When both car and cellphone break down, leaving Brooke stranded in a tropical storm, she seeks shelter in what she believes is the house of her mom’s friend. Instead, she’s invited into the home of frail and flamboyant Laura de France, a dizzyingly complex character who is never fully fleshed out. Dialogue flows naturally between the pair; in fact, realistic conversations become the book’s highlight. Claiming to be a 1950s actress who worked alongside the best in the business, Miss de France offers Brooke the opportunity to wear one of Elizabeth Taylor’s dresses to a Valentine’s Day ball. Brooke spends the next eight chapters obsessing over the dress in most of her internal thoughts, though her yearning for the garment is never cultivated into a believable motivation; she “wanted to look really hot for [her boyfriend, Tyler] at Paige’s party [and] to get even with Paige,” the girl with whom her boyfriend had cheated on her. Undercut by such flimsy decisions, Brooke doesn’t grow much, making her somewhat difficult to sympathize with. At the party, one of Brooke’s friends, a film enthusiast, exposes Miss de France as a fraud—she’s not a real actress; the stress from the accusation causes Miss de France to suffer a heart attack. Consumed by guilt from her friend’s accusation, Brooke succumbs to Miss de France’s delicate condition and allows herself to become Miss de France’s “slave.” As Miss de France dominates the girl’s life, Brooke’s world begins to spin out of control: Miss de France has a sudden, fantastical ambition for Brooke to be a movie star; her friends are exasperated with being neglected; and she has a host of new romantic interests. With multiple engaging plot twists, the basics of a strong story are here, but the rather flat main characters merely react to events instead of using their evolving personalities.
More character depth would help fill out this story about a young woman finding herself.