Susan Howatch was born in Surrey. After taking a degree in law, she emigrated to America where she married, had a daughter and embarked on a career as a writer. When she eventually left the States, she lived in the Republic of Ireland for four years before returning to England.
The heartbreaker of the title is a stylish and gorgeous young man by the name of Gavin Blake a newcomer to Howatch's popular Church of England series. Set in 1992, two years after the conclusion of the last entry in the series (The High Flyer), this latest details Gavin's life as a high-class prostitute in London and his involvement with characters who will be familiar to readers of the series: Carta Graham, a well-heeled former lawyer; Nicholas Darrow, the charismatic rector of St. Benet's church; and the mysterious Elizabeth, Gavin's pimp-mistress with a shady past in the occult and New Age healing. Carta and Gavin meet when a friend of Carta's suddenly dies and she discovers that he was a secret homosexual and one of Gavin's clients. As the story unfolds in parallel first-person narratives, the cocksure Gavin is shown in an increasing state of unraveling as his life is revealed to be less than the hip, bed-hopping blast he portrays it to be. Meanwhile, Carta who fends off innuendoes from Gavin, despite her strong physical attraction to him works as a fund-raiser for St. Benet's, where Darrow has played a crucial role in her psychic crash and spiritual recovery. As Gavin spirals into a breakdown, Carta finds herself increasingly connected to him and to a dangerous underworld of sex and violence with links to her own past. As usual, plot improbabilities and long sections of spiritual musing are redeemed by Howatch's strongly drawn characters: if Carta can come across as brittle and prudish, Gavin's self-absorbed cant is continually entertaining, and supporting characters such as the smoothly evil Asherton and tetchy but big-hearted ex-prostitute Susanne round out the cast. Some readers may drop out during the final hundred pages (wherein Gavin recovers and finds the spiritual light), but this final book in the trilogy should satisfy fans who have been eagerly awaiting it. BOMC selection. Agent, Gillon Aitken. (May 3) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In this final volume of a trilogy about life in the modern Church of England (along with The Wonder Worker and The High Flyer), Carta Graham, the eponymous protagonist of the second book, is energetically fund-raising for St. Benet's, a healing ministry in London's financial district. When a prospective donor suddenly dies, the resulting confusion brings Carta into contact with a man both compelling and repellant. Gavin Blake is a gorgeous, upscale male prostitute specializing in wealthy gay men, though he personally prefers women. Gavin's amoral self-absorption and flamboyant lifestyle mask a deep internal agony, leading Carta and her spiritual advisers to attempt his redemption. The risks include dangerous opposition from Gavin's employers, the pseudo-healer Elizabeth (who is implicated in the suicide of Carta's husband), and the devilish Asherton, S-M broker, pornographer, and occult master. Howatch mingles melodrama, suspense, and religious questing, a stimulating, if somewhat formulaic, strategy that moves the plot along briskly in chapters narrated in turn by Gavin and Carta. Recommended for most public libraries.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
She is a deft storyteller, and her writing has depth, grace and pace - TATLERTruly unputdownable - THE TIMESHowatch deftly creates real characters with problems that are completely engrossing. - WOMAN AND HOMEThis book, the last of a trilogy, proves she's got broader scope and a story-telling ability that's second to none... it's a consummate piece of writing and a rattling good read. - IRISH EXAMINER