The Devil Wears Prada meets My Hollywood in this witty Hollywood romance.
Newly divorced, 40-something Natalie Saladay leaves her steady, safe existence in San Francisco and returns to Los Angeles after nearly 20 years, in search of opportunity and a little excitement. Although L.A. is ripe with possibility, it’s also full of ghosts from Natalie’s past—most notably Benny Gallo, a charismatic movie producer and Natalie’s former lover. She hopes to avoid him like the plague, but that becomes extremely difficult as Natalie has taken up her former job as a studio reader, wading through scripts and books in search of that perfect movie, at the very studio where Benny runs a division. Natalie also butts heads with Mona Pearl, her much younger, beautiful, extremely career-driven boss, who is in search of the next multimillion-dollar blockbuster and not the character-driven scripts that Natalie supports. Conflicted about her feelings for Benny—is he the one that got away or the one that she should continue to run away from?—and his motivation for going after her, Natalie can’t put off Benny’s magnetism for long and reignites a relationship with him. She soon convinces Benny to produce American Vintage, a smart, character-focused picture that Mona passes over in order to make a big budget, action-packed movie. As each movie is rushed along in order to be screened for audiences, Mona and Natalie’s rivalry intensifies to the point that it strains Natalie’s relationship with Benny, leading her to question whether or not she is risking too much for the sake of American Vintage and proving Mona wrong. Despite a few instances of heavy-handed prose and some narrative threads that tie together too tidily, Culler has crafted a smart novel that offers an unexpected look into the world of movie story readers and the Hollywood film industry in general. The characters are sharp, playful and entertaining without falling into typical Hollywood caricature; the plot contains just the right amount and variety of conflicts to keep the reader invested; and the overall story moves forward at a nice clip through a series of deceptively short chapters that leave the reader craving just one more bite.
A wonderful, quick-witted alternative to the typical romance novel.