Bagshawe goes for the glitz in her big, brash, fantastically enjoyable first novel.
Siena McMahon doesn’t have much in common with the typical chick-lit heroine. She neither stumbles nor bumbles. She craves power, fame and rigorous sex, not chocolate, shoes or another glass of Chardonnay. She doesn’t eke out a living on the fringes of glamour; she was born smack in the middle of it. Her story is also a gossipy saga of the Hollywood dynasty that created her. Bagshawe makes a conscious break from Bridget Jones territory to revisit the glittery domain of Jacqueline Susann, Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel. The results are saucily delicious and utterly absorbing. The story begins in the 1970s, before Siena was born, just as legendary movie star and all-around bad guy Duke McMahon is installing his young mistress in the mansion he shares with his wife and their two children. This unorthodox arrangement leads to scandal, an illegitimate child and a lasting legacy of emotional dysfunction. The only daughter of Duke’s elder son, Siena spends her early years in a tangle of conflicting loyalties, open hatred and savage betrayals. Her estrangement from her family is more or less complete by the time she’s shipped off to an English boarding school. When she returns to Hollywood, she’s a supermodel well on her way to becoming a successful actress, but it will take spectacular tragedy and the love of a good man before she’s truly reconciled to her past and herself. Hot-tempered, oversensitive and ruthlessly ambitious, Siena is not an easy girl to love, but she’s certainly entertaining, and Bagshawe does an excellent job of creating her over-the-top yet believable character. In fact, even the most minor cast members here have well-defined personalities and real motivations. If her predecessors invested the rich and fabulous with epic grandeur, Bagshawe aims to make them accessible—not ordinary, but vividly human.
Should be one of the summer’s biggest beach books.