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Belle Murphy was supposed to be Hollywood's hottest young star, but it all fell apart when her latest movie flopped spectacularly. To try and get herself back into the media's good books, Belle heads off to London, via an African adoption agency, to star in Shakespeare. Can she claw her way back to the top of the Hollywood pile again? Darcy Prince is a beautiful English rose, who has her heart set on being a "proper" actress, when the call comes from Hollywood - LA's hottest director wants her in his new movie. A movie that will rival Star Wars. It's everything an actress should ever want, so why is Darcy so reluctant to go? Via a lot of mix-ups, the two girls eventually lock horns over men, dieting and just which one of them is the bigger star. Throw in a nanny, a chef, and a boy so beautiful he could be a model, and you have a fiery encounter just waiting to happen.
I've never read any of Wendy Holden's novels but I covet her book covers. They're really beautiful. I saw Beautiful People on offer for a euro and decided to give it a read. It was well worth my euro as it's a thick chunk of a book - just short of 700 pages, in fact. The quotes on the front cover compare Wendy to Jilly Cooper which I wouldn't say is accurate, bar the fact they both seem to write ridiculously long books. Although having never read a Jilly Cooper book, who knows? Maybe they are the same, although I doubt it.
Although my synopsis above mentions Darcy and Belle, they don't even appear at the beginning of the book. Belle comes in around about 20 pages in, whilst Darcy doesn't arrive until maybe 100-ish pages. I found that peculiar, but not off-putting. The book actually starts by introducing us to Sam Wild, who runs Wild, a modelling agency. After scouring the streets for any talent, she bumps into a bollard and comes face-to-face with the beautiful Orlando. After asking him if he would like to be a model, he scarpers, leaving Sam feeling frustrated. We then meet Emma, who it turns out, is a nanny, who has just left her parents' home up North and is looking for a job in London. We then go on to meet a whole array of characters throughout the book, who all seem to lead separate lives to each other. And for near-on 500 pages, that's the way it stays. Sure, a few of their lives intertwine but to all intents and purposes they're all leading their own life with no connection to anyone else we read about. It took a long long time for Belle and Darcy to lock horns and even then, it wasn't as if they were clawing each others eyes' out.
The book's title of Beautiful People is, of course, ironic. They may all be beautiful people on the outside but they're ugly as sin on the inside. I can't say I particularly liked Belle, or most of the characters really. She was amusing in an aren't-you-stupid kind of way but on the whole she was pretty unlikeable and rather diva-ish. I quite liked Darcy at the beginning but even she had a bit of an ugly side, she really didn't strike me as the type to fall for Christian Harlow's charms (if that's what I'm meant to call them) but she did, somehow. My favourite two characters were Orlando and Emma as they were the only relatively real characters throughout the entire book. I enjoyed learning more about those two and how they each dealt with the obstacles thrown in their way. Orlando had to deal with a pushy mother, whilst Emma had to deal with Belle. Both were struggles, as you could imagine! Even though he was rather vapid, I quite liked Mitch Masterson, agent of Belle and Darcy. Holden portrayed him very well and I really liked him. There were other characters in the book - Sam Wild, who owns Wild, the modelling agency, Orlando's parents, Emma's employers before Belle, the fiery chef, Marco, who doesn't appear until right near the end of the book. Then there's the even minor characters. They all add to the story and the book does eventually connect everyone together but there are so many of them that I wondered how I would keep up but I managed it with relative ease.
Coming it at under 700 pages, you're in for a long slog of reading to really get anywhere in the book. For the first 500 pages, the book is all about the separate lives of all of these characters. There's little action yet I still found myself reading away, eager to know which stupid thing would happen next. All of the major action begins when all of the characters leave, en masse, for Italy. You could say it was convenient they all, near enough, ended up in the same place but it all made perfect sense when we learnt why they were all there. As I mentioned above, Darcy and Belle barely lock horns, and I think the synopsis on the back of the book wildly exaggerated that fact, but nonetheless I found the book an enjoyable read. I will admit that it's probably only a book you could read once and enjoy. I think if you try and read it again you'd probably end up a bit bored. Holden's writing is good though her take on the celebrity lifestyle borders on satire. The book is like one huge parody of the lifestyle we all would like to live. It's certainly not a beautiful life, that's for sure, if this book is anything to go by!
Beautiful People is well worth reading, and I found it hugely enjoyable, and I know I'll definitely be looking out for more books by Wendy Holden. Her take on the celebrity lifestyle is refreshing and it's hugely exaggerated but it's also hilarious and enjoyable. It's as if she's taken all of the recent celebrity headlines - ie. adopting a child from Africa - and has put them all together into one huge melting pot of a novel and let the chips fall where they may. Very clever and I truly recommend it.
Every so often I go through phases of reading a load of trashy chick lit, and when that happens, I reach for a Wendy Holden. I've read a lot of her novels over the years, usually acquired free from magazines, but I picked up Beautiful People from my local library.
Beautiful People was published in 2009, and is Holden's tenth novel. It features several main characters, unusual for Holden as she usually focuses on one central character. Beautiful People does not however feature Holden's recurring character of Champagne D'Vyne - which is no loss in my opinion.
Darcy is a serious English actress who suddenly has the chance to star in "the new Star Wars". Belle is a fallen Hollywood star who manages to regain the limelight through her off screen exploits. Emma is a dedicated nanny who somehow finds herself in celebrity circles. Orlando is reluctantly gorgeous and fending off women. Marco is a passionate Italian chef who isn't looking for love. Holden weaves a story which intertwines all their lives, and brings everything crashing together.
What I like about Holden's novels are the stories. They're not complicated or original, but they're perfect trashy chick lit. The bad characters are obviously the bad guys, and they get their comeuppance - things don't work out for them. The good guys always get their happy ending (and it's predictable from early on).
The characters are simple. There are the ones that the reader will like, and the ones which are deliberately written so that we don't like them. These characters, like Belle, always frustrate me, because Holden has them thinking they are fabulous and deserve everything good in life.
While Beautiful People still has the predictable story and characters of Holden's previous novels, I felt it was of a higher standard. It is considerably longer, involves more characters and has a more intricate story. There are so many threads to the story that when eventually the novel came back round to the story of a minor character, I had forgotten they existed.
When I pick up a Wendy Holden novel, it is with certain expectations. I expect to be entertained, to read happy endings, and for it to be mindless reading with no thought required. I wasn't disappointed with Beautiful People, it was as mindless and as easy as previous novels by Holden. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it was of a slightly higher standard than I expected.
I would always recommend Wendy Holden for a spot of lightweight reading, but I would also always say don't expect much at all except thoughtless entertainment. With Beautiful People, you can expect a little bit more than usual.
'Beautiful People' is a bit of a mammoth book - when you first pick it up you will be surprised by its sheer density, coming in at just under 700 pages.
It follows the interweaving stories of a number of actors, agents, nannies, MPs and other 'civillians' whose lives may be disparate at the beginning but ultimately converge on a small unfortunate Italian village that just happens to provide the setting for an upciming sci-fi extravaganza.
There are a variety of different characters that the reader is introduced to - the young ingenue from acting royalty who has been whisked off to Hollywood, her rival in acting and love - a gross surgically enhanced star on the wave. Then there are the assorted professionals keepling them afloat - a slightly hammy film director, a failing agent at the end of his tether. Seemingly completely separate from them are an MPs family all with their own struggles and changes to become accustomed to and rival nannies and the bitchy world they find themselves in.
A lot goes on in this book and it is largely predictable so to say very much about the 'plot strands' would no doubt ruin a lot of the fun. And fun it is! The stories zip along at quite a pace through time and locations. For the most part the characters are recognisable but gross caricatures. In particular, once-successful young actress Belle is the funniest of the lot - a woman so oblivious to any existence beyond her own or indeed the notion of having a meal once in a while that she is sublimely hideous and highly entertaining.
It is fair to say to say that this book is not exactly "A Brief History of Time" but Holden is a good writer and obviously had a whale of a time writing it. She also holds the many and wild plot strands really well. However, there is an obvious sense of knowingness from the writer that really comes through. Some of the quotes on the book cover compare her to Jilly Cooper which I do not think is that accurate. Yes, they both share the tendency towards piling a load of characters together and the obvious zest for following them on a riotous journey. Yet, this is significantly less raunchy than a typical Cooper novel and perhaps a lot less near the knuckle.
This is not a major criticism, however as I did really enjoy this book. It is a complete no-brainer, no doubt wel put together and highly entertaining in its far fetchedness. I would recommend this as an ideal "day on the beach" read.
Having not read any of Holden's novels previously and looking at the fact that she appears to have a large back catalogue I would certainly not be averse to read another of her books. That said, I do not really expect to remember much about this one in a month or so time!
Wendy Holden: Beautiful People
I bought this book from Sainsbury's a couple of weeks ago, it was two books for £7, which is good value as I bought this book whose RRP is £6.99, and Jane Green's The Beach House, which has the same RRP.
Beautiful People is 695 pages long, with 58 chapters, so it's quite a long book and if your not used to reading books and if you don't have much time to read, then don't bother with this book, as it's double the size of a normal novel and if it takes you a long time to read a normal book, then you could find your forgetting what happened at the beginning of the book when your getting towards the end!
It is good value for money though, even at full RRP price, it's a good price for a book of this size, and alot of books of this size would cost alot more than £7. It is paperback, and the front cover is a cream colour, with a picture of a womans legs in red high heel shoes in a gold dress walking along. With the author name and the book name. A simple book cover, which gives nothing away.
The story revolves around a lot of main characters which can make it a little confusing at the start, but as the characters start coming together it gets much easier to read.
First of all there is Sam, she is the head of modelling agency Wild, and always on the look out for new faces, her clients have to be skinny (size zero is her goal with all her models!) and they must have a pretty face, infact a perfect face. Anything less than perfect just isn't good enough.
Orlando is a normal teenage boy, he is beautiful but likes to hide it. His mother Georgie is a pushy mum who wants her son to strive and get the "best contacts" he can. Whilst his father Richard is a laid back MP who doesn't care about "contacts" and cares more about doing his job properly. But then are their "friends" Hugh and Laura Faugh and their delightful twin sons who like to rub their swindling lives in the Fitzmaurices faces.
Belle Murphy is a film star in Hollywood, but he is washed up and a has been, and she is falling from the hit list quicker than a ten tonne weight from a sky scraper.That is until she goes to London and adopts an African child Madonna style, and gets a part in a Shakespear play to make the public love her again. Whilst in London she meets Niall, an up and coming, or no so up and coming actually actor, who likes the prospects been with Belle could make for him, but what about his gilfriend Darcy Price...
Darcy is an actress, but unlike most she doesn't want the fame and fortune and does her job for the love of it and not because she wants to be recognised in the street, but when she gets the call from Mitch her agent in LA (and coincidentally Belle Murphys agent too) to tell her she has a leading part in the new Galaxia film, the best sci fi since Star Wars, although she is reluctant, she takes the job and heads off to Hollywood to be interviewed by the director.
Next off is Christian Harlow, an up his own backside actor, Belle Murpheys ex (he cast her aside when she got unfamous!), and top notch prat. He wants to be where the money is, and if that means casting off his women when the limelight fades, he sure will.
Finally in the HUGE cast list of characters in this book, is Emma. She is a nanny from Leeds, who has moved to London to get a better job. Becoming Nanny for a rich family, who have no idea how to care for their children Cosmo and Hero, she loves it, and loves the children more than anything, but when drugs are planted in her bedroom, she is fired from her job, and ends up stuck as a nanny to Belle Murphy's adopted (and forgotten!) new born Morning.
When all of the characters meet up in Italy through a mix of events, and meet celebrity chef Marco in turn, everything gets switched around, and everything comes out in the open.
The book has too many charcters to make it easy to get into. When I first started reading the book I very nearly put it back and stopped reading it, it flits between characters in the begininning and although you don't get confused by who's who, the characters aren't made interesting enough to make you want to keep reading.
As I got towards the end of the book around chapter 40, when everyone comes together in the story, it does get more interesting, and becomes a little more exciting. But I certainly wouldn't say this is the kind of book which you can't put down. It seems that as the book is so thick, Wendy Holden get's a little too into detail with the people, and you tend to be told silly things which you don't really need to know, which have no relevance to the story, but also aren't interesting either, and I found myself skim reading a few pages in each chapter as what I was been told was boring me, 4 pages on how someones dad would used to sing nursery rhymes at night is just not necessary.
As I said when you get through the end part of the book, the story does get more interesting, and speeds up in the way it is told, rather than stopping and describing every single detail which is just irrelevant to anything which is happening, the story progresses as it should do, and it gets more "un-put-downable".
If you have time to pick up and put down as you please and don't mind a book where you don't have much enthusiasm to pick it up for hours on end, then this book is great for you. It's not a bad book, the story is a good one, and the characters are believeable and likeable or hugely dislikeable where applicable. So my only qualm with the book is the length, but not so much the length but the amount of irrelevant information we're given.
In conclusion, the book is good for people who read very quickly, and find it easy to get into a book with alot of characters. I would say to give this ago if you enjoy reading long books, and don't get confised easily! The storyline is good, but beware there is a lot of going on and on and on about things!
I have just finished reading this book and really enjoyed it. Although it was a quite thick and long book, I did not feel tempted to stop reading halfway through, mostly because the characters were interesting and I wanted to see how things would unfold for them.
The Plot and Characters
The book follows several characters. These include:
*Darcy Prince - An English theatre actress who is signed up for her big break in the much talked about Galaxia movie even though she is unknown in Hollywood. She is a likeable enough character, especially compared to some of the others.
*Belle Murpy - A formerly big Hollywood name who has fallen on hard times as far as her career goes and who adopts an African baby and signs up for a theatre role in the UK in a bid to raise her flagging profile. She is not a very likeable character and seems selfish and self-important. Her treatment of Morning (the baby that she "adopts" is not endearing either.
*Christian Harlow - An up-and-coming actor in Hollywood, mostly due to his relationship with Belle. He dumps her once his star has risen enough. He is self-obsessed and seems to think only of how things can benefit him and his career. Regarding the book's ending, I couldn't help but think that he and Belle got what they deserved given their unlikeability.
*Sam - A modelling scout who runs into Orlando on her travels in London. She is not really one of the main characters and serves mainly to introduce Orlando to the equation. After that, she crops up as Darcy's modelling agent but is a peripheral character.
*Orlando - A teenage boy who is not keen on agreeing to Sam's modelling offers and whose family holiday in Italy (more on the significance of that later). He is a likeable character.
*Emma - A nanny who works first for the snobbish Vanessa and later Belle as nanny to her adopted baby after being set up by another nanny who wants her job (Totty). She was my favourite character. I felt sorry for her after the above incident and was glad at how things ultimately turned out for her.
*Totty - A 'nanny' who gets her jobs by virtue of having an aristocratic father. She frames Emma to get her job after falling out of favour with her current employers and is not a very good nanny. She eventually gets her just desserts towards the end of the book. I did not like her character in the slightest. In terms of self-centredness, she reminded me of Belle and Christian.
*Marco - A restaurant owner and chef in Italy, near to where Galaxia is being shot. He was an interesting character and his restaurant served to bring together most of the characters, who until this point had led quite separate and unconnected lives.
*Ken - A freelance photographer who tires of snapping the likes of Belle and Christian and takes off on a spur of the moment trip to Italy, where he exposes Totty's corrupt activities.
The first half of the book might appear a bit slow to some people as the various stories of the characters do not cross over for the most part until they go to Italy for their differing reasons. This is where the book really gets going. I loved the descriptions of Italy and it made me really yearn to go there myself (even though the actual place in question may not actually exist!).