April 23rd, 2024
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Investigating a conspiracy really wasn't on Nikki's very long to-do list.


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Secret Identity, Small Town Romance
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April's Affections and Intrigues: Love and Mystery Bloom


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Julia Justiss | Love, Fame, and Heartache

For the month of Valentine’s Day, we’ll look at the world of Hollywood and entertainment glamour through novels that feature three real-life scenarios and one entirely fictional one.  Though the time frames vary, the price of ambition and the cost of fame remain constant factors—and often bring heartache.

From Dust to Stardust by Kathleen Rooney

We begin chronologically with FROM DUST TO STARDUST by Kathleen Rooney, based on the real life of silent film star Colleen Moore.  In 1916, fourteen-year-old Eileen Sullivan travels from Chicago to Hollywood with her beloved Irish grandmother, dreaming of stardom.  After her uncle arranges a screen test with Cecile B. DeMille, she takes the screen name “Doreen O’Dare” and begins working her way up.  By the late 1920s, she’s become one of the most famous (and highest paid) stars of the silent film world, an “It” girl who popularized the bobbed haircut—and suffers the heartache a life-long forbidden love.  Despite the pain of failed marriages, when her career fades after her first three talking pictures fail to hit it big, her astute investments allow her to retire from acting as a rich woman.  Continuing to invest wisely, she’s able to indulge her second passion—dollhouses, funding the construction of a Fairy Castle she takes on tour around the US to cheer the public during the Great Depression. (Moore’s real-life dollhouse, nine feet wide and twelve feet tall, now resides at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.).  Rooney’s novel masterfully captures the Hollywood world of the silent film era, its stars, its scandals, its triumphs and eventual demise through the eyes of one determined, ambitious, and clever Irish girl.

We move forward to the 1930s with ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS by Adriana Trigiani.  Hollywood, a mecca for actors eager to make it on the silver screen, will witness many famous love affairs, one of the most poignant between thirty-four-year-old star Clark Gable and twenty-one year old rising star Loretta Young, who meet on the set of “The Call of the Wild.”  The unhappily married Gable soon falls for the beautiful Loretta, leading to a love affair that will produce a child both parties must keep secret to avoid destroying their careers.  Witness to this tragic event is former novice Alda Ducci, who after failing to take her final vows, was placed by her Mother Superior into Loretta’s household as a secretary and eventually becomes considered a member of the family.  While Loretta’s impossible affair unfolds, Alda herself falls in love with and marries an industry professional.  But over decades, she remains faithful to Loretta, standing beside her friend and employer through scandal, success, and heartache.  Along with her fictional characters, Trigiana brings to life stars like Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven and Carole Lombard against the vivid backdrop of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Strangers In The Night by Heather Webb

We look at another famous—but widely publicized rather than hidden—love affair in STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT by Heather Webb.  When former small-town Southern beauty turned glamorous Hollywood goddess Ava Gardner and legendary singer/swinger Frank Sinatra fell in love, fireworks were all but guaranteed.  A married man with three children when he meets the twice-divorced Ava, Sinatra’s career is waning while she is rising to the pinnacle of success.  Told in alternating points of view by each party, we witness the course of their love, from the beginning after Sinatra divorces his wife to wed Ava, through a six-year marriage that ends in divorce and on to a friendship that will endure until Gardner’s death. With both being strong-willed, ambitious, jealous and temperamental, their union was perhaps doomed from the start, but the passion that fueled it (each believed the other to be the love of his/her life) was undeniable.  Amid the tumult of their personal life, we witness their relationships with such Hollywood luminaries as Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Artie Shaw, Ingrid Bergman, and Grace Kelly, among many others. Webb’s skillful portrait of Golden Age Hollywood provides the underpinning to this tale of  a tempestuous love story that spans decades.

On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

We move to 1953 and switch to a San Francisco entertainment venue with ON THE ROOFTOP by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.  Matriarch Vivian, having guided her three talented daughters since childhood, proudly watches as their song-and-dance act, The Salvations, becomes the hit of the Champagne Supper Club at the Fillmore.  But she yearns for even greater success, and when a talent manager offers to bring the girls into the national spotlight, she sees this as the breakthrough she’s always dreamed of.  But Ruth, Esther and Chloe are no longer malleable youngsters, but women whose aspirations may not match their mother’s.  Around them, their neighborhood is changing, too, white investors buying up property from Black owners and slowly altering the character of the place they called home.  While Sexton weaves in a background of gentrification, racism and sexism, her focus remains on the family, the multiple points of view illuminating the strong bonds between mother, daughters, sisters, and the dreams that bring them together—and tear them apart.

 

From fiction based on real people to pure fiction, this month’s selections portray the luxury, allure, and cost of success in the entertainment industry, shining a light on a glamorous lifestyle few can attain but almost all find fascinating.  Enjoy!

About Julia Justiss

Julia Justiss

Real, intense, passionate historical romance

 

Award-winning romance author Julia Justiss, who has written more than thirty historical novels and novellas set in the English Regency and the American West, just completed her first contemporary series set in the fictional Hill Country town of Whiskey River, Texas.

A voracious reader who began jotting down plot ideas for Nancy Drew novels in her third grade spiral, Julia has published poetry and worked as a business journalist.

She and her husband live in East Texas, where she continues to craft the stories she loves. Check her website for details about her books, chat with her on social media, and follow her on Bookbub and Amazon to receive notices about her latest releases.

 

Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues | Whiskey River Christmas | Sisters of Scandal | Wellingfords | Cinderella Spinsters | Heirs in Waiting | The McAllister Brothers | Least Likely to Wed

WEBSITE | PINTEREST | BOOKBUB | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

 

 

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