A busy week here on the blog – because a lot of my advance copies come out this week! Today I’m doing American Blonde by Jennifer Niven (published this very day) and tomorrow is my favourite book of the month so far (and there isn’t much reading time left in July) – What Would Mary Berry Do?
So I discovered a little way into this book that there have been three previous books featuring the leading character Velva Jean, which I of course haven’t read. And that did explain the start which seemed to plunge you right into Velva Jean’s life without giving you much detail about what is clearly a fairly complicated back story! But that said, I don’t think you need to have read the previous stories to enjoy this one – I haven’t (duh) and I still liked it.
Velva Jean Hart returns to the US after serving in the WASP as a pilot in Europe. She’s had some adventures there (about which I’m hazy and I wouldn’t want to give away anyway) and is a war heroine. She’s promptly snapped up by Hollywood giant MGM after the publicity surrounding her return. At the studio, she joins up with one of her former WASP colleagues – who is a film star – and navigates the tricky waters of stardom, with a new name, a new image and a studio who wants to control every aspect of her life. But when she witnesses a suspicious death and starts to investigate, she discovers how far the powers-that-be will go to maintain Hollywood’s perfect image.
I picked this on Net Galley because I have a bit of a fascination with studio-system-era Hollywood – and it really delivered. I loved the studio intrigue, the cover-ups and the machinations, although with such a huge cast of characters – many of whom had stage names – I did occasionally find it a little hard to keep track of who was who. I did like the leads, although I felt like I was missing out a little bit on the back story to some of them, which would have explained why she preferred one suitor rather than the one that I liked best!
But this is a really good read – and if you’re a fan of Hollywood’s Golden Age there’s plenty for you here, but equally, I think the murder mystery is good enough to hold your interest even if you’re not fascinated by the machinations of the studio system. Once I’ve got the to-read pile more under control I may well try and go back and read some of Velva Jean’s previous adventures.