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When I Find Myself In Times Of Trouble, Jackie Collins Comes To Me

By Mieka Strawhorn | Books | August 21, 2018 |

By Mieka Strawhorn | Books | August 21, 2018 |


This time last year I was under a lot of stress. My husband and I were living overseas and I was trying to organize our imminent move back to the states that included myself, my husband, and our two cats, one of whom had recently developed diabetes. I was working at a demanding volunteer job that was all drama, all the time, and was still reeling from shock and suffering the daily insults of that thing that happened back in November. I was stressed the fuck out! To relieve the tension, I went on a long weekend trip to Spain for my birthday. I hoped I might find some distraction from my brain’s overactive anxiety center there.

In the vacation rental, I found a musty, old copy of Dazzle by Judith Kranz, just the distraction I needed! I pictured hours of mindless fun, stretched out on the beach, reading Dazzle and consuming fine Spanish wines and cheeses. But it rained the whole time and Dazzle turned out to be more of a fizzle. It was truly terrible! (I still finished it, mind you, and managed to consume nearly my entire body weight in fine Spanish cheeses.)

My point is, I thought I would be saved by a book, but it just made me feel worse. I returned home and the hard nugget of anxiety continued to choke me as we barrelled closer and closer to our move date. I searched for apartments online to rent sight unseen, wrestled with Swiss bureaucracy with my restaurant high German (utterly useless in Zurich), and ferried a sick cat back and forth on the tram, all the while cursing Judith Kranz’ name for wasting whatever time and sanity I had to spare. Even now, If Judith ever crosses my path, I’ll have some choice words for her.

Still unable to muster the brain power to read “real” books, I thought I’d give ’80s era, high drama, explicit sex, trash novels another go. This time I reached for Jackie Collins. And the Angels sang. Or wept. Or started breathing heavy; just whatever it is that angels do when they’re ecstatic and/or turned on.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Jacqueline Jill Collins OBE (yes, she was practically royalty) was an English writer and sister to Joan Collins. Jackie oozed style, sophistication, animal print, and precious jewels. Jackie’s face and hair were always perfect, and she’s pretty much the most glamorous author the New York Times Best Seller list has ever seen. And it saw her a lot. She wrote 32 novels, all of which were NYT Best Sellers. Sadly, Jackie died in 2015 of breast cancer.

I began my journey into the fabulous world of Jackie Collins with Hollywood Wives, her bestest selling novel. I had low expectations, especially after what Judith put me through (Judith, I swear to God…), so had no problem paying the $5.99 for the Kindle edition, just to see. I was immediately hooked. HW had all the intrigue, scandal, catfights, bobcat fights (I guess that’s what you call it when men do it? FUN FACT: Jackie may or may not have had a pet cougar), betrayals, and “oh shit!” bonkers moments a girl could ask for.


But HW wives also had something I was not expecting: Masterful writing. HW is tightly plotted with well-drawn characters and an unexpected authenticity. Jackie was an actress, and like her sister Joan, was quite familiar with the Hollywood elite. She ran in the same circles as the characters she created, a few of them paying obvious homage to real-life celebrities. She was also surprisingly adept at drawing characters from more diverse backgrounds. Her writing felt current and not at all dated the way You Know Who’s book was. Of course, everything in her world is exaggerated, glossy, and has that filter you only see when women of a certain age take glamour shots or have a close-up. But trust, that’s just what you want.

After Hollywood Wives, I moved on to the Santangelo novels, starting with the first in the series, Chances. In it, we meet Gino Santangelo, an Italian immigrant who works his way up to becoming one of the most powerful mob bosses in America. We also meet Lucky Santangelo, Gino’s dangerously beautiful daughter. Over the next couple of months, I plowed through the following 3 novels in the Santangelo series (Lucky, Lady Boss, and Vendetta: Lucky’s Revenge) before realizing that if I didn’t come up for air, I’d run out of them and be left with nothing to read when my next life crisis came along.

The pure enjoyment of curling up with Jackie Collins at night, when my real life is in turmoil or flux, can hardly be overstated. My problems are small compared to most, yet my unrelenting anxiety is a real bitch to conquer in the dark. Lucky for me, Jackie was a prolific writer. I’ve still got 5 more Santangelo books to look forward to, several of the Hollywood series, and about a dozen other literary bangers just waiting to be cracked open the next time my world gets too topsy-turvy for reading some Man Booker prize-winning bullshit.

And so I urge you, accept no substitutes (KICK ROCKS, JUDITH). When #thesetryingtimes get you down, turn to Jackie Collins.

Mieka is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

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