I know that the second you read this excerpt, you are going to hop online and order your copy of RUIN ME-- I'm about 1/3 of the way through and it's beyond fabulous-- but, before you do that, let's hear from Jamie first!
THE MOTHER'S DAY DIVIDE
by Jamie Brenner
Hallmark doesn’t make a Mother’s Day card that reads, “Thanks for being so controlling! In my rebellion, I fell in love in love with someone completely inappropriate – but totally hot.”
I’m thinking maybe they should – because a lot of us have been there.
In a perfect world, mothers are wise creatures who guide us by love and example. And in this perfect world, daughters only emulate their and make them proud. But in reality, we often have to distance ourselves from our mothers to define ourselves, even if just temporarily. Who hasn’t pushed back against a curfew, a dress code, disapproval over a boyfriend? Ideally, these are temporary hiccups. But in some cases, mothers and daughters are so opposite, the divide defines their entire relationship.
In RUIN ME, my heroine needs to step out of the long shadow of her famous mother. Anna Sterling is a powerful art dealer who expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps, and Lulu, a senior at NYU, has her own ideas about art – and life. When Lulu finds her passion and ideas embodied in a mysterious, bad-boy street artist known as GoST, things get dicey. (See above-mentioned Hallmark card).
As I celebrate Mother’s Day, I think about my own bumps in the road – the ones that are behind me, and the ones that are ahead now that I’m on the other side of the fence. Judging from my teenage daughter, I expect I’ll have fodder for at least another book or two on this subject. Maybe more.
by Jamie Brenner
There’s a thing that happens at these art gallery parties filled with the beautiful people. Everyone orbits the room pretending not to look at the one person they all want to notice them. They pretend that her glance isn’t the ultimate prize.
I’ve been playing this game my entire life.
The owner of New York’s most prestigious art gallery, she is a pale-skinned, willowy brunette, wears dark-red matte lipstick, and is dressed in all white. There are several ropes of pearls around her neck and a cigarette in her hand—even now, when no one smokes in public anymore. She’s like a living photo from the past, Coco Chanel or Dovima. She is timeless but perfectly of this moment. Elegant, powerful, elusive.
She’s my mother.
“You should stand closer to him so you get in some of the photos,” she says to me so quickly and quietly no one else would have heard.
I immediately cross the room. I’m a junior at NYU, an art major, and girlfriend of one of the hottest up-and-coming painters in New York. But around my mother, I’m still the six-year-old who ignored her warning never to use the scissors without her permission, only to cut my own bangs and ruin my hair for a year.
Hoping to satisfy her, I stand closer to my boyfriend, Brandt. It’s not even his night, but he looks like the star. And in three months, he will be: It will be his paintings on the walls, his sound bites the journalists and bloggers want. But for now, New York magazine just wants a photo of us together for their party section.
“I’m going to get some fresh air,” I whisper to him, uncomfortable with the attention. It’s late, close to midnight by now. He looks at me, his blue eyes shiny, his cheeks flushed from excitement and wine. He is talking to the showing artist, Dustin McBride, whom my mother just poached from Vito Schnabel’s gallery.
A few months ago, Dustin wouldn’t have given Brandt the time of day. But now Brandt is part of the club. Not just an “emerging” artist but one about to have his first one-man show with Anna Sterling.
“I’ll go with you,” Brandt says, but I know he doesn’t mean it. He’s high from all the attention, buzzing with it. Hovering close by is Inez Elliot, my mother’s trusted gallery director and probably the coolest girl I know. She has pale coco skin and bleached blond hair offset by dark eyebrows—Rita Ora on steroids. I smile at her; she looks away.
Other women are circling—the art groupies, the hipster writer from The Times, and even the new “it” girl model with her heart-shaped lips, pink-edged blond hair, and stud in her nostril. Brandt drinks it all in. He was made for this.
“I’ll be right back,” I tell him.
Outside, I gasp with relief when I feel the humid June air. The streets of SoHo feel like they are running on different oxygen than the freezing gallery. For the first time in hours, my goose bumps disappear.
This wasn’t how my summer was supposed to go, I thought while crossing Greene Street. I’d wanted to be spending this week packing for a trip to Spain with my roommate, Niffer. We’d spent months planning our trip and even knew where we would eat dinner our first night—Els Pescadors, for tapas. It’s where Niffer met her boyfriend, Claudio, last summer. He still works there.
Now Niffer is going without me, thanks to my mother.
I inhale the summer air greedily and walk slowly down West Houston Street in my impractical shoes and sheath dress. The initial elation of escaping the party turns sour as I start to perspire. I’m exhausted.
I always imagined working at the gallery alongside my mother. Dreamed of it, actually. I knew it was my future. But now that she wants me to start this summer, it feels all too soon.
But, I can’t say no to my mother—I never have. And now I’m paying the price for it. Keeping up with her breakneck work ethic is going consume the next two months of my life, as it has consumed all of hers. She only took time off from the gallery twice in twenty-five years: when I was born, and then six months later, when my father killed himself.
My phone vibrates in my dangly, beaded vintage clutch. A part of me dares to hope that it’s Brandt, saying that he wants to get some air, too. “Let’s get pizza,” or more likely, “Let’s fuck.”
I pull the phone out. It’s my mother. “Where are you? Richard wants a quote from you.”
“From me?” Richard is the art critic for The New York Times.
“I’m outside. I just needed some fresh air. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I dutifully turn to head back to the gallery. And that’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I see something.
I look up. Sure enough, on the side of a building, ten stories above the street, a man dangles from a harness. One arm is perfectly still, the other is waving in sharp, methodical sweeping motions. He is holding a stencil in one hand, spray-painting with the other.
I watch, rooted in place, mesmerized as swaths of paint start to form an image. It’s a dark-haired woman. The spray can leaves a trail of colors to form a blue shirt with capped sleeves and a long yellow skirt. The woman’s body appears to wilt, her arm falling to her side. I take in the image from top to bottom. It’s Snow White. She’s beautiful, vulnerable, falling into the legendary sleep that will only be broken by her prince.
He moves quickly, now painting near Snow White’s limp hand. His body blocks my view. Finally, he pushes back on his feet, moving away from the painting. It is now complete, with a poisoned apple dropping from her limp hand.
But it’s not just any apple—it’s the tech company logo.
I gasp. It’s the most exciting piece of art I’ve seen all night, and it’s on the side of a building.
Suddenly, the can of spray paint falls from his hand. It seems to happen in slow motion, tumbling over and over, until it hits the sidewalk with a tinny crash.
The noise attracts other people, and a small crowd gathers at the base of the building. People are pointing. And then, nearby, the wail of a police siren.
But he is not finished yet. With quick, efficient circular motions of his arm, he claims the painting, tagging the piece with the name GoST. And I realize I am witnessing the artist whose brilliant, politically-edged stencil paintings have been popping up all over walls and billboards in SoHo and the Village. A thrill runs through me.
And just like that, he is gone.
Copyright © 2014 by Jamie Brenner
About the author:
Jamie Brenner is the author of THE GIN LOVERS, chosen by Fresh Fiction as one of their Top 13 Books to Read in 2013. Jamie also writes erotic fiction under the name Logan Belle. Her debut novel, BLUE ANGEL, was the first in an erotic trilogy published by Kensington, followed by the erotic romances NOW OR NEVER, THE LIBRARIAN and MISS CHATTERLEY. Her novels have been translated into a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan, blogs for Romance at Random and Heroes & Heartbreakers, and is busy raising two daughters who aren't allowed to read her books. To read more or contact her, visit jamiebrenner.com or follow her @jamieLbrenner