December 24, 2013
A woman who has everything meets a man who can offer her nothing but trouble. They bring each other to a height of desire neither thought possible, but is it enough to overcome the differences that tear them apart?Kate Champion, a forty-two-year-old, married mother of two, leads an enviable upper class life of luxury. Her comfortable path takes an unexpected detour after a chance encounter at a neighborhood playground.Jaylee Inoa is a twenty-two-year-old, second generation New York Dominican with close ties to the Heights and the gangs that run them.Her life of privilege is no match for the code of the streets he navigates with ease. When a crime of the heart leads to a crime in the flesh, how far will she go to redeem him? Can she risk all in her life that is golden for the love of her golden-eyed man?
Every time I read a provocative book with main characters I dislike, I often wonder if it's intentional on the author's part or not. Kate Champion robbed me of words in more ways than one and since reading HEIGHTS OF DESIRE I know I have to pick Mara White's brain and ask her what is up with Kate!
When I was a teenager I lived in the Caribbean and hung out with a group of girls who were slightly older than I was, definitely more cosmopolitan and very well educated. We all however, dated the same group of boys who were, for lack of a better term, corner boys. Poor, mostly extremely under-educated and caught up in street culture. It made for some interesting relationships and I always found the juxtaposition to be very compelling.
As a young adult, I lived in Mexico City, which is a city with a staggering class divide. On a daily basis you see the extremely rich and the exceptionally poor interact in a strange dance around unspoken class boundaries that very few dare cross. However, when they are crossed some of the most extraordinary and beautiful relationships are formed.
|Credit goes to Michele Catalano Creative|
When I started the story, I never intended for Kate to be a hateful person. In fact, for me she isn’t, I have great compassion for her despite her many flaws. For me personally, the hardest part to write was not Kate’s many indiscretions and poor choices but rather her wardrobe. I wrote in Kate’s wardrobe as an easy way to illustrate her complete obliviousness to her own privilege and wealth. I have my own issues with luxury items and I’m not morally comfortable with a handbag that costs as much as it does to feed a family of four for a year. So when Kate brought a Birken bag to Riker’s, it was really the lowest point for me in my relationship with my own character.
I think that most of us strive for and dream about having what Kate Champion already has and that’s why we don’t necessarily value what she’s searching for in her relationship with Jaylee. But who are we to judge anyone else’s happiness and maybe for Kate, happiness resides in following her inner voice and discovering her true self.
As a mother I completely understand a reader’s difficulty with Kate allowing her children to become involved in her affair. I disagree however with the criticism where people have said she is abandoning or throwing away her children. I don’t believe Kate is hurting Ada and Pearl any more or less than any parent hurts their child when they become a casualty of an unsuccessful partnership. There is a unique element to Kate and Jaylee’s relationship in regards to the children and for me it was key in crafting the story. When Jaylee first sees Kate, he accepts her and her children together as a whole, as an indivisible entity, and he never strays from this inclusion – he never falters. This is what makes Kate trust him and is the initial gateway into their love.
|Credit goes to Michele Catalano Creative|
I think, in our society when it comes to sexuality, motherhood is mistakenly seen as a burden or a ‘deal-breaker’ or any number of negative things. Even when mothers are mentioned in a sexual context – it’s often belittled as ‘cougar’ or ‘MILF.’ But for Jaylee, Kate’s motherhood is appealing and beautiful and a natural extension of who she is. And I have to agree with Jaylee there because some of the sexiest people I know are mothers!
Much of Kate’s difficulty as a character lies in the fact that she is passive. She is passive about almost every aspect of her life except for Jaylee. When it comes to Jaylee, Kate is fearless and driven and devoted, almost to a fault.
I did realize early on that my readers would be polarized. I had a side of beta readers that said things like “I really relate to Kate, I feel like she’s a good friend, I miss her when you’re late sending a chapter” and then another side of betas who said “I hate her, I want to physically hurt her, I hope something bad happens to her.” So I was aware from the beginning that people would be split and that one way or another – they would feel strongly about Kate Champion.
I hope Mara didn't take my opinion about Kate personally. Despite my strong opinions about Kate, I do find her story fascinating. I'm itching to find out how she's going to resolve this mess she's in.
HEIGHTS OF DESIRE by Mara White is one of those books that will take you waaaay out of your comfort zone. It's gritty, raw and passionate it's impossible not to get into the story.
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I’m a reader, a writer, and a lover of all things romantic. I’m also a coffee, hot sauce, ink, telenovela and Bikram Yoga enthusiast. I live in New York City with my husband and two children, and I spend a lot of time on the playground.