A woman raised to believe that she’s an ugly duckling gets a life-changing makeover in this tale of beauty, both inside and out.
In this debut novel, Celeste McCawley is less than average. With her best friend, Trish, she’s bullied at school, teased mercilessly about her weight, and deeply unhappy. Even when Celeste enters the adult world, her woes only lessen somewhat. Her boyfriend, Matt, is moving away but hasn’t proposed, nor even said that he loves her. When Trish tricks Celeste into going to a live taping of a talk show, she winds up being one of the makeover contestants, and not just any contestant. Her transformation attracts the interest of producers, talent managers, and, of course, Matt. Buoyant with her new looks, she breaks up with Matt and tries to confront her father, who left her family long ago. A trip to Hollywood brings about more “Cinderella” fortunes: she meets Andy, a handsome helicopter operator. Andy woos Celeste while she’s swept up in a training program that’s part charm school, part talent agency. She aces every task and job she’s given while falling in love with Andy. But when an encounter with the paparazzi brings out Andy’s temper, his troubled past is revealed. Celeste will have to decide how to use her beauty, and her new power, to do what’s best for her and for those she loves. There’s terrific fantasy in Celeste’s story, from expensive perfume and fancy clothes to spa treatments, luxury hotels, and famous restaurants with breathtaking ocean views. The immediate flurry of characters is hard to keep up with, but the plot finds its way once Celeste undergoes her metamorphosis and embraces her new life in Hollywood (“She truly feels like royalty” in the midst of “lavish luxury, the world at her feet”). Description is not the novel’s strong suit: a passionate night with Andy includes the line “She feels a great satisfaction.” Topaz introduces a spiritual component toward the end of the tale, which tries to show personal growth beyond glamour, with mixed results.
Chick-lit fantasy at its most textbook, with a predictable but fun Hollywood plot.