Book Review - Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum
While I had been anticipating The Last Collection for almost a year, I first heard about this book in April. It seemingly popped up out of nowhere, it hadn’t been on my radar at all! It has a lot of similarities to The Last Collection and both seem to fit a theme I see emerging about female feuds in business. You might recall that The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin told the story of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli’s feud; Rouge tells the fictional tale of a feud between two beauty industry icons: Josephine Herz and Constance Gardiner. The story reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Arden vs. Helena Rubinstein. Rubinstein once said of Arden, “With her products and my packaging, we could have ruled the world.”
According to the author, the story is a compilation of many beauty industry icons. You’ll see some similarities between The Gardiner girls and Avon; CeeCee Lopez was inspired by Madam C.J. Walker; and he took inspiration from everyone from “Charles Revson to Estée Lauder.” In the book, Josephine an Constance are the two leading women in the beauty industry, constantly vying for the top position and competing to make the best products and to release them first. There are spies in the industry, leaks within companies, betrayals, and inter-office romances.
Although I would have preferred that this book be based on the real lives of two beauty industry icons, I very much enjoyed this fictional story. It was a fascinating read from beginning to end and I was hooked right away. I enjoyed the glamour of the beauty industry during this time, I loved reading about strong women in history, and I appreciated all the many forms that love took throughout the book. There were a number of love stories that took place throughout the book, while not being too romance-y.