Review + Excerpt: The Fortunate Ones - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

At Twin Oaks Country Club, there are the fortunate ones, and then there are the rest of us: the waiters, the caddies, the valets, and in my case, the cabana girls. Most days, I’m poolside in a pleated skirt, dishing out margaritas to tycoons and titans. It’s not exactly my dream job, but it does come with one perk…

James Ashwood.

He’s my silver lining in a custom black suit.

Besides being a legacy member at the club, he’s a tech mogul and Austin’s most eligible bachelor. Oh, and those dimples? Yeah, they make my stomach dip too.

On good days, I catch his sleek Porsche winding down the tree-lined drive. On better days, I steal a glimpse of his handsome profile as we pass in the hall. And on the absolute best day, I find him alone at the bar, looking for company.

“Come have a seat.”

Those four little words set me down a path I never could have imagined. Private planes, penthouse suites, and temptations around every corner make it impossible to keep my distance. His world feels decadent and wild—but overindulgence comes with a cost. Every kiss comes with strings. Every erotic encounter is a promise I’m not ready to keep.

When I pump the brakes, he hits the gas. James doesn’t want to go slow—he wants a commitment.

And the thing about the fortunate ones?

They’re used to getting what they want.

Book Type:

Romantic Comedy

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Review + Excerpt: The Fortunate Ones
By R.S. Grey

Review + Excerpt: The Fortunate Ones

In R.S. Grey’s THE FORTUNATE ONES, a country club cabana girl falls for Austin’s most eligible bachelor—the Porsche-driving, tech mogul super hunk, James Ashwood.

You’ll swoon, you’ll laugh and you’ll be flipping the pages fast with all the angst and chemistry in these pages. As with every R.S. Grey novel, this one was the perfect feel-good escape. Grey is remarkably consistent, and each of her stories feel relatable and fun.

We meet 25-year-old Brooke, a former au pair with wanderlust, who works as a cabana girl in Austin’s most high-end country club. Thought she doesn’t relish catering to Austin’s elite, it’s a way to get by while she tries to find her next au pair job.

One definite perk is feeding her obsessive secret crush with James Ashwood, the ridiculously handsome man who everyone—members and serve staff—gawks at. He oozes confidence in his custom black suits as his every whim is met in the posh country club halls.

Brooke is content at ogling from afar, but one serendipitous evening, he’s alone at the bar and he asks her to take a seat. Even more shocking, he knows her name.

She never imagined one conversation would begin to change everything, and soon she’s pulled into a world to which she’s not accustomed. But every kiss is searing and James is impossible to resist.

Worse yet, real feelings develop despite them being on completely different paths. She wants to travel the world, and James, he’s ready to settle down. It would never work…

… but they can’t seem to stay away.

When push comes to shove, however, Brooke’s decision may tear them apart for good.

This fast-paced, lighthearted read should be on everyone’s TBR. It’s a wonderfully fun love story with the perfect balance of angst, drama and swoon. Grey is an auto-buy author for me, and this latest novel is just one more reason why she’ll continue to be.

Chapter 1

This is the last outfit I would ever choose to wear, but it’s not my choice to make. It’s my work uniform: a skintight blue polo paired with a pleated khaki skirt that cuts off much closer to my crotch than my knees. Combine that with an embroidered baseball cap and gleaming white Keds, and I’ve become everything I hate in in this world: a country club cabana girl.

My name is embroidered on the shirt in a scrolling font. Above it sits the club’s pretentious logo, a laurel wreath hugging the Twin Oak initials. It hasn’t changed in 50 years, and that’s just the way the members like it. Old money likes old things—except, of course, when it comes to the elite amenities in a place like this. Here, they want new, bigger, better. Acres of perfectly manicured lawns. 18 holes of world-class golf. An Olympic-sized swimming pool with all the kid-friendly accouterments any day-drinking lacrosse mom could ask for. From what I’ve seen, there’s a members-only spa, formal dining room, and gentlemen’s cigar lounge. Beyond that, there’s no telling what else lies within the grounds of Twin Oaks. The scope of my job really only entails access to the pool and main clubhouse. Aside from that, I’m not particularly encouraged to roam.

When each member arrives, they drive through a bougainvillea-covered arched iron gate guarded by no less than three men at any given time. The level of security strikes me as overkill, as if the architects envisioned lower-middle-class hordes crashing through to get their first taste of crab legs. But, then again, I’m not dripping in diamonds like half the women here, so whatever. If Julio, Matt, and Nico make them feel safe, that’s great.

The truth is, their only real talents are scanning ID cards and kissing the asses of wealthy members, like this guy.

“C’mon beautiful, give us a little smile.”

I want to ignore him. I’m focused on the sleek black Porsche driving up the tree-lined drive. In a minute, it will pull into its designated parking spot between a white Mercedes SUV and some other car that costs more than most houses.

“Are you being shy darlin’?” the asshole asks, trying to get my attention.

His guests laugh and I know my time is up. I won’t get to watch him get out of his Porsche today.

With a barely concealed sigh, I turn away from the drive and beam my pearly whites. The old fart claps his hands together and pulls out his wallet. Members pay for things at the club with their assigned ID number, but tips are usually doled out in cash. Every dime is supposed to pass through the cabana bar so it can be divvied up at the end of the day, but after schlepping back and forth around the pool all afternoon waiting on Mr. Oil Tycoon and his merry band of buttkissers, the crisp hundred-dollar bill he hands me feels more comfortable inside my pocket. Later, it will buy me takeout sushi and enough wine to drown this memory.

“Brookie, have I told you you’re my favorite cabana girl?” he asks, making a show of plucking another Benjamin from his wallet. “I like your…work ethic.”

I can’t argue with that. I am extraordinarily focused while I’m here, not because I care about this job, but because I’ve found that staying as busy as possible makes the shifts pass in a flash. No matter if Mr. Oil Tycoon asks me to slice two hundred limes so his board of directors can do rounds of tequila shots (my wrist is still recovering), rub sunscreen on his meatball head (my hands haven’t felt clean since), or entertain his children while he and his wife get completely sloshed (c’mon kids, let’s play roll silverware)—I’m going to do it all with a big, fake smile on my face.

I take the second bill out of his hand and dispense some version of the pleasant bullshit I’ve become remarkably adept at conjuring. My toolbox now includes a girlish laugh, a giddy thank-you, and a nauseating “Oh you.” I worry that someday I might slip and tell him to go screw himself, but from the looks of his saccharine stare, I’ve managed to hold off for at least one more day.

He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and I turn back for the cabana’s bar. I’d like to take this moment to clarify that on my own time, I’m not a show dog, but here? At Twin Oaks? I have yet to encounter a situation that tests my dignity beyond the promise of a tip, and of course, the members take advantage of that knowledge. They want us at their beck and call, and our management encourages it. Anything the guests request, make it happen. If that means serving virgin daiquiris to spoiled brats until they puke, I’ll do it. If that means pouring mommy’s little cocktail into a Styrofoam cup so she can take a roadie with her, so be it. It’s all part of the job.

When I make it back to the bar, I stuff the second hundred into the tip jar because I’m basically as generous as Jesus, except instead of turning water into wine, I turn misogyny into money. Also, coincidentally, I don’t think I can stuff any more cash into my pocket without it becoming conspicuous.

I take off my Twin Oaks Country Club baseball cap and hang it on the back of the door then salute the poor schmuck who has arrived to relieve me. She’s new, Cari or Cara, something like that. Behind her, Will and Kyle are manning the kitchen. Compared to the main dining room, the fare out here is simple at best: chicken salad sandwiches and fresh veggies, hotdogs and hamburgers for the kids. They do a pretty good job of it though, and I gratefully accept a club sandwich to-go. There would be no more freebie deli delights if they knew how many tips I keep for myself, but it’s only fair. They get to listen to music and chat in the safety of the bar and kitchen while I’m stuck out there with the wildlife, trying to keep all my limbs intact.

“See you tomorrow?” Will calls from behind me.

“Nope. I have the day off.”

I try not to sing the words.

He groans in annoyance, but I can’t even feign sympathy.

It’s going to be magnificent. I’m going to sleep in and go for a run, job search for a couple hours, and revel in the real world, where people carry Target purses instead of Birkin bags and children have to follow rules. At Twin Oaks, everyone is well connected. That little boy nearly drowning his sister in the pool right now? His mom is a senator. The teenager pouring vodka into her Sprite? Her dad owns half the commercial real estate in Austin. Nothing is scarier than a teen with powerful pedigree, and I steer clear of them as I weave around the pool and head inside.

The main clubhouse is referred to by most of the staff as The Manor because the sprawling two-story building looks as if it’s been teleported from the English countryside. Symmetrical, ivy-covered, and old enough to harbor some pretty juicy secrets, it’s a building I’d like to take out for a drink. Large, square windows line the first and second floor, and in the center of the limestone facade sits a massive porte cochère where guests can opt to leave their cars with a suited valet before swooping through the main entrance.

I’ve made the short walk from the pool to the clubhouse more times than I can count, but it’s still exciting to pull open the heavy doors and step inside the foyer. Beneath a large coffered dome sits an antique marble table, there for the sole purpose of bearing a dramatic floral arrangement that gets changed out every morning. Today it’s made up of a dozen cylindrical vases of varying heights. There are orchids and garden roses, hydrangeas and peonies. The guests in front of me breeze right past it without a second thought. I shake my head, walk around the table, and stroll down the large hallway that leads past a pair of bathrooms and a private lounge. Beyond lies the main dining room, the real gem of the clubhouse. In that room, the ceiling opens up, reaching heights that could rival any cathedral. Windows stretch across the back wall from floor to ceiling, showcasing the manicured gardens and the par-three eighth hole of the golf course.

The dining room itself looks as if an old French monarch rose from the dead and demanded that the entire room be decorated in an opulent shade of blue. There’s plush wallpaper, starched table linens, and heavy drapes, all ranging from royal to robin’s egg. My favorite detail is the pale blue and cream damask velvet that covers the antique French dining chairs. It’s completely impractical. I can’t imagine the cost of upkeep over the years, but the chairs are beautiful and I’d take one home with me if I could get away with it.

This room is where I spend the other half of my time at Twin Oaks. If I’m not stationed for a shift out at the cabana, I’m perched behind the hostess podium for the lunch service. That spot is currently occupied by my older sister, Ellie, who’s watching me with a smirk as I approach.

“Done with your shift, or are you about to quit in a blaze of glory?”

I grin and pat my pocket. “The first one, but if these tips keep coming, I should have enough saved for the latter soon.”

She laughs. “You really have to swap with me one day for beer cart duty. You think you get good tips at the cabana, but you have no idea what you’re missing.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. The cabana is bad enough.”

She rolls her eyes. “You act like I’m giving members blowies between holes.”

I scrunch my nose. “Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Whatever you do in, around, and between your holes is your business, sis.”

She’s about to respond when her attention shifts to someone behind me. From the familiar stench of heavily applied cologne, I know it’s our manager, Mr. McDonald, though he insists we call him Brian.

“Is everything tip top here, Ellie? We start dinner service in 30 minutes.”

She beams at him. “The tables have been set, I double-checked the crystal for fingerprints, and I’ve ensured the chef has been prepped on all the nutrition and allergy guidelines for the guests dining with us tonight.”

He nods, scanning over the dining room as he continues, “I saw both the Daniels and Edwards family on the reservation list—”

“Already taken care of,” Ellie says with practiced patience. “Their reservations are two hours apart, and if the Edwards family arrives early, I’ll place them on the opposite side of the dining room. There shouldn’t be any problems.”

“Good.” He gives her a final curt nod of approval before turning toward me. “Brooke, I haven’t seen you in a few days. Is everything going well out in the cabana?”

“Nothing I can’t handle.”

I thought I would hate Brian when I first started working here. He’s firmly lodged deep in his 40s with a thick, outdated mustache. He valiantly but unsuccessfully tries to hide his ever-burgeoning pudginess beneath shiny polyester suits, and while he definitely has the personality of a boiled potato, I appreciate that he’s all business. The last thing I need is one more guy in this club trying to suck smiles out of me.

“The members have been speaking highly of you. Mr. Larson has requested that you pick up a few shifts out on the golf course.”

Mr. Larson is Mr. Oil Tycoon, the man I can thank for the hundred-dollar bill stuffed in my pocket.

“I was actually just telling Brooke she would love working out there,” Ellie prods.

I want to jab her with my elbow but the podium is in the way.

“Actually, Brian, I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ve only just now gotten the hang of the dining room and the cabana.”

He seems disappointed, like he doesn’t want to have to tell Mr. Oil Tycoon I said no. “Right, well…Ellie, let me know if you need anything regarding the Edwards-Daniels situation.”

When he’s gone, it takes me all of two seconds to ask Ellie about “the situation”.

She shrugs. “Didn’t I tell you? Mr. Daniels was having an affair with Mrs. Edwards. After their spouses found out, each filed for divorce. Once everything was settled, the cheaters got married. As for the cheatees, well…either out of spite or a reluctance to give up their country club membership, they went ahead and married each other too! Now they just avoid each other like the plague.”

“God this place is incestuous. You’d think if you were going to have an affair, you wouldn’t just choose another dusty ol’ cookie off the shelf.”

She laughs. “They’ve made it that way. You know you can’t even get a membership at this place if you aren’t a legacy? All the families moving to Austin with new money would cut off their right arms to get in here, so it doesn’t really shock me that Mrs. Daniels married Mr. Edwards. He might weigh 400 pounds and have a face like a shoe, but with an active club membership, he might as well be Daniel Craig.”

I’m still stifling my laughter when Marissa joins us at the podium.

“What’s funny?” she asks, scanning down the reservation list and scrunching her nose when she comes across a name she doesn’t particularly like. She’s one of my favorite waitresses in the dining room. Like every other front-of-the-house employee, she’s young and beautiful—black with a short pixie haircut and legs that should probably be insured for a million bucks.

“I was filling Brooke in on the Edwards-Daniels drama.”

Marissa groans. “Ugh, who cares? That’s old news. More importantly, did either of you see that he’s here?”

“Who?” I ask, because even though I know exactly who she’s talking about, I want to hear his name just for fun.

Marissa narrows her dark brown eyes at me. “You know who! Jared said he saw him go into the cigar lounge.”

I wonder if he likes it in there because it’s quiet or if he actually smokes.

Ellie leans in closer so the few members who just stepped into the foyer won’t overhear us. “Are you sure? I didn’t see his car in the parking lot when I got here. I heard he was traveling in Southeast Asia or something for the next few weeks.”

“Well you”—Marissa playfully boops her on the nose—“were misinformed. I looked—his car is definitely out there.”

“Whatever,” I say on a sigh, and they jerk their heads to glare at me. “Sorry, it’s just all a little ridiculous, the whispering and obsessing about him.”

Ellie shoots a knowing glare to Marissa. “Oh, of course. How could I forget that Brooke is too cool to give a shit about James Ashwood. Every other female in this club has a GPS tracker on him, but not you. Why is that exactly?”

I pin on a bored expression. “Not my type.”

They both crack up at that, which is fair. I’m not that good at lying.

“Riiiight. What else isn’t your type? Breathing?”

In the three months I’ve worked at Twin Oaks, James Ashwood has been talked about way more than the bevy of professional athletes and famous locals who also frequent the club. A royal asshole. A major dick. A shrewd businessman. A big tipper with an appetite for everything luxurious: beautiful women, top-shelf whiskey, and expensive cars. I’m confident it’s mostly fiction, made up by some kitchen staffer bored with plating $90 filets.

I’m about to tell both of them to go to hell when Ellie’s face flushes light pink.

“It’s him. It’s him,” she hisses, stepping up to the podium and grabbing for a pen. She finds one, drops it, and then smooths down the front of her dress. Marissa straightens her back and pushes out her chest. It’s mating season at the hostess stand.

I’m facing Ellie and Marissa as they watch him approach, and it takes all of my willpower to keep from joining in on their ogling. After all, Mr. Oil Tycoon forced me to miss James getting out of his Porsche when he first arrived; it’s only fair that I should get to turn around and see him now, just for a second.

I swear if I concentrate hard enough, I can hear his deep voice over the soft ambient music playing overhead. He’s getting closer. My hands fist at my sides and I know if I stay any longer, I’ll cave and turn.

Instead, I wave goodbye to Ellie and Marissa and rush into the dining room—away from him. I pass through the bustling kitchen and head for the locker room so I can change back into clothes I feel comfortable in and get the hell out of here. Unfortunately, there are more women in here whispering about James. I swear, they make him seem larger than life. We have all sorts of rich and famous members in the club, but no one has a cult following quite like James Ashwood. I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

“Did you see him out there, Brooke?” someone asks as I bang my locker closed.

“Oh, I see a lot of things,” I joke, deflecting any more talk about him.

Although, it is true—I do see a lot behind the scenes at Twin Oaks.

But I’ve never seen anything quite like him.

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