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When struggling actress Paige is cast as the lead female in a Hollywood blockbuster, she sees it as her chance to get her career back on track. However, things don't exactly go to plan, and after a run-in with her big name co-star, Paige finds herself grudgingly accepting a stage role in a Shakespeare production over in the UK. For someone who's used to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, this is a real comedown, and one that she has never had to deal with before. Can Paige survive without the usual trappings of celebrity, or is she destined to fail in her new surroundings?
Paige herself is a likeable enough character, if a little dizzy and self aware. She's got a pretty high opinion of herself as an actress- especially one who has had mainly bit parts in her movie roles and is seemingly punching well above her weight with the film role that doesn't work out - but who doesn't in the likes of Hollywood? This potential character flaw probably should make Paige an irritating and self absorbed character, but the fact that she is brought crashing back down to earth
makes it easier to feel some sympathy for her.
The book is divided into different sections. The first half follows Paige in LA up until her life starts to unravel in quite spectacular fashion and is written in the third person from her viewpoint. The second section sees the focus move to London and introduces us to Ed, a producer of low budget television documentaries who rents out 3/4 of his large house to cover the mortgage costs and finds himself with the unenviable task of playing host to Paige, who has since taken the theatre role. Again, it's written in the third person and flits between narratives from Ed and Paige, often within the same chapter. Ed is a pretty likeable character, as is his business partner Maddy, who features as a peripheral character. The two characters that I couldn't stand were Jackson (Paige's co-star in th Hollywood movie) and Gaby, her life coach guru type person. Jackson was extremely arrogant and seemed to be going out of his way to get a rise out of her, while Gaby seemed ok in the beginning but it became apparent towards the end that she wasn't all that Paige thought she was. As these two aren't key characters in the book as a whole, they didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.
The writing style is quite typical chick lit in that it's light, quite fluffy and a bit fast-paced at times. It's easy to get into and at times, it does feel as though we get a real insight into both Paige and Ed despite the third person narrative. I won't spoil the ending but I did find it more than a bit unrealistic and not what I imagine would really have happened in real life!
Paige Carson is one of Hollywood's darlings, winning an Oscar at a young age, with a rock star Daddy and a life of riley. But her latest movie hasn't gone too well for Paige, and she is feeling somewhat depressed about the way her life is heading. So Paige decides to have a bit of a career change, to tread the boards at a small London theatre in a Shakespeare play. But London isn't the place she thought it was, and nor are the people. Even her neighbour, Ed, isn't friendly to her. Will Paige be able to pull off the performance of her life, and find her own English sweetheart? Or will she be sent packing back to Hollywood?
Not having read a Robyn Sisman novel before, I was intrigued to see what her writing style, and indeed the book was going to be like. The plot certainly slots into the chick-lit/women's fiction genre perfectly, not aiming to be anything other than what it is, so I was curious to see how Sisman was going to be able to bring alive what sounded like an already somewhat predictable plot.
The book begins in Hollywood with Paige on the set of her latest movie, allowing us to see her 'in-action' as it were, and to perhaps get a glipmse of Paige's worst side, the diva. Right away, I took an instant dislike to her, although I am struggling to pinpoint exactly why. Perhaps it was just that she was almost a stereotype of what we all perceive actresses to be - obsessive, vain and unlikeable. Paige was all of these things, and didn't endear herself to me as a reader at all, which was a shame as it meant I struggled to get into the book properly and found myself dipping in and out of it rather than sitting and digesting chunks in one go.
You can see how the book is going to go almost from just a few chapters in. Sisman quickly unsettles the character of Paige, making it clear that the London part of the book is looming and seems to skim over reasons why Paige wants to leave, coming up with a couple of events to make Paige seem even more childish and selfish than we already thought, and before you know it, we're sent to London for the remainder of the book. Sadly, this is where the book really fell apart for me, and became somewhat ridiculous and incredibly annoying.
It is from here on in that you can tell that the author of the book is an American, because her depiction of England is quite inaccurate, and as an English reader, this really did bother me. Firstly, I understand that the character of Paige is American and is therefore meant to experience the lifestyle changes between America and the UK but the way Sisman writes, it is as if England is dirty, full of rude people and a poky little place that she doesn't care much for. Much of the description of London is awful and unrealistic, and there was only one part I enjoyed - set in the Lake District - which is highly disappointing. From the way she writes, you would not have guessed Sisman had lived in England for nine years!
As well as the badly written scenes set in England, I found the plot was just a tad too predicatable for my liking and took too long to get to its obvious conclusion. There were too many filler scenes which didn't do anything for the book except drag it out for a few more chapters. Yet I felt that the main characters of Paige and Ed weren't deep enough, we weren't given enough insight into their feelings to actually care enough for them to want things to work out how they wanted, and this is the biggest downfall for me. I love a book to have great characters, ones I can feel for and get my teeth into but this book had one-dimensional characters, most of whom were horrid and therefore I just couldn't enjoy it.
This is the sort of storyline which has been done in various guises before by many authors, and I am sure will be done again in time. For me, it was just too light and fluffy, with not enough meat on its bones so to speak. Paige was so dislikeable I wanted her to fail at her Shakespeare, Ed was like a limp lettuce leaf and the other characters aren't worth mentioning. The story is basic, lacking any twists and turns to get its reader involved, and consequently was a big disappointment. I love the chick-lit genre, but this certainly fell short of the high calibre of writing coming into the genre at the moment. Disappointing and I really did find it a chore to get to the end.
This review originally appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk.
ISBN: 978-0752898889. Published by Orion in August 2008. The hardback contains 320 pages and is on Amazon for £6.07.
For more information on the author, please visit http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/robyn-sisman/.