Becky Lynn Lee leaves her home in Mississippi at 17 to escape her alcoholic father and the boys who raped her, to make something of herself in California where no one knows anything about her. Red-haired Becky Lynn Lee is a smart, strong-minded girl from the wrong side of the tracks, the daughter of an abusive, alcoholic father and a useless mother, who runs away to California and gets a job in a hair salon, determined to create the life she wants for herself. At home, she had a job at the local beauty shop doing shampoos and cleaning the place up, always trying to avoid her father on the days he had the money to buy a bottle. She studies the photographs in the fashion magazines when at work, noticing the play of light and shadow and angles, dreaming one day of being a photographer. Her brother is on the football team and is friends with the rich boys who torment Becky Lynn and finally, one day, rape her violently and cruelly. Knowing they will never give up, and getting no support from her family after the rape, she leaves home and ends up in Hollywood. She tries to get job after job and finally lands one at the Image Shop, a place that does hair, makeup and everything needed to create an image. What she doesn't know is that the owner used to be a makeup artist in the fashion industry.
We also meet the owner's son, Jack, who discovers he is the bastard son of Giovanni, the top fashion photographer in the industry, who also has a legitimate son, Carlo, who's mother committed suicide. Jack and Carlo are both up and coming photographers, though Carlo rises faster due to his father's influence. Giovanni rejects Jack as his son which hurts him and he vows to surpass them both in the industry. When Jack comes to the salon, all of the hairdressers fall all over him, except Becky Lee, who can't bear to be touched by a man, terrified that he will do to her what the others did. This intrigues Jack, though he doesn't know what her problem really is, and he starts to call her Red. She doesn't like it because she thinks he's ridiculing her, but doesn't say anything because she is too shy to stand up to men. One day she and Brianna, a hairdresser, have lunch with Jack and Brianna shows him her portfolio, taken by a photographer her husband paid for. Jack says they're nice and asks Becky Lynn what she thinks. She's honest and says they aren't that good. Jack agrees and tells Brianna he'll shoot the photos over for her and he does. She meets Brianna at the studio for her shoot, and when she leaves, Jack tells her she has a good eye, and lets her take her first picture with a camera. It's good.
One day she is sent to his studio to bring his mother her makeup kit for an important shoot and his photographer's assistant doesn't show up. Becky Lynn volunteers to help, she does, and she does well. He offers her the job and he teaches her everything she needs to know. He also lets her shoot her first picture.
As the story unfolds, we learn of Jack's feelings of inadequacy and his burning hatred for Carlo and Giovanni, and we see Jack and Becky Lee getting closer, as she gets more comfortable with him. One night she uses his phone to tell her mother that she's okay and is living her dream, and she finds out she's dead. Jack comforts her and they end up in bed. They agree to keep their relationship a secret and Jack's career starts to rise as does Carlo's, who they occasionally run into at various functions, though the meetings always end badly. Carlo begins to hit up Becky Lee whenever he sees her, he sends her flowers and offers to take her to dinner. She always declines, because she's in love with Jack. We learn about the fashion industry, the power plays, and the requirement that models have sex to get jobs, but then Jack finds out the photographers do too. Becky Lynn finds out that Jack slept with his current client and leaves him and goes to Carlo.
Carlo tells Becky Lee that she has a face the camera would love, photographs her, and proves to her that she is far from the ugly girl the boys in Bend made fun of. He turns her into one of the top models though they never sleep together. Jack can't stand it and finally begins to see that he may love Becky Lee but he was too selfish to realize it. But Becky Lee starts to hear rumors that Carlo is gay. Though she doesn't care, it makes little sense to her because he always sleeps with the models, until she realizes he does it because his father would disown him. She confronts him and he offers to marry her. He would keep his sexuality a secret and she would have an excuse not to sleep with photographers to get the job. Jack is horrified that he let Becky Lynn go.
Both men are neck and neck for the top 10 of the fashion world, when Jack is called in to get an account and finds he must sleep with a man, the client, to get it. He declines, but Carlo gets it, and he realizes that Carlo is gay. At an extravaganza honoring Giovanni, the top fashionista, Giovanni publicly acknowledges Jack and spurns Carlo - Giovanni knows Carlo is gay as well, after he gets the account. Carlo, deeply depressed, stops shooting. Becky Lynn can do nothing, he won't talk to her, but she thinks Jack told Giovanni about Carlo, though he didn't. One day Carlo has a huge shoot for Vogue, that he can't afford to miss, but he won't do it and Becky Lynn talks the client into letting her do it. She does, and her photos are a hit. Becky Lynn has finally realized her dream and is shooting for Vogue, but then Carlo sinks deeper into depression. Jack finally realizes that he and Carlo were used by their father and they should team up against him, but it is too late. Carlo doesn't want to live and neither Jack nor Becky Lynn can save him .
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that Becky Lynn overcame all of her self-doubt and her fears to finally do what she wanted to do with her life.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when she wandered into the Image Shop hoping for a job and then, when the owner appears, thinking that the place is too good for her, she clams up. But the owner keeps at her asking what she's there for, because she noticed the bruises and felt badly for the girl, and Becky Lynn finally gathers her courage and gets what she wants.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Becky Lynn's courage and self-determination and her ability to rely solely on herself.