|“||Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.||”|
— John Webster (Epigraph of the book)
The Heiresses is a book by Sara Shepard. It is the only young adult written book of hers without an associated sequel or book series. It was adapted by I. Marlene King and ABC to be a television show and announced on September 29, 2017.
- The only thing more flawless than a Saybrook’s solitaire is the family behind the diamond empire. Beauties, entrepreneurs, debutantes, and mavens, the Saybrooks are the epitome of high society. Anyone would kill to be one of them. But be careful what you wish for because if you were a Saybrook, you’d be haunted by secrets and plagued by a dark streak of luck.
- Tragedy strikes the prominent family yet again on a beautiful morning in May when thirty-four-year-old Poppy, the most remarkable Saybrook of them all, flings herself from the window of her office. Everyone is shocked that someone so perfect would end her own life—until her cousins receive an ominous warning: One heiress down, four to go.
- Was it suicide… or murder? And who will be next: Aster, the beautiful but reckless girl who’s never worked a day in her life—and who’s covering up her father’s darkest secret? Her older sister, Corrine, whose meticulously planned future is about to come crashing down around her? Perhaps it will be Natasha, the black sheep of the family who suddenly disinherited herself five years ago. Or maybe the perpetually single Rowan, who had the most to gain from her cousin’s death.
- A gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller about heiresses who must uncover a dark truth about their family before they lose the only thing money can’t buy: their lives.
The five impeccably-dressed Saybrook cousins, Poppy, Corinne, her younger sister Aster, Natasha and Rowan all come together for Steven Barnett's funeral, a man and a high-ranking employee of the Saybrook diamond company who was mysteriously found dead a week earlier. At the funeral, the heiresses to the Saybrook fortune all gather and muse over the night Steven died, and overall what happened that summer. If their secrets ever got exposed, their world would come crashing down.
Five years later, Corinne is having her wedding dress fitting ahead of her wedding to her fiancé Dixon Shackleford, with Poppy, her mother Penelope, and wedding planner Evan Pierce present when Aster comes, drunk, wet, and an hour late, all while reeking of tobacco and booze, thoroughly embarrassing Corinne. A helpful Poppy, though secretly angry, leads Aster away. Corinne continues to try on dresses, all while reminding herself to not delete in her past and continue on with the future. Later, Aster decides to go out to a restaurant and party, musing over her adventurous life and her relationship with Corinne, even calling Poppy to invite her over at one point, but she is too exhausted with her children to come.
Later, Rowan is watching the young partygoers of Poppy's daughter Skylar's third birthday party begin to fight and goes to the kitchen, where her cousins, mother, and aunts and uncle are, including the mothers of the young girls. She pours herself a drink as Poppy's husband James comes over and smolders his wife with kisses and hugs but she squirms away. One of the mothers claims Poppy has it all, then all begin to gush over what curse words their daughters have said until one of them asks Rowan about her daughter. Rowan is about to say she doesn't have a daughter until Poppy suddenly announces she's an incredible aunt and boasts about everything Rowan has accomplished, highlighting the one fact that she isn't - a mother. Suddenly feeling too overwhelmed with the attention. Rowan dashes to Poppy and James' bathroom, only to be founded by James. He tries to cheer her up with a game they played in college where they'd name a person to have sex with. He asks her who she's interested these days, and she dodges the question. James makes a comment that not all of them are like him, scaring her into thinking he knows about her feeling for him. Not wanting to snap, Rowan tells him they better got back to the party. Natasha notices them coming out of the bathroom together, while Rowan notices Poppy and Masen, Corinne and Aster's father, in a heated argument.
A few days later, Aster is at an obligatory dinner with Poppy, Corinne, Dixon, her grandmother Edith and her parents. Edith complains about her food while Corinne is mad that Dixon and Aster are shocked that she's planning to work at their honeymoon. As dinner progresses, Aster's best friend, Chelsea Darrow, begins texting her about meeting up at a club and the party's theme while Masen warns her to put her phone away. Frustrated, Masen asks her to come to his office. He announces he's ending her allowance - much to her shock. He shows her the gossip website The Blessed And The Cursed with the photos of her leaving Corinne's wedding fittings wasted and her partying afterward. He says he's disappointed in her and says she's going to have to get a job, not giving in to her protests and whines. Aster leaves the party, angered at her family.
Corinne later hurries to a restaurant to meet up with Dixon for lunch, only to find him once again with a friend to accompany him - Avery Dunbar, his fraternity brother. Exhausted, she sits down, asking him why he chose to meet up at this restaurant, which he replies that it was recommended to him by Evan Pierce, the wedding planner, in a conversation about accommodations with his parents, which Corinne had done already. She is confused on why he was talking to Evan Pierce until a waitress comes with three plates of food, food which they did not order. Dixon insists she tries it, which she does and comments that it's good. Eventually, he tells her the truth - the wedding chef they hired had backed out and Dixon found a replacement. Nonetheless, Corinne begins to panic and freak out til until Dixon introduces their new chef - Will Collidge, the handsome man Corinne had an affair with five years ago.
Rowan arrives at her apartment late in the night, too exhausted to walk her dogs. She notices light stemming from her office - her housekeeper had left the computer open, specifically on The Blessed And The Cursed, a gossip site detailing the lives of the Saybrooks. She looks over the stories and news segments of her family until she hears the doorbell. She finds James at the door and lets him in. She offers him a beverage but he wants Skotch. They sit down and begin to drink as James suddenly retells her the story of when the bartender of a bar chased them as both of them forgot to pay and a story of his player past. But then James confides in a now-wasted Rowan that he thinks Poppy has been cheating on him. She's been acting very distant, comes home late and has been making secret phone calls. Rowan doesn't believe any of it - it isn't something Poppy would do and James is an amazing husband and father. James asks if she really thinks so, and Rowan responds that he's amazing in every way. He leans over to kiss her, but Rowan says it's wrong. But James says it's the most right thing they've ever done, and they sleep together. She wakes in the morning to find that James is actually there - in the living room taking a phone call. But she's empowered with guilt - she fears what will happen to her relationship with Poppy, to her cousins. She begins to walk away, but she steps on a creaky floorboard and catches James' attention. He asks where she's going, but Rowan wails over what they've done and begs him to work things out with Poppy. A series James insists that he'll tell Poppy it's over. He tells her it's right, that he loves her and that it should have happened years ago. But a tortured Rowan tells him no, and leaves to get ready to go out as he languishes in bed. Rowan goes to the Saybrooks' Diamonds building, only to find the police and the media there. Corinne finds her, and she breaks down in her arms - Poppy's dead, having committed suicide.
Later in the week on Monday morning, Corinne, hassled by the questioning media, arrives at Poppy's funeral to meet up with Aster and Rowan. Rowan hasn't gone to work all week and looks deathly pale, while Aster, their fight aside, breaks down in Corinne's arms. The entire extended family of the Saybrooks is there, comforting them and each other. Even Jonathan York, Corinne's ex-uncle who divorced and business rival. He suggests that Poppy was struggling, but doesn't clarify if she was struggling in the business or in life. They walk inside the funeral. Natasha tries to talk to Corinne but Corinne isn't interested. The funeral lasts two hours, until the remaining heiresses, along with Rowan's brothers go to their grandmother Edith's house. They meet with the parents, aunts, and uncles when Edith announces that Poppy didn't kill herself - she was murdered. She introduces Katherine Foley, an FBI agent who discovered that the time stamp on the digital suicide note was two minutes after Poppy was discovered below, meaning someone typed it after her death. She also finds a website with the headings "ONE HEIRESS DOWN, FOUR TO GO". The girls are spooked, while Foley also announces that they have to be interviewed on their whereabouts, for due diligence. She leaves, leaving the girls to ponder who might be after them.
Rowan comes over to Poppy and James' apartment, having received a call from James needing help with his daughters. Briony has a fever and Skylar needs some cupcakes done for preschool - both girls have been crying. Rowan takes Briony, who has been given Tylenol by James and promises to hold her until she falls asleep. Rowan comforts a crying Skylar, who misses her mom but doesn't fully understand that she isn't coming back. She says to Skylar that they can buy some cupcakes from Magnolia's Bakery but Skylar says her mother made them fresh. So they decide to make them fresh by preparing and making them, and have fun doing so - they later put the girls to sleep. James says its fucked up how Poppy died, but Rowan says she has to go - They say goodbye to each other.
On Wednesday morning, Aster begins her first day of work at Saybrooks' Diamonds when she gets both a text from Clarissa asking to do lunch and a call from Corinne, warning her about the "vibe at work". She wasn't wrong - there were police and dogs combing the lobby while a security guard kindly lets Aster through the elevator without an employees' card. Danielle Gilchrist is present to give Aster the new employee presentation, but really they go way back - Danielle was the one who introduced Aster to prank calls, alcohol, and men and was the someone Aster caught Mason looking at in a skimpy bikini. Aster, having already known her family's history, wants to know what department she's been chosen in. Apparently, it's the private client group. When Aster finds a bar in that department, she is stopped by Elizabeth Cole, her familiar but non-nonsense boss. Already on a bad foot, Elizabeth gives her a list of errands to run like her personal assistant, but Aster is overwhelmed. Elizabeth, however, snaps back that a lot of eligible girls out there need this job, not just heiresses with daddies that gave them this job. She brings her to her desk, which is next to a cute geek named Mitch, whom Aster recognized as having flirted with some time ago. Elizabeth tells her to type a list of clients on an Excel worksheet and, seeing her confused face, tells Mitch to help the heiresses. He defends her, saying she can do it. Elizabeth leaves, with a comment saying "Girls like you always get what's coming to them in the end." Mitch helps Aster, but she has to go get Elizabeth's coffee. Although explicitly said not to, Aster enters her office, where she discovers she's the widow of Steven Barnett. Elizabeth finishes and tells her to get out. When Aster runs away, she swears she heard her chuckling.
Corinne is at her apartment, choosing flowers with Evan. She insists on adding lilies, Poppy's favorite flowers, to the wedding, with Evan understanding. She gets up and kisses both Corinne's and Dixon's cheeks, who just arrived, and leaves. Dixon tells Corinne that he can't go to the wine tasting - a deal for his family's company went south and it needs his attention. Corinne begins to panic - she can't face Will alone. Corinne suddenly asks him why he broke up with her five years ago, but a surprised Dixon doesn't want to bring it up anymore. Corinne also notices her day planner for the wedding is missing, even though she never misplaces things. Later, heading towards the restaurant, Natasha finds her and asks her about the wine tasting. Corinne is surprised on how Natasha knows this, but she shows her The Blessed and The Cursed - someone had published the pages of her wedding planner on it. Corinne is annoyed, but Natasha has Togo, leaving her alone. She goes inside the hotel and finds Will. He asks her where her fiancé is in a rude tone, but Corinne says he couldn't make it. "No problem," he says smoothly - and impersonally. He leads her to a private, candlelit room with a bar, where the hotel sommelier, Andrew, arrives to help out with the wine tasting. Will says he's sorry about her cousin's death as Andrew brings out bottles and glasses for Corinne to try out, but after the day she had, she gladly drinks up. Eventually, she looks over at Will's lips sensually, imagining the first time she kissed him. Andrew kisses her cheeks in goodbye and leaves. A drunk Corinne and Will then make out and proceed to have sex in the wine cellar.
Rowan is at the office early in the morning when a coworker named Danielle comes in. She says she might have a thought about who could have hurt Poppy, something the FBI probably doesn't know. Apparently, her old friend, Poppy's old assistant, Shoshanna, had noticed anomalies in Poppy’s schedule, like mysterious appointments in her calendar, saying vague things, like ‘meeting,’ without saying who it was with. When Shoshanna asked about it, Poppy got snippy and said she had it covered. Rowan asks her if Poppy could have been having an affair, but Danielle simply isn't sure, hence why she told her instead of Rowan. James suddenly comes in, asking if he's interrupting something, but Danielle says she's leaving, leaving the two alone. Rowan, however, is still thinking about Poppy - suddenly she feels angry as she thinks she doesn't know the woman she once considered her closest woman. She asks him how the kids and he are doing, but he gets to the point - all he can't stop thinking about her. He begins to approach her, but both are startled when his phone rings. She tells him to pick it up as it could be important, but he responds that nothing is more important than her. He undresses her and they begin to have sex. Afterward, as James leaves, Rowan notices she accidentally launched the movie app. Although not totally in focus, the video did partially catch them (but James' face is hidden). Embarrassed, she deletes the video forever.
Aster finally finishes her Excel data entry after a whole week, happy she has time to make it to Corinne's bachelorette weekend. She emails it to Elizabeth, but immediately afterward she calls Aster to her office. She protests but Elizabeth insists.
Notes and Trivia
- Sara Shepard expressed interest in doing a sequel to the book, but one has yet to be published despite fans requests.
- The book was optioned for a TV series by I. Marlene King and ABC, but the production status of the show is currently unknown and presumed to have been stopped. It would have starred Shay Mitchell in an undisclosed role.