The protagonist of “Stone Cold Fox” by Rachel Koller Croft isn’t here for your Valentine’s Day dinner plans. For Bea, romance isn’t the focus of a relationship. Rather, a relationship is the means to an end — and the end is wealth.
Out Feb. 14, 2023, “Stone Cold Fox” is the story of a woman who finally lands on the man who she hopes is her last target: Collin Case. The scion of an American dynasty and an all-around nice guy, Collin ticks all Bea's calculating boxes. Now, she has to charm his family and friends, who are less trusting than Collin.
“A ‘stone cold fox is a woman that knows exactly what she wants and exactly how to get it and she won’t settle for anything less because she has confidence in spades,” author Croft tells TODAY.com, summing up her character's approach. This is Croft's debut novel; she has also written screenplays.
When writing Bea, Kroft said she was inspired by pop culture’s most famous antiheroes, from Amy Dunne of “Gone Girl” to Cruella de vil: Cold but almost admirable in their ambition. “I wanted a main character that perhaps had a villainous spirit, but maybe wasn’t so cut and dry as far as good versus evil goes,” she says. More works in the “Stone Cold Fox” pop culture mood board include “Succession,” for its glimpse into the .1 percent's lifestyles, and “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” for a story of a person who wants to join wealthy characters there.
“Stone Cold Fox” is also a study in what makes a ladder-climber like Bea (or, as some might say, a con artist). According to Croft, they are made, not born — and Bea’s mother, the woman who shaped Bea’s ideals and pursuits, is a prominent part of the narration.
“I had an a-ha moment very early on with my agent after the first draft, which didn’t have as much of the Mother character at the forefront as it does now. She said, ‘You do realize you wrote a novel about a complicated mother-daughter relationship.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, God. I suppose I did,’” she says.
She continues, “That a-ha moment really helped me zero in on Bea’s true intentions. Because for Bea, it’s actually not about the material stuff money can buy at all. It’s about the safety and security that money represents, which she never had growing up with Mother.”
As for whether Bea ever lands to that place of safety and security? You’ll have to read the book to find out — but below, find a preview.
Read an excerpt of 'Stone Cold Fox'
By the time I happened upon Collin Case, I had already dated more than my fair share of New York “somebodies” with middling personalities and big-enough bank accounts. They were relatively easy to find when you looked like me. I spent hundreds of my hard-earned dollars on fresh highlights every four to six weeks. I mastered an authentic feminine titter for jokes that weren’t remotely amusing as I grazed nearly non-existent biceps with my perfectly manicured hands, an almond shape on each nail. And I regularly choked down liquid meals with organic ingredients on the regular to stave off a bloated belly and thighs that touch. I did everything I had observed as a child because ultimately it works. I watched her do it for years. But what I learned rather quickly is that dating men in that particular orbit is no picnic at all.
They truly believe the entire universe revolves around them and their underwhelming penises and that everything they do all the time is just so f--ing great. It’s exhausting having to exalt those types of men, day in and day out, just to secure a Harry Winston diamond, a generous allowance for fillers, Botox and other miscellaneous body maintenance and most importantly, a life of true leisure without a care in the world. The ultimate safety net. Impenetrable. Though many of my attempts were ill-fated, I stayed the course because I believed wholeheartedly that it would be well worth it, due to a past I never wanted to relive, and I had to make my future different from hers. But none of those relationships with the so-called “alphas” of New York City panned out in the way I had hoped.
Philip Hartley, an Ed Harris dupe with a Cialis prescription, dumped me after I deigned to ask his sister-in-law about the family trust when we were blitzed on roséat their vacation home in Palm Beach. Like we were competitors on The Bachelor, that “recovering” bulimic with a benzo problem told him I was there for “the wrong reasons.” Busted.
That’s what I got for trusting a woman. Sloppy work on my part. Deserving of the scathing critique she definitely would have given me. I could just hear her, but I always heard her, even when I didn’t want to. The words floating out of her mouth, in that light and airy tone of hers, nearly always in complete juxtaposition to the dark and deprecatory language in my direction. A verbal lashing disguised as care or concern to anyone else’s ear but my own.
Dan Felix was a high-profile litigator that had previously court-appointed anger management classes and he flat-out smacked me across the face when I got a text from a male co-worker after midnight asking for my dealer’s info. Dan didn’t actually care about the content of the message — he was the one with the coke problem whereas my own usage was rather infrequent and purely recreational in cases where I thought it could bond me with someone useful — and Dan wrongly assumed I was cheating on him. As if I would waste my time on some junior account executive that shared his place with three roommates in Dumbo. Please.
But I was learning. An angry man simply would not do.
Speaking of cheating, Morris Haley III, a real estate developer, chronically cheated on me, which I knew would happen on occasion and the act didn’t outright bother me, but there was nothing discreet about his dalliances. I didn’t take kindly to openly looking like a fool in front of others, even though he was outrageously handsome, a rarity, and had one of those Kohler shower rooms with seemingly endless streams of water shooting out from all angles. Pure luxury.
She would have approved of Morris, but my reputation mattered too much to me to carry on with him. Meanwhile, that woman had no concept of a reputation at all. Why would she? Her end game was not like mine. For her, it was about the count. One after another after another after another, for as long as she could. But I wanted something different. I relished in any differences between us; truth be told I craved them. Clung to every last one.
Excerpted from STONE COLD FOX by Rachel Koller Croft, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023