source: free ARC via AmazonVine
title: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
author: Susan Meissner/Twitter
genre: fiction/historical fiction
published: January 5, 2016
first line: Christine unfolds the tissue paper inside the pink striped hatbox and the odor of lost years floats upward.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.
Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…
Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.
When I read the 1930’s LA and Gone With the Wind film set setting of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard I was immediately sold on this one. Gone With the Wind is one of my all time favorite films and novels, so I was excited to see how it would be woven into the storyline here.
The story starts off in 1938 when Violet Mayfield leaves Alabama and comes to LA to find secretarial work in the big city. Audrey Duvall is an aspiring actress working as a secretary at Selznick International studios, which is currently filming GWTW. Audrey has been working for several years in LA and is still waiting for her big break. She lives in a beautiful home she inherited from her aunt. Audrey and Violet become roommates and good friends when Violet gets a secretarial job at the studio. A young man named Bert works there as a wardrobe assistant and is friends with both ladies.
As the story flows, it flash forwards to 2012 and to Christine and Stella. Their vintage clothing boutique is off West Sunset Boulevard and have accidentally gotten ahold of the famous green Robin Hood style velvet hat Scarlett O’Hara’s character wore in the movie, made by mammy out of the curtains. You know, when Scarlett needs money to pay the taxes on Tara and has to freshen herself up to visit Rhett in the horse jail he’s being held in so that she can try and get him to lend her some cash….but I digress. If I ever found that hat, I’d be taking selfies in it while quoting Scarlett O’Hara, before returning it of course.
While reading, I found that author Susan Meissner brought old Hollywood to life. I enjoyed reading about Violet and Audrey while production on GWTW was going on as well in the background. It was as if Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and other cast members were on the periphery during the first half of the story, right on the sidelines. There were snippets throughout concerning the film and the actors, the wardrobes, different outtakes and even a party for the cast and crew members and being a big GWTW fan I enjoyed the creativity and appreciated that facet of the storyline.
Known simply as the Paddock, it was built to represent the most desolate corner of battle-weary Tara. The somber, decidedly monochromatic set was the backdrop for the scene in which Scarlett O’Hara would finally get the impassioned kiss from Ashley Wilkes that she’d always wanted. The director’s instructions to Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard were that they were to make it seem, just for a fragment of time, as though reckless escape was all that was left to them.
p.138, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, Susan Meissner
I wanted the ladies to get what they desired. Violet wants to be a wife and mother, Audrey longs to be a Hollywood starlett but I did not like that Audrey had to depend on the men in her life to help her achieve her goals. Maybe it was a sign of the times, but I would have liked to see her do it on her own. Some of her choices were questionable and I thought “Really? Again?”
Without giving too much away, Violet keeps a huge secret from someone she loves and it made me dislike her character. Also, she manipulates a certain situation and I was actually surprised she could be so conniving.
The storyline kind of began to resemble GWTW at one point because someone goes off to war while the two ladies wait at home for his return. I could see Audrey was kind of like a Scarlett in some ways.
Look how cute Melanie and Ashley are….but I digress again….
Life can get complicated and there were some issues here between these two friends. I found author Susan Meissner wove an interesting story and I was eager to read the twists and turns the plot was taking. The end closes up nicely as loose ends are tucked away.
Hollywood was different now, and had been since right after America’s troops came home. When the dust of the war settled and people returned again to pursuits of happiness, television became the new form of entertainment. The golden age of Hollywood had come to an end while the war was being won, and no one was truly ready for the change.
p. 301, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
Overall I really enjoyed Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. It is a book about the bonds between friends and family and about how complicated those ties can sometimes be. I loved the Gone With the Wind feel to it and I would read this author again.
About the Author
Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, and many other novels. She lives with her husband near San Diego.
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received a free copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard via AmazonVine.