It almost seems fitting that my first review on this blog should be of a debut novel. Naomi Laeuchli, from Arizona, wrote to me a week or so ago asking me to read and review her new book Holly(Woods) – which of course I said a massive YES to! Unfortunately she happened to ask me whilst I was amidst exams and moving out of my uni house so I only got round to reading it yesterday and it did not disappoint, in fact I stayed up way past midnight just to finish it!
“In the first book of the Holly(Woods) series, Holly has moved to Los Angeles in hopes of pursuing a film career. When she’s cast in a small role on a popular TV show things start to look up, but she soon learns the world of Hollywood is a difficult one to navigate and not everyone can be trusted.
With the help of Evelyn Martin, a faded starlet, and Peter Glades, a man with a past he’s desperate to keep hidden, Holly tries to learn the ropes and deal with the politics of fame that follows her budding relationship with Hollywood heartthrob Alan Ryder.
But just as Holly starts to find her footing, a dark secret from the past threatens to destroy everything she has worked for.”
We first meet Holly when she’s auditioning for her first proper acting role where she meets big time producer Victor McCall who asks her to dinner to discuss her career. Holly, being somewhat young and naïve, agrees but it isn’t until she’s actually at dinner when Victor takes her hand and tells her he’d like to get to know her personally that the alarm bells start to go off.
Enter Peter Glades. A 32 year old actor whose hit rock bottom after a scandal 5 years ago. Now desperately trying to find work in Hollywood he’s at dinner with his manager Matt in the same restaurant as Holly, discussing a possible audition for…wait for it, Crocodiles in Space a new TV movie.
Hoping to escape Victor’s advances Holly runs outside the backdoor where she meets Peter who after hearing about her predicament tells her to go back inside, order the most expensive things on the menu and make a quick exit before the bill arrives. After ordering frogs legs, antelope and countless glasses of champagne, Holly runs back to her flatmate Amy.
A few days later she gets a call to say she’s landed a regular role as a bartender on the hit western TV show Homestead. Enter Alan Ryder, Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, favourite movie star and regular on Homestead, who Holly of course falls in love with instantly. She also meets Evelyn Martin, a faded starlet and another regular on Homestead who provides Holly with some much needed (and sometimes cynical) advice on all things showbiz. As it happens Peter is filming Crocodiles in Space on a set nearby, so along with Evelyn, he helps Holly settle into her new found fame – something she knows nothing about. But Peter’s past appears to be coming back to haunt everyone, with potentially devastating effects – especially for Holly and her new life.
The story narrates the lives of all the characters, not just Holly’s, allowing us as the reader to see the story evolve through each character. There’s also an interesting side story involving Clint Morgan, a successful member of the paparazzi, and teen pop sensation Nikki Steele who Clint saves from public humiliation after she drunkenly passes out in the men’s bathroom in a nightclub. Nikki hires Clint as her new manager to transform her public image from a drunk, reckless young woman who still hasn’t grown up to a sophisticated and successful singer – the perfect teenage idol. At first it isn’t really clear how their story is connected to Holly’s but over the course of the book a few hints are dropped as to how they may be and I expect in the rest of the series their involvement in the darker parts of the storyline will be revealed.
I have to admit when I first read that this book was about a girl named Holly Woods who goes to LA to become a star I thought I was in for one of those typical Hollywood stories where the girl goes to LA, has an embarrassing run in with a Hollywood Hunk who she ends up marrying, gets pregnant and subsequently gets a new glamorous job from her new sexy husband,
I was pleasantly surprised by how refreshing Holly(Woods) is, yes Holly is a typically young and emotionally immature girl who has problems with her new found stardom, the paparazzi and her love life but there’s comic relief from Evelyn Martin’s cynical advice, and from Peter’s ridiculous TV movie Crocodiles in Space which provides several moments of hilarity. But most importantly there’s an underlying darkness in the book in the form of Peter’s secret and how it could change Holly’s new world completely, making Holly(Woods) more of a romance thriller than your normal bubbly Hollywood RomCom novel.
I loved how down-to-earth the novel and it’s characters are and also how well the main character Holly came across. Normally I find the ‘naïve-young-girl-with-stars-in-their-eyes’ characters a bit annoying and quite hard to relate to but Holly Woods’ sweet innocent nature won me over, especially when she first spoke to Alan:
“My name is Alan Ryder.”
“Yes, I saw you on the airplane six months ago.” She took a moment to realize how awkward that sentence had been and then rushed to clarify. “I mean your movie. I saw your movie on the airplane six months ago.”
I do warn you there is quite a big cliff-hanger, I completely forgot it was part of a series until the last 10 pages when I realised the massive revelation wasn’t going to be solved! I’m hoping in the next book Clint and Nikki’s characters will appear more in the main storyline and we’ll be told more about how they’re all connected, as after a while I actually really liked their chapters (or Episodes as Naomi has cleverly called them), and that Peter’s secret and subsequently the cliff-hanger will be delved into more, hopefully with Holly’s involvement this time! I spent the majority of the last few pages screaming at Holly to just go outside….*sigh*. Also can Peter please have a happily ever after? No one should have to go through Crocodiles in Space and not get a HEA afterwards!
All in all Holly(Woods) is a brilliant debut novel from Naomi Laeuchli. It’s a refreshing take on a story set in the Hollywood hills which manages to pull off both light-hearted RomCom content and a much darker Thriller storyline on a mystery which has yet to be solved. I can’t wait for the next one, which I hope is soon – I hate cliffhangers… If the rest of the series is half as good as the last few chapters (sorry, Episodes) of the debut we are in for a treat.
To read Holly(Woods) for yourself visit:
She picked up the script so she could sit down and then glanced at the title: Crocodiles in Space.
Peter had been so disparaging about it, Holly couldn’t resist her curiosity. She flipped it open to page one.
EXT. SPACE. NIGHT.
A lone astronaut floats in space alongside a derelict ship. The only man with any dignity in this whole movie. He dies in one page and doesn’t have to suffer through the next 98.
Holly stared for a moment at the comment that had been written in with pencil and then gave a burst of laughter.