When Jayne Scott’s mother died from cancer, she counted herself lucky to be taken in by her best friend Rebecca Worden’s family. Jayne had no relatives and moving in with the Worden’s gave her an opportunity to belong, even when Rebecca ran off to Europe to escape from her mother, Elizabeth. While Rebecca has been gone life has changed for everyone, Jayne has become a nurse, works for a breast cancer center and helps Elizabeth by acting as her unpaid personal assistant, her way of paying the Worden’s back for their help. Meanwhile, Rebecca has trained as a jewelry designer in Milan and her designs have become sought after. She uses the name “Rivalsa” for her jewelry as a way to of keeping her identity secret and hidden from her family- who happen to be in the high end jewelry business.
Now 10 years later, Rebecca has decided to come home and Jayne is thrilled to have her friend back so that they can spend time together. Jayne soon realizes that Rebecca still has issues with her mother and plans to create havoc in Elizabeth’s life. This difficult situation becomes more complicated when David, Rebecca’s older brother and Elizabeth’s favorite child, decides to come home to Los Angeles and settle down. Jayne has been in love with David from the first moment she met him, she knows he only sees her as his sister’s friend so she’s pleasantly surprised when David starts to pay special attention to her and she finds herself in a relationship with him. As Jayne finds herself being drawn further and further into the Worden family’s relationship problems, she discovers that the friendship she’s always counted on may have been an assumption and that she might have to give up the love of her life in order to break free .
The Best of Friends is one of the most charming and captivating books that I’ve read this year. I was hooked by the relationship dynamics between the characters and by the depth of emotion Susan Mallery was able to make me feel with this story. The characters are colorful, the dialogue is witty and sharp and the plot moves at a very comfortable pace. Jayne, the heroine, is a wonderful character; she’s humble, hardworking and most of all – she’s gracious to everyone she meets and knows. When she loses her mother, you really feel her loss and then her joy when Elizabeth Worden gives her an opportunity to belong to their family. When Mr. Worden, Blaine, goes out of his way to get to know Jayne, we feel her appreciation and genuine affection for him and his for her- he truly sees Jayne as an unrelated member of his family.
At the same time, we get to see that Rebecca Worden is almost the polar opposite of Jayne, she’s been spoiled by the trust that she inherited and by her family- she thinks mostly of herself and takes Jayne’s friendship for granted as something that she is owed. Rebecca is also a trouble maker, her desire to hurt and embarrass her mother hurts others in the process but she doesn’t care or stop to think of the repercussions that her actions might cause to her family. As we get to know Elizabeth Worden, it becomes clear that she is the main antagonist of this story; she becomes very easy to hate.
Elizabeth is a snob who only brings pain and suffering to those around her- she has no use for her husband, Blaine, a man who has given her everything she’s ever wanted, a fantastic life, beautiful children and a position to be envied in their social circle. Elizabeth looks down on those in life that are not her equal, unfortunately this includes Jayne and when Elizabeth discovers that David is truly interested in Jayne and falling in love with her, she sets out to break them up. The more that Elizabeth does to try to force David to give up Jayne, the more determined he becomes to see her.
David and Blaine Worden are unknown characters at the start of this book but by mid book, we realize that they are both honorable men who find themselves stuck in between two women determined to make everyone else’s life miserable. I really liked what Ms. Mallery did with these two characters – as their characters grow and they work to protect Jayne from Elizabeth and her behavior, we see the men they really are.
The friendship between Jayne and Rebecca is tested in this story and Jayne is forced to realize that while she was Rebecca’s friend- Rebecca may never really have been her friend, a pivotal scene involving David, really exhibits how much Rebecca and Elizabeth have in common. The conclusion of the story resolves several of the story lines but leaves us with the question of whether or not Rebecca will be able to get Jayne, David and Blaine to give her a second chance- something she’s really going to have to work for. I really enjoyed reading this story and look forward to reading more of Ms. Mallery’s work.
They seemed like the most unlikely of high school best friends: Quiet, studious Jayne Scott and wild and raucous Rebecca Worden. Even Rebecca's impulsive abandonment of the country did not end Jayne's links with the Worden family: After her own mother dies, she becomes the assistant and surrogate daughter of the affluent Wordens. All that changes when the ever-contentious Rebecca ends her decade-long absence and moves back into her home. Into this cauldron of uncertainty, David, the secret love of poor Jayne's life, also returns home. The end of loyalty, the beginning of love? A mass-market original paperback.