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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

From the blurb:

In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

Disclaimer: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The title and cover of this book caught my eye; they said ‘glamour’ and ‘emotion’ to me. Then, when I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read the book.

For me, the standout element of this book is its connection to the making of the Gone with the Windmovie. I was thrilled by the context. The author has done a fantastic job of researching the film-making, and I completely believed that Audrey and Violet were right there, seeing history in the making. To have a story unfolding in which seminal movie directors and actors like Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh are in the background; c’estmagnifique!

The dual point of view in the book makes for interesting reading; you get a feel for the lives of both the women. Yet, at the same time, I never felt I got intimately close to either of them. That slight distance allows the author to weave in some mystery, though it also occasionally affects the reader’s understanding of the women.

Both the women are compelling heroines, struggling to make their way despite the painful burdens they carry. Their friendship is touching and believable, and brings them very close together. Yet each is very different. Violet is looking for a husband and child and home with a white picket fence. Audrey, conversely, wants only to reach the stars: she is career-minded to the detriment of everything in her life; even, at times, her own sanity.

I found both of the women tragic in their own way at varying points in the book, and was glad to follow the emotional journey that each goes on to find a better balance and peace with herself. This is a story of growth, of courage – and most of all, of love. But it’s not a romance, exactly; the love story between Bert and Violet is never strong, which leaves a sense of melancholy.

I very much enjoyed the movement between the past and the present timelines, and the sense of mystery this creates around Scarlett’s lost hat and the woman who has kept it hidden for so many years. I thought perhaps the hat would assume more importance later on in the book, but I like how the author handles it at the end. In fact, the final section of the book is my favourite, when the women are older and more mature by far.

This is a poignant, beautifully executed and emotional book, ideal for readers who love women’s fiction in which sisterhood is prominent. It is fast-paced in places, shifting quickly through history, and throughout there is plenty to keep the reader engaged and moved. Look out especially for references to the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale ‘The Nightingale’, which adds a classic and memorable dimension to the story.

When I finished reading the book, I felt that tinge of sadness one has when leaving a story world that it has been a pleasure to visit – and I felt a longing to put on the Gone with the Wind movie and travel back in time to that Golden Era.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is available to pre-order from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.

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