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Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Former Rita finalist Gail Barrett is the author of thirteen books for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  Her books have won numerous awards, including the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Book Buyers Best, the Holt Medallion and Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart.  For more about Gail and her books, visit her website. – AP  

Ever since time began, people have done bizarre things in their quest for beauty.  And I do mean bizarre:  Leech face lifts.  Setting their faces afire.  Drinking pig placenta (popular in Japan).  Using facials consisting of everything from song bird feces, bee venom, and caviar to gold.  The ancient Romans even gargled with imported Portuguese urine to whiten their teeth and kill bad breath. 

People have modified their bodies for beauty, too -- and not just with piercings and tattoos.  The Sudanese and Ethiopians began using lip plates in 8,700 B. C.  The Kayan women of Thailand have used metal coils to elongate their necks for a thousand years.  At one time or another, various cultures have engaged in cranial binding, scarification, and breast ironing (!), all in the pursuit of beauty.  And let’s not forget Chinese foot binding to create those “beautiful” lotus feet.

And then, of course, comes the big gun in the beauty arsenal -- plastic surgery.  The first recorded nose job was in 600 B.C.  By the first century B.C. Romans were not only operating on noses, but doing breast reductions in men.  They also removed scars, especially those on their backs (a terrible stigma, implying that a person had turned his back in battle, or worse, been whipped like a slave.)

But plastic surgery isn’t always about beauty.  There’s another side to it, the healing side, restoring features disfigured by accidents, violence or disease.  This corrective side predates its use for beauty, with written records of it going back over four thousand years.
This is the side of plastic surgery I focused on when I created the heroine of the final book in my Buried Secrets trilogy, Seduced by His Target.  Nadine Seymour is a plastic surgeon who specializes in doing reconstructive work on battered women.  Thanks to her own abusive upbringing, she understands the value plastic surgery can have, not just in making women beautiful, but in helping them regain their dignity and self-esteem.

I was inspired to create this character after losing the tip of my nose to skin cancer some years ago.  Several operations (including the Mohs procedure and two skin grafts) left me very depressed about my appearance, especially after several doctors assured me that there was nothing more they could do.

Then I found a plastic surgeon willing to try.  It took several operations -- scar revision surgery, microdermabrasion, and finally rhinoplasty -- to get my nose somewhat back to normal, or at least to the point where I didn’t feel self-conscious in public anymore.  But that ordeal taught me the real value of plastic surgery.  I began to see past the fillers and face lifts to how liberating it could be, how it could restore confidence, elevate self-esteem, and rehabilitate shattered lives.

It also made me rethink my attitude toward beauty treatments in general.  And while I doubt I’ll ever drink pig placenta or set my face on fire, I do own an impressive collection of retinoid and antioxidant containing products that I hope will repair my sun-damaged skin and prevent the need for future surgeries.  So no matter how bizarre they are, I never snicker at beauty treatments.  Because who knows -- that snail mucous cream just might improve someone’s life.

The Buried Secrets Trilogy: Three murder witnesses, one deadly conspiracy

Book one - Fatal Exposure, June 2013
Book two - A Kiss to Die For, August 2013
Book three - Seduced by His Target, December 2013

Fatal Exposure
Cold-case detective Parker McCall has spent fifteen years trying to solve his brother’s murder.  Now a chance photo of the killer in the newspaper sets him hard on the woman’s trail.  A former teenaged runaway, reclusive, award-winning photojournalist B.K. Elliot chronicles the harsh reality of life on the streets -- until a photo in the paper reveals her identity, blowing the lid off her secret past.  With a powerful murderer now dogging her heels, and her police officer step-father determined to silence her permanently, the last person she can afford to trust is a cop.  So why does sexy police detective Parker McCall tempt her to break her silence and resurrect ideals she’d lost years ago?  As danger closes in, and with more than her own life at stake, Brynn must decide if the duty-bound cop will betray her...or heal her battered heart.


Beth said...

Why would anyone at any time think setting your face on fire was a good idea?

You make an excellent point about the value of reconstructive surgery. Right or wrong a significant part of self confidence comes from appearance. It must have been fascinating researching the history of plastic surgery for your book. People really haven't changed much, thank goodness the procedures have.

Gail Barrett said...

Beth, it is a Chinese treatment called Huǒ Liáo, and is supposed to stimulate the skin and eliminate wrinkles. I would certainly never try it!!!! It sounds insane to me.

Here is a link:

Beth said...


Donnell Ann Bell said...

Well, this goes to show you, you truly can't make stuff up. Drinking urine to whiten teeth, yeah, that would have occurred to me.

Gail, thanks for sharing your experience. This book sounds terrific. I think sometimes we see people who change their appearance who, in our minds, don't have anything wrong with them. We forget the good it does for burn victims, cancer patients and more. So glad you got help and are feeling positive about the results.

Carrie P said...

It's no joke that we learn something new every day. Thanks for the fascinating history of plastic surgery. Your new book is on hold for me at the library! I can't wait to read it!!

Rayne said...

The topic fascinates me. Have a friend, a very pretty, petite woman, who is frequently undergoing one beauty procedure or another. All of them unnecessary, but she is one of those many women in their 50's who cannot accept themselves as they are, become dependent on the procedures to improve their sense of self worth...until they find something else they don't like. I feel for those women. Then, of course, there are those who really need it, to whom the procedure makes a huge difference to the quality of their lives.
Must be an interesting book.

Marni said...

My hubby is a retired pl s. and always enjoyed the reconstructive side of his practice the most. Thanks for bringing out that their skills are varied and not all focused on cosmetics.

Gail Barrett said...

I know, Beth! I can't imagine taking that risk. But obviously, some people are willing!

Gail Barrett said...

Donnell, I wondered what was special about the urine of the Portuguese? I mean to go to the trouble to import it... Or maybe it was a brilliant marketing ploy for the ancient Portuguese, who laughed all the way to the bank? Either way, it supposedly works. I think I'll pass on that one, though:((((

Anonymous said...

I hope you like it, Carrie! Thanks for stopping by.

Gail Barrett said...

Rayne, I also find that very sad. That's the side of plastic surgery I DON'T like, when people use it to try to repair some hole in their lives. My heroine only does the good stuff -- helping people who have been truly disfigured.

Gail Barrett said...

You're welcome, Marni. And please thank your husband for the good that he did. As someone who has benefited from it, I understand how liberating and healing it can be!!!

Jane said...

My cousin brought back foot binding shoes as a souvenir and they were so tiny and unreal. They looked like they would fit a doll.

Gail Barrett said...

Jane, I recently read up on foot binding and was absolutely stunned by the brutality of it. They wanted three inch feet!! They repeatedly broke the bones in the feet and folded them under to fuse them into a small shape. It was torture, plain and simple. Ugghhh.