The best novels about very rich families with very dark secrets

Why am I passionate about this?

According to Entertainment Weekly, I’m a “bestselling author who has made a name for [myself] with uncannily insightful takes on the dark side of family institutions.” But really, I’m just a novelist who has always been fascinated by the myriad ways we play out our unresolved issues from childhood, again and again, over the course of our lives. Although my books are very different from each other, they all focus on the interrelationships among family members (traditional families, work families, etc.). In my most recent novel, When We Were Bright and Beautiful, I look at how wealth, privilege, and power can corrupt even the most loving relationships.


I wrote...

When We Were Bright and Beautiful

By Jillian Medoff,

Book cover of When We Were Bright and Beautiful

What is my book about?

Cassie Quinn may only be twenty-three, but she knows a few things. Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s certainly better to have it. Family matters most. Her younger brother Billy is not a rapist.

When Billy, a junior at Princeton, is arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Cassie races home to Manhattan to join forces with her big brother and their parents. The Quinns scramble to hire the best legal minds money can buy, but Billy fits the all-too-familiar sex-offender profile—white, athletic, and privileged—that makes headlines and sways juries. As reporters converge outside their Upper East Side landmark building, the Quinns gird themselves for a media-saturated trial, and Cassie vows she’ll do whatever it takes to save Billy. But what if that means exposing her own darkest secrets to the world?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Snakes

Jillian Medoff Why did I love this book?

A dark psychological thriller, The Snakes is a study of greed, and how feelings of deprivation and jealousy can infect a family and destroy each of its members slowly and painfully, from the inside out. The novel is a slow-burn character portrait (versus, say, plot-driven adventure), but Sadie Jones does a terrific job of pulling you into the story and ratcheting up the tension. In the novel, a recently married couple rents out their London apartment to escape for a few months. Driving through France, they visit the wife’s brother at a hotel he runs. When their parents make a surprise visit, the story—and the family—unravels brilliantly until the final delicious, electrifying ending.

By Sadie Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Snakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the all-consuming story of a family whose worst sins come back to bite them from the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Outcast

'A menacing beautifully written novel' Guardian

'Unsettling, thought-provoking' Heat

Bea and Dan, recently married, rent out their tiny flat to escape London for a few precious months. Driving through France they visit Bea's dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. Disturbingly, they find him all alone and the ramshackle hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic.

When Alex and Bea's parents make a surprise visit, Dan can't understand…


Book cover of The Darlings

Jillian Medoff Why did I love this book?

From the first scene of The Darlings, Christina Alger plunges you into the lives of the fabulously wealthy. The daughter of a Wall Street financier, Alger grew up in this world, and her experience and insight make the book sing. The Darlings is fast-paced and compulsively readable, and the characters are well-drawn and authentic. This novel includes everything I love: financial crimes, shocking scandals, lots of details, and terrific storytelling. 

By Cristina Alger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Darlings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Cristina Alger's debut novel offers a fresh and modern glimpse into New York's high society. I was hooked from page one' Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada

From the author of The Banker's Wife and Girls Like Us comes an explosive drama about family, greed and high society scandal.

The Darlings of New York are untouchable. But no one is safe from a scandal this big.

When Carter Darling's business partner commits suicide, it triggers a huge financial investigation.

The allegations are serious. The danger of it exposing their private lives is equally threatening.

In times of crisis,…


Book cover of The Emperor's Children

Jillian Medoff Why did I love this book?

The Emperor’s Children is a brilliant novel about three college friends making their way in the world, each representing a different social stratum. Marina Thwaite, an “It” girl from a wealthy, intellectual, and well-known family is the epitome of class and privilege. But then her idealistic, ambitious cousin arrives, and life gets complicated. A story of ambition, illusions, delusions, and self-invention, The Emperor’s Children is a dazzling novel.  

By Claire Messud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emperor's Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Neel Mukherjee.

In Manhattan, just after the century's turn, three thirty-year-old friends, Danielle, Marina and Julius, are seeking their fortunes. But the arrival of Marina's young cousin Bootie - fresh from the provinces and keen, too, to make his mark - forces them to confront their own desires and expectations.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud is an American classic: a sweeping portrait of one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and a haunting illustration of how the events of a single day can change everything, for ever.


Book cover of Very Cold People

Jillian Medoff Why did I love this book?

Very Cold People is an atmospheric, sharply observed coming-of-age novel set in an old money town called Waitsfield, outside Boston. Ruthie, the narrator, is not wealthy at all, and her story is one of slights, deprivation, and wanting. Everyone is hiding something, including Ruthie and her family, and Sarah Manguso ratchets up the tension as the book unfolds, and their secrets are revealed. 

By Sarah Manguso,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Very Cold People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The masterly debut novel from “an exquisitely astute writer” (The Boston Globe), about growing up in—and out of—the suffocating constraints of small-town America.
 
“Compact and beautiful . . . This novel bordering on a novella punches above its weight.”—The New York Times

“Very Cold People reminded me of My Brilliant Friend.”—The New Yorker

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, Good Housekeeping

“My parents didn’t belong in Waitsfield, but they moved there anyway.”

For Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known.

Once home to the country’s oldest and most…


Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

Jillian Medoff Why did I love this book?

Tom Wolfe is the OG of novels about the monied class, ambition, power, and privilege. Set in Manhattan in the 1980’s, Bonfire of the Vanities is a panoramic story that illustrates what happens when a high-society Wall Street banker, a “Master of the Universe,” and his mistress kill a Black teenager in a hit-and-run accident. 

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Bonfire of the Vanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exhilarating satire of Eighties excess that captures the effervescent spirit of New York, from one of the greatest writers of modern American prose

Sherman McCoy is a WASP, bond trader and self-appointed 'Master of the Universe'. He has a fashionable wife, a Park Avenue apartment and a Southern mistress. His spectacular fall begins the moment he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. Prosecutors, newspaper hacks, politicians and clergy close in on him, determined to bring him down.

Exuberant, scandalous and exceptionally discerning, The Bonfire of the Vanities was Tom Wolfe's first venture into fiction and cemented…


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The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

By Kay Freeman,

Book cover of The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

Kay Freeman Author Of Hitman's Honey

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired art professor Tequila aficionado Weightlifter Owned by Standard Poodle Blues lover

Kay's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It began with a dying husband, and it ended in a dynasty.

It took away her husband’s pain on his deathbed, kept her from losing the family farm, gave her the power to build a thriving business, but it’s illegal to grow in every state in the country in 1978.

It even brings her first love from high school back; the only problem is that he works for the FBI. Will their occupations implode their romance, or will the opposite happen?

A second chance at love, opposites attract, rags to riches heroine trope story.

The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

By Kay Freeman,

What is this book about?

It began with a dying husband and it ended in a dynasty.

It took away her husband’s pain on his deathbed, kept her from losing the family farm, gave her the power to build a thriving business, but it’s illegal to grow in every state in the country in 1978. It even brings her first love from high school back; the only problem he works for the FBI. Will their occupations implode their romance or will the opposite happen? A second chance at love, opposites attract , rags to riches heroine trope story.


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