The Chocolate Money, published in 2012 by Mariner Books, is a coming-of-age story that’s as funny as it is scandalous. Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, the novel chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover.
Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.
This would be the first producing credit for Beckinsale, who is best known for her role as Selena in the Underworld films. She returned for the franchise’s fifth installment, which began filming in October 2015 with Anna Foerster directing. In addition to such blockbuster fare as Total Recall and Van Helsing, Beckinsale has found success with independent dramas. Last year she reteamed with her The Last Days Of Disco director Whit Stillman and co-star Chloe Sevigny for the 18th century-set Love & Friendship. The film, based on Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan, is set to premiere at Sundance later this month. Beckinsale can next be seen in D.J. Caruso’s horror pic The Disappointments Room, due out this summer.
Author Ashley Prentice Norton is the daughter of Tribune reporter Jon Anderson and philanthropist Abra Prentice Wilkin, and the great-great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller. While the Chicago-bred novelist has stressed that The Chocolate Money is not a memoir, she did admit in a 2012 interview with Chicago Magazine that Babs and Bettina have a lot in common with her own mother and herself. Norton confirmed that the lavish downtown Chicago apartment where much of the book takes place was based on her mother’s legendary penthouse in the Drake. And yes, the scandalous Christmas card is ripped from Norton’s real life.
Katia Juanita | Staff Writer