange, the back of her neck naked. She couldn’t help glancing at the hair on the floor, years and years of it, gone in an instant.
“Cheer up,” came Mr. Montfort’s voice from behind her. “You’ve hardly sold away your soul.”
“No, just my hair.” The hairdresser swirled the chair around, holding up a mirror so that Rachel could see.
Mr. Montfort was right; the short cut did highlight her cheekbones. You have the cheekbones to be a Vera.
Rachel didn’t know who the woman in the mirror was, but she rather liked her.
She looked up at Mr. Montfort, who stood, frowning down at her.
“Well? What do you think?” Rachel demanded cheekily.
“You’ll do,” he said curtly.
But it takes a new frock before Rachel’s ready to be launched in the glittery, shadow society of the nightclubs:
In the end, she’d succumbed to sheer lust and chosen a dress of flame-colored chiffon, glittering with a subtle pattern of beads on the bodice, the skirt falling in uneven layers around her legs.
Wearing it, she felt like a Vera, like a woman of the world, the sort of woman who went out at ten at night, who drank and danced, without another care in the world.
And from the look in Simon’s eyes, he clearly agreed.
Which quote would you have chosen? And which Rachel do you most relate to– pre or post transformation?
The Other Daughter— with Rachel in all her guises– appears in stores on July 21!