Welcome to Day 4 of Comedy Book Week! Today I’m happy to feature Australian author Kirsty McManus’s Saved by the Celebutante. You’ll find that review below.
And be sure to check out the other books and authors featured today around the web:
Rosa Temple’s review of How To Cook Up A Disaster by Rachel Elizabeth Cole.
FB group ‘Books and Everything’ online Q&A with Frankie Bow.
Matt Drzymala’s interview with Portia Porter.
Vicki Goodwin of The Page Turner will review The Trouble with Dying by Maggie Le Page.
Rumer Haven’s Rumer Has It… – Review of WHEN IT HOOKS YOU by Nicki Elson
Ani Gonzalez will review Mind If I Come In by K.L. Phelps.
When Chrissie Lambert discovers an earth-shattering secret about her husband Corey, she wonders if life will ever be the same again. At thirty-five, Chrissie had been ready to start a family, but now she must put her dreams on hold.
In order to cope, Chrissie throws herself into her job as publicist to Kahlua, a celebutante famous for having triplets with a volatile actor. Yet with Corey acting increasingly erratic, Chrissie’s personal life starts to interfere with her career.
After a potentially fatal mistake involving a movie audition, Chrissie heads off to track down director Peter Carson at a festival in the middle of the Nevada desert.
There, she must battle the elements, navigate through a minefield of colorful characters and avoid falling for the mysterious Matt, who seems to have issues of his own.
Will Chrissie be able to save Kahlua’s career – and find her own happily ever after?
About the Author
Kirsty McManus was born in Sydney, Australia and moved to Queensland when she was 14. When she was 25, she lived in Japan for a year with her partner Kesh and worked as an English teacher. This was the inspiration behind her debut novel, Zen Queen. She also spent a year in Canada and then settled back down on the Sunshine Coast in 2008. She now writes almost full time, designs the occasional website and looks after her two little boys.
by Karen Tomsovic
The recent holiday weekend in my neck of the woods was almost a total washout, but I didn’t mind. It made me feel not so guilty about staying inside and devouring Saved by the Celebutante, the new release from Australian author Kirsty McManus.
Right away you can tell this is a well-written book. McManus writes with a natural first-person voice (a chick lit staple but admittedly, one of my least favorite POVs) and a sure command of pacing. Yet despite the craft that went into the story, I wasn’t sure I would like Celebutante. I like my main characters, even in comedy—especially in comedy—to have their wits about them, at least most of the time.
We’ve all come across that kind of book, the one with the Too Stupid to Live chick-twit who engenders far more annoyance than sympathy from the reader. I’ve seen a lot of that lately in chick lit and romcom, stories that veer off into the wacky, the crazy and the overly chaotic and make me want to put the book aside, take two and lie down even before I’ve finished Chapter 1. Couple that with the title and I feared this book would be an off-the-rails romp where plain-girl heroine plays ho-hum sidekick to colorful Kartrashian sendup.
Fortunately, none of those things are the case here. McManus applies a deft comic touch and the pacing and tone are fluid and animated without cartoonish excess. And the author keeps the focus firmly on her protagonist, as the celebutante of the title weaves in and out of the narrative.
My cynical expectations put to rest early on, I found my enjoyment only growing stronger the further I read into the book until I was thoroughly captivated.
Main character and narrator Chrissie Lambert is a San Francisco PR whiz with a ticking biological clock whose marital and professional lives unravel when her husband reveals a shocking secret. The one thing she has going for her—besides her supportive sister—is her number one client, Kahlua (real name: Gia), a Hollywood ex-wife with triplets and a tacky reputation badly in need of an overhaul. Gia takes a liking to Chrissie and believes in her abilities when everyone else seems to be failing her.
The intelligence and likeability of the female characters are among the book’s strengths. Yay for smart, capable women! Even the supposedly trashy titular character Gia proves to be more gullible and insecure than brainless.
It is, of course, mostly the men who are the problem–though this is by no means a male-bashing story. The first half of the novel chronicles Chrissie’s troubles and they are largely male-induced.
But just as you’ve had about enough of the jerks in her life, the story takes off in another direction.
When an impulsive act on Chrissie’s part jeopardizes the future of Gia’s new life path, the two are forced to take action, which leads to…
“This road trip has so far been an unexpected detour, but it feels like it was supposed to happen. I love it when things turn out like that.”
Yep. Love it when things turn out like that.
It’s in the second half of the novel where Celebutante shines. Female quest stories like this really suck me in. They have a way of taking on an enchanted, almost surreal quality. As I was reading, I was reminded of another such female quest story, Thank You for Flying Air Zoe by Erik Atwell, which I also adored.
Chrissie and Gia’s plan is to track down a big-name movie producer who wants to cast Gia in a film. The producer is not so easily found, and their search leads them from down the California coast from San Francisco to Hollywood and finally to a counter-cultural festival out in the Nevada desert, a la Burning Man.
“No! I am not going to the Earth & Fire Festival on my own! I’m not the kind of person who walks topless around a campground or smokes suspect herbs from a hookah.”
Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure, but McManus paints such a vivid picture of the place you’ll practically feel the sand and grit on your skin as you turn the pages.
And turn the pages you do. The author tosses up roadblock after roadblock in Chrissie’s way. It’s the Groovy Experiences she has at Earth & Fire that elevate Celebutante above the usual and imbue it with its own unique charm.
“I’m sure a lot of women would be in heaven if they found themselves in this predicament, but I’m feeling a bit sleazy, having first stripped naked with a boy fifteen years my junior and then making out with his brother. Where have my morals gone?”
All this serves to cause Chrissie to examine her life from the inside and effect a change within. Of course, that comes at a cost as delay upon delay ends bringing nothing but further trouble when Chrissie does return to civilization. That’s when she must employ her awesome damage-control skills to pull off one final coup and save Gia’s—and her own—career.
So what didn’t I like?
A few little things.
Without giving away spoilers, there is one twist in Gia’s personal life at the end that, while shocking, struck me as somewhat random and unnecessary.
Also, a little more backstory on Chrissie’s family life might have been nice. Chrissie tells the reader her parents are distant and uninvolved in her and sister Penny’s lives, and this was supposed to explain in part Chrissie’s chasing after the approval of men. I thought that point could have been developed more. I know it’s backstory, but I kept wondering what it was that her parents found more engrossing than their children’s lives. Career? Adventure? Each other?
But these are minor quibbles.
All in all, in Saved by the Celebutante, Kirsty McManus sets a smart, likeable heroine on a journey with enough twists and surprises to keep you pleasantly guessing how it will turn out right up to the aw-shucks ending.
Captivating and groovy, it’s light-hearted female quest for self-discovery at its most charming best.
(Celebutante is chick lit and stays true to the conventions of the genre, meaning readers will find alcohol and (mild) drug use, profanity and modern sexual mores. Sensitive readers be aware.)
Buy Saved by the Celebutante at Amazon
***I received a complimentary copy of Saved By the Celebutante in exchange for my honest review.