Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“Because that was the dream. Look past the face. See the woman beneath.”
There are very few romances that offer you so much in a simple read. Enter Kathy Ireland’s and Rachel Van Dyken’s newest book, Fashion Jungle. In its most basic form exists a story of four women and their successes in the world of fashion and beyond, complicated by the relationships that circle their lives. In this book, there is truly a trope or genre for anyone which makes it an easy read and one that readers cannot leave so easily.
Based on true stories, Fashion Jungle follows four models and one of the brothers of the models, Zoe, Brittany, Everlee, and Danica, along with Dane, Danica’s brother. Each of these women has achieved greatness as supermodels in the fashion industry. Yet, each of them struggles with the challenges of their present lives. Underpinning their story lies a story of suspense. Ireland and Van Dyken have woven into the tapestry of this book a seedy lining of human trafficking and its dangers. There is so much to embrace as you read Fashion Jungle that, at times, it can be overwhelming. However, it’s a reminder that money, power, and influence sometimes hide the darkest places of our world.
The female characters of Fashion Jungle are its power. Ireland and Van Dyken have crafted women who struggle yet exert their strength when it’s important to the story. As each of their stories offer struggle after struggle, in the end, each of them stands in their own power. Yes, Danica’s brother, Dane, acts to help each of them, but Zoe’s, Brittany’s, and Everlee’s tenacity breaks the bonds that bind them and allows them to choose their own paths in the end. Through their characterization, Ireland and Van Dyken challenge societal perceptions of beauty and intelligence in creating heroines who are more than their outer beauty. They are not only iconic former models; they are entrepreneurs, political minds, and women able to undermine the evil of their world. Ireland and Van Dyken give us examples of powerful women: intelligence and beauty combined.
One of the interesting aspects of Fashion Jungle is its storytelling. Each chapter offers the point of view of a different character. With that, the reader receives a different trope: second chance, secret baby, friends-to-lovers, etc. Even more, while this story offers insight into the past world of Ireland, it also tells a story of suspense and intrigue. Fashion Jungle isn’t a romance; it’s a compilation of fictionalized memoirs, hitting on a variety of tropes. Each story is brilliantly interwoven together, moving us forward into each character’s story, while telling a bigger story of the dangers of this world. There is literally something for everyone in this book, meaning that it has the ability to engage a broad audience of readers. That trait can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, it can confuse your reader (this was a challenge of mine in the earlier parts of the book), but it has a greater reach. Yes, Van Dyken is a romance writer, but the romance feels secondary to the true nature of this book, which feels more like Ireland’s memoirs. And I found that the most intriguing. My brain was awash with the want to find out the identities of women modeled after Ireland’s own experiences. It’s that want that draws you deeper into the story. And it’s the multiple points of view and variety of tropes that keep the reader there.
Beyond its heroines and the intricate storytelling, Fashion Jungle awards Van Dyken’s romance readers with couples whose chemistry is palpable, page after page. Dane and Zoe represent the passionate couple set for denial. Dane’s persona threatens Zoe, yet she finds herself tethered to him emotionally. The tension of their coupling pulls at the reader, one minute wanting their happy ending, but worried that Zoe might lose herself in the treachery of Dane’s work. Brittany and Oliver’s easiness and friendship stand in contrast to Zoe and Dane and Everlee and Frederick. These two represent two people who develop a friendship before they fall into a relationship. This is important as it affords an alternative to the man of Brittany’s past, Ronan, the man for whom she lost a piece of herself. That relationship shows the complication of loving a man who can only love himself, while Oliver loves Brittany simply and completely, allowing her to hold true to herself. On the other end of the relationship spectrum lies Everlee and her husband, Frederick, who is nothing more than a self-serving, dangerous snake. This relationship represents a relationship of abuse. In creating this variety, Ireland and Van Dyken are suggesting that the best relationships are the ones founded upon friendship and sacrificial love. Even Dane, who seems overbearing and manipulative, loves Zoe with every part of his being and is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for her. In reading Fashion Jungle, it’s clear that romance is secondary to the stories of our heroines, but it’s necessary for their heroic evolution.
There is something iconic about Kathy Ireland’s and Rachel Van Dyken’s Fashion Jungle. Pouring over its pages, you feel as though you have entered a secret world filled with intrigue and well-kept secrets. My mind could not stop in its conjuring of real-life people to match the fictionalized characters of its pages. And it’s that action that makes reading Fashion Jungle an interesting and important read. Above all of this is a warning, though. The gravity of this book is the dangers that women (and men) of this industry can find themselves in as they offer themselves up for consumption. There are ideas here about outer beauty as an ideal. If you read Fashion Jungle and come away never understanding that human trafficking is a real problem both in the fashion world and beyond, then you have missed the depth of Fashion Jungle’s story. Kathy Ireland and Rachel Van Dyken have created a world that both engages us and challenges us to do better for ourselves and others.
In love and romance,