Author: Mary McNamara
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: mystery, chick lit, gossip lit
Copy for review provided by Regal Literary in exchange for an honest review
50 words or less: The following is a list of things Juliette Greyson did not need to encounter while on vacation in Italy: family drama. Hollywood divas. Pill-popping starlets. Rehabbers. Financial woes. Helicopter moms. Mystery. Intrigue. Juliette finds all that and more...maybe even herself.
Allow me to say the following at the onset of this review: I am up way past my bedtime to write this review because I enjoyed this book that much, and I am just now discovering that it is book two in a series, which means that there is another book that I must now get my hands on immediately.
The Starlet is simultaneously the story of one young Hollywood star's spectacular swan dive from the height of fame to the depths of a drug-induced stupor, the story of Juliette and her cousin Gabe's efforts to rescue the family estate in Tuscany from financial ruin and inevitable conversion to a hotel or conference center, the story of the insanity that erupts on a movie set (especially a supposedly cursed movie set,) and the story of Juliette's involuntary quest to untangle her issues and find some peace and contentment within her own life. Any one of these story lines would be satisfying and could take up the entire novel in and of itself; instead, they're all woven together and combined in perfect quantities to result in a book that's a mystery, a romance, a gossipy romp, a sad story of tragedy and loss, and ultimately a wry look at how people deal (or don't deal) with attention, celebrity, and their own personal demons.
In order to understand the tone of the book, you have to understand The Starlet, aka Mercy Talbot, child star extraordinaire and now a pill-popping, coke-snorting recipe for either an Oscar nomination or a flaming disaster, depending on the day. Juliette appears on the scene when she notices that Mercy, in response to her film costar/lover's recent death (apparently by suicide, although it's definitely not so simple) is climbing the fountain in the middle of a public square, naked and high out of her mind. This doesn't sit well with Juliette, who had a wild youth of her own, and she decides that the least she can do is get Mercy somewhere private so she can dry out and then be on about her business. When she's not on vacation, Juliette is a manager at the Pinnacle, a ritzy LA hotel, so dealing with the screwups of the rich and famous is old hat to her.
That one decision thrusts Juliette back into the world of Hollywood insanity and onto the set of Mercy's movie, where Juliette's ex-flame Michael has been brought in to replace the dead actor. The story evolves and blossoms into a mystery of the first order, with everyone keeping secrets and Mercy's loathsome mother Angie lurking around causing chaos at every turn (think Lindsay Lohan's parents on their worst day times a million.)
Throughout all of the mystery and drama and the rekindling of old flames is woven a subtle commentary on fame, the high price people pay for it, and the interesting way in which we interact with the folks that have it. Everyone loves famous people when they're cute and funny and sassy and sexy, but when they fall on their faces we're all there ready to laugh, or to defend them:
Great balls of fire, I could go on and on about this book, but I'll close on this note: Juliette is a heroine that I could relate to from the first page. I am beyond excited to have discovered this book, series, and author, as soon as I get settled after the move, I will be getting the first book in this series, Oscar Season. Do yourselves a favor and pick this title up in the meantime, though, for a fun, engrossing, thought-provoking book that's perfect for summer (or any other time, for that matter.)
Overall Grade: A+