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Sex and Vanity
Cover of Sex and Vanity
Sex and Vanity
A Novel
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A GOOD MORNING AMERICA Book Club Pick! "Kevin Kwan's new book is his most decadent yet." —Entertainment Weekly The iconic author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the...
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA Book Club Pick! "Kevin Kwan's new book is his most decadent yet." —Entertainment Weekly The iconic author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the...
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  • A GOOD MORNING AMERICA Book Club Pick!
    "Kevin Kwan's new book is his most decadent yet." —Entertainment Weekly
    The iconic author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the WASPY fiancé of her family's dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with.

    On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can't stand him. She can't stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can't stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can't stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. "Your mother is Chinese so it's no surprise you'd be attracted to someone like him," Charlotte teases. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world—and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex and Vanity is a truly modern love story, a daring homage to A Room with a View, and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures.

Excerpts-

  • From the book VII

    Arco Naturale
    Capri, Italy


    George found Lucie sitting on a stone bench, staring out at the Arco Naturale, a gigantic natural limestone arch that rose out of the mountainside 650 feet above the sea.

    "Are you all right?" he asked.

    Lucie fixed her eyes out on the view, purposely not looking at him. She knew there were bloodstains on his shirt, and she couldn't bear to see them. "How did you know I was here?"

    "I didn't. After leaving the piazzetta, I just felt like coming here." Lucie could feel her jaw tighten. Why was he always showing up where she least wanted him to be? She got up from the bench and leaned against the green iron fence that faced the sea, hoping he would get the message.

    George inhaled, as if about to say something.

    "Please . . . don't speak! Please don't tell me what happened to that man. I don't want to know," Lucie blurted in a choked voice.


    George walked up to the fence and stood near her. Just beyond the fence, the arch towered over them, rising so unexpectedly and improbably out of the cliff it looked like it could have been placed there by aliens. Through the arch was a perfect view of the sea hundreds of feet below, the water glowing in lustrous shades of aqua-marine.

    They took in the otherworldly view in silence, and after a while, George spoke. "The first time I came here, when I was about twelve, I was so blown away by the sight of this arch that I thought it had to be a vortex. Like maybe some sort of gateway to a parallel universe. I wanted to leap through the arch and be transported somewhere else in time."

    "I wouldn't mind being somewhere else in time right about now," Lucie said numbly.

    "Follow me." George moved suddenly, and Lucie thought for a second that he was actually going to hop over the fence. Instead, he began heading toward the trail that led down the mountainside. She debated whether she wanted to follow him and then thought, What the hell.

    Lucie walked a few paces behind George as they headed along a steep paved trail and then down a long set of steps that wound along the thickly forested part of the island.

    "Pablo Neruda would hike this trail every day when he lived on the island," George said.

    Lucie said nothing, but she was surprised by this bit of trivia coming from George. He didn't seem like the type to read poetry. At the bottom of the steps, they rounded a corner and she found herself standing at the mouth of a cavern. She realized with an unexpected jolt that they were at the Grotta di Matermania. It was one of the places she had put on her must- see list— a natural cavern that was one of the most ancient archaeological treasures of the island.

    "You wanted to go somewhere back in time, so here we are," George said.

    Lucie wandered into the cavern, where walls and stairways had been carved out of the limestone to create different levels and spaces within. This was once a nymphaeum for the ancient Romans, she thought, placing her hand against the cavern walls, strangely warm to the touch, and wondering what mystical rituals these ruins must have witnessed through the ages. She could feel a strange energy pulsating throughout the cave, the same energy she felt when she had visited other ancient sites like Stonehenge and the Mayan tem-ples at Tulum.

    At the back of the cavern rose a natural formation that resembled an altar, no doubt the focal point of ceremonies when the cavern was itself a temple. Lucie climbed up to stand in front of the altar and closed her eyes. She wasn't religious by any means— her mother's family was Buddhist and her father's was nominally...

About the Author-

  • KEVIN KWAN is the author of the international bestsellers Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems. Crazy Rich Asians was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a major motion picture, and has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Los Angeles and is trying to eat less pasta.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from May 15, 2020
    True love will find a way, even among the status-obsessed and filthy rich. There are few authors who could pull off wealth porn in the current cultural moment--perhaps only one. Kwan, author of the insanely popular Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, again manages to enchant, though this is crazy and rich without the Asian locales, food, and other cultural details. While the locations of this book--the isle of Capri and the Hamptons--are certainly glamorous and full of rich people, they are no Singapore or Hong Kong. Kwan overcomes that with his irresistibly knowing humor and delightful central characters. Lucie Tang Churchill ("92nd St. Y Nursery School / Brearley / Brown"; the educational resume of every character is provided like this) is Chinese American, and her love interest, George Zao, is "a Chinese boy from Hong Kong who had spent a few years in Australia," leaving him with an Aussie accent and a surfboard. They meet and become aware of their furious vibrational connection at an over-the-top wedding on Capri--but a complete disaster intervenes to keep them apart. Well, not a disaster disaster, more of a public relations disaster. It involves drones. Next thing we know, Lucie is engaged to a simply awful, nouveau riche, social media-obsessed white boy named Cecil Pike, who has somehow been pronounced by Esquire "The Most Desired Dude on the Planet." A faithful Kwan-ite will see poor Cecil immediately for the plot device he is: "The Obstacle," who drives a Meteor over Fountain Blue Bentley Mulsanne and wears bespoke Corthay "Cannes" suede loafers. While he's engineering the timeless love story and continuing our postgraduate education in all the things money can buy, Kwan manages to take a few swipes against snobbery and racism. Nice. This is the only way you're getting to Capri this year. Why resist?

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 18, 2020
    Kwan follows up his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with an intoxicating, breezy update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Lucie Tang Churchill, 19, a privileged “hapa” (she is half Chinese, half WASP) attends her richer friend Isabel’s wedding in Capri. After Lucie meets Isabel’s cousin George Zao, a rich, handsome, Chinese-Australian surfer, she becomes a “bundle of conflicting emotions,” repulsed by her attraction to the “brooding weirdo took himself much too seriously.” Still, they hook up, at risk of jeopardizing Lucie’s reputation as an eligible bride. Four years later, Lucie and George’s paths cross in New York, only now Lucie is engaged to Cecil Pike. However, Lucy can’t get George out of her mind, and she is flummoxed by his kindness. When Lucy, George, and Cecil attend a film screening featuring a sex scene that reminds her of what she did with George in Capri, Lucie doubles down on suppressing her true desires. Kwan exploits the Forster frame for clever references—including Merchant and Ivory—and provides amusing footnotes. Kwan also relishes describing lavish meals and haute couture clothing, as well as Isabel’s decadent wedding and Cecil’s imaginative, over-the-top proposal. There are moments both catty and witty, but this delectable comedy of manners—the literary equivalent of white truffle and caviar pizza—is still pizza.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2020
    Lucie Tang Churchill is a stylish but naive biracial 19-year-old, accompanied to an extravagantly fabulous wedding on Capri by her middle-aged cousin, Charlotte, who is obsessed with ensuring that the nouveau riche display the proper reverence for the from-the-Mayflower side of the family. They encounter the bombastically generous Rosemary Zao and her handsome, intense son, George, whom Lucie immediately dislikes?until she doesn't?but then a potential scandal tears them apart. Five years later, Lucie is an in-demand art dealer, engaged to the billennial (billionaire millennial) Cecil Pike, and very happy, until George (and his mother) reenters her social circle. The plot is perhaps not the most important element for Kwan's (Crazy Rich Asians, 2013) fans, who most love his over-the-top characters, ridiculously lavish details, and catty, fourth-wall-breaking narration, all of which are gloriously represented here; there are jewels galore, and a West Village apartment with an indoor canal and gondoliers on retainer. Lucie's story also touches on racism, both external (and familial) and internalized, as she fights her attraction to George. The resolution adds another satisfying layer to this frothy, escapist delight. HIGH DEMAND BACKSTORY: Kwan's first outing since the Crazy Rich Asians series, which begat a huge movie in 2018, arrives just in time for summer reading.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2020

    Crazy Rich Asians creator Kwan returns with a novel inspired by E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, in which 19-year-old Lucie Churchill, daughter of a Chinese American mother and blue-blood New York father, travels to Capri for a wedding. The eye-poppingly opulent celebration lasts for days. Things heat up when Lucie meets George Zao and his ever-present mother, who hilariously begins many of her sentences with "hiyah." Lucie tries to ignore her attraction to George, but she keeps bumping into him, and they have a romance, which ends when members of the wedding party return home. Several years later, Lucie plans to marry WASPy, wealthy fianc� Cecil, who is mostly fixated on his Instagram likes, and finds her family irritating and boring. Kwan's usual delightful humor appears in his trademark footnotes, particularly those proclaiming everyone's pedigree. Touches such as Milk Duds served at a Hollywood movie screening are amusing as well. The situation changes abruptly when the Zaos move to New York and Lucie and George keep running into each other. As Lucie learns a few truths, she makes some important decisions. VERDICT This is an enjoyable book, especially for those who like reading about the lives of the privileged and for fans of the author. [See Prepub Alert, 3/11/20.]--Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus "True love will find a way, even among the status-obsessed and filthy rich... [With] irresistibly knowing humor and delightful central characters... While he's engineering the timeless love story and continuing our postgraduate education in all the things money can buy, Kwan manages to take a few swipes against snobbery and racism. Nice. This is the only way you're getting to Capri this year. Why resist?"

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