Using the old adage of an ugly duckling becoming a princess, Judith Krantz penned a fave mass market book of 1978: Scruples.
A magazine journalist for several years, Krantz decided to try her hand at a novel, finishing this first book in nine months in 1977.
The novel was published in 1978 by Random House in January, the same month Krantz turned 50.
Scruples focuses on the life of Wilhelmina Hunnewell Winthrop, a young Boston heiress who after the death of her Mother is raised by the housekeeper as her absentee Father focuses on his career in science.
Nicknamed Honey, the young child becomes a teenager almost adult who relies on food and when she finishes high school inherits $10,000 from an Aunt who encourages her to find herself.
Honey goes to Paris, and under the watchful eye of Lilliane, loses weight, learns Parisian style and returns home, now calling herself Billy. Transformed, she moves to New York City, goes to secretarial school and develops a friendship with Jessica, who teaches her about modern life and how to date.
Billy gets a job at Ikehorn Enterprises and ends up attracted to the elderly CEO who she marries. Moving to Bel-Air for her husband’s health, she feels isolated again like when she was a teenager, and ends up shopping away her days until her husband dies of a heart attack, leaving her a young, very wealthy widow.
Trying to overcome her guilt, Billy opens an exclusive boutique in Beverly Hills and launches the second part of her life with Valentine O’Neill as her designer, former photograher Spider Elliott as a stylist and the trio take over Los Angeles.
Billy meets director Vito Orsini and now has entered her new life as a Hollywood power broker as well as embroiled in the secrets and friendships of her life as part of the society elite.
Published in 1978, Scruples became a reader’s favourite, not garnering many critic reviews, but a popular purchase about transformation, society, wealth and fashion – landing the author the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list as well as an overall bestseller in book trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly.
Two years later, the book became a mini-series, and was a TV success. To date, Krantz has sold more than 80 million copies of her books