Whores in Hollywood? The entire concept is a cliche, but sexpert and writer Anna David breathes new life into what is the oldest game in town.
Staying true to her self-deprecating style, David draws you into her story by her willingness to weave herself into her characters. Any writer knows that the best stories are those told from a first-person point of view, and this is a niche Anna has mastered in her second novel, Bought.
Bought is centered around soul-searching Emma Swanson, a free-lance writer working red-carpet events for the fictional magazine Substance. Red carpets to the unfamiliar person might seem like a glamorous place to be, but to dejected Emma, it's a curse she's sure has some kind of karmic fingerprint for failings she's yet to figure out.
Even with Emma's privileged upbringing (she grew up in upscale Palisades) and expensive education (Skidmore College) she's surrounded by hints of her failures in every corner of her life. Her lawyer father and artist mother want her to go to law school and give up her pointless pursuit of writing. Her younger, and of course, more beautiful and perfect sister, is dating a Spanish Royal whom she met while attending Harvard (where Emma was denied entrance, despite two alumni parents and generous donations.) Then there's Emma's best friend Claire, whose subtle digs on Emma's single status and barely-getting-by life are a constant source of chaffing between the two. Life according to Emma sucks, but it still beats the suburban blahs.
Without creating too many spoilers, what Bought succeeds in doing is giving us a glimpse into the often misunderstood world of prostitution. But this isn't your Sunset Strip-style ladies we are spying on, but rather "paid girlfriends" and as is so pointedly stated in the book, the men aren't paying these girls to stay, but rather to leave.
Emma throws herself into the seedy-side of Hollywood after seeing an old flame at a swanky baby shower for a friend. Emma is thrown in an emotional tailspin when she sees her agent ex out with a way too perfect woman who exudes not only exotic beauty, but a worldly grace that makes her captivating not only to men, but Emma. To make matters worse, when she discovers "Jessica" is a working girl, Emma starts out on a journey which turns her world upside down.
There are hints of romance in Emma's life, one with a down to earth, but beneath her station guy who works at Whole Foods, and her inattentive ex whom she turns the tables on, thanks to some lessons in love she receives from her new best friend Jessica.