Monday, 30 September 2019

‘FAMILY ALBUM’ BY DANIELLE STEEL





I think my first Danielle Steel was FAMILY ALBUM (Dell, 1986). Figures, since it showcases a gay character, the first and only one in a DS novel, if I stand correctly. He’s the son of the protagonist, a fame actress turned director. This featured title was one I dug very much. I think the year was 1990 or ’91. I’m not pretty sure. What I’m positive, however, is that it was during the time when I was on the lookout for something else to read besides Collins, Sheldon and Robbins. I wanted to jump on the DS bandwagon for a while, since she seemed to be so much popular amongst women readers. So one day I said, why the heck not, and dove right in FAMILY ALBUM.  

I had no idea that one of the characters would be a young gay man. Of course I immediately connected with him. His fears, his anxieties, his shame of being found out... The romance between the heroine and the hero didn’t suck either but it was the story of this young man’s struggles that struck a chord with me, besides the show-biz subplot. As you can imagine, it all brought me back to my own experience of being a closeted gay man. Not a happy moment in my life, as you might also imagine. But moving on... 

What I also loved about this novel is the relationships between the heroine and her four children. She is what you call the perfect mom, you know, warm, understanding, caring... She is everything a real-life mother should be (which, let’s be honest here, isn’t the case with a lot of people). The plot starts during WWII and goes on to the present day where tragedy strikes and strikes until the final big one hits a nerve with the readers. But like anyone of the Thayer clan we will conquer and move on... to the next DS offering when time permits. 

FAMILY ALBUM was adapted to the small screen as a two-part miniseries in 1994. Of course I have seen it and I will probably put the spotlight on it one of these days. As for other Danielle Steel novels to be reviewed, be on the lookout. You never know when the inspiration will hit me. And if based on my DS resurgence of late, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not only of my sudden focus on this woman’s backlist but on other authors as well, other people whom I never thought would ever see the light of day on this wonderful blog of mine.



Until next post—Martin 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

‘BLACK TIE ONLY’ BY JULIA FENTON


Read this one the minute I purchased the mass market paperback novel. It was around 1991. I was still living in the gay village, working evening shifts but partying all night. What time I had left was concentrated on my reading. My life was in shambles but I barely cared. All I wanted was to escape and BLACK TIE ONLY (Jove) by Julia Fenton gave me that opportunity. And thank god for that, for I couldn’t imagine going on without any trashy novel by my side. That’s how passionate I was—and still am to some degree. I may be in a much better place right now, not to mention well-read, but deep down I still am that little insecure fellow who needs that same fix every now and again. 

Hence, BLACK TIE ONLY which I recently re-read. It is written by a pseudonym, a male pseudonym. I used to know his real identity but for the life of me I cannot find it anywhere online. I remember him being an agent or something. He wrote other novels under many aliases. He even released one or two under his own name, but the Julia Fenton pen name is his most successful one.  

BLACK TIE ONLY tells the tale of three private American school chums—all grown up and successful—who hide a deep dark secret that threatens to unravel just as another former schoolmate, Princess Diana herself, asks one of the trio to arrange a gala in her honor. What follows is a series of scandalous situations by a bloated cast of characters, many end-of-the-chapter grabbers, flashbacks, and a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion that still pack a punch despite its verging on implausibility. The three main protagonists (a songwriter, an actress, an author) are fun to follow. Notwithstanding a lack of focus on characterization, they are still fleshed-out enough. 

All in all, I had a ball re-reading this flawed gem; sort of like picking up anything by Sidney Sheldon. It was silly. It was over-the-top. The dialogue a little off-base, but I wasn’t bored for one second. And in the end, that’s all that matters, doesn’t it? I don’t know when my next trash and glam itch will beckons—probably sooner than I think—but once it does show itself up you’ll be the first to know.





Until next post—Martin  

HC edition


Monday, 26 August 2019

‘THE RUNAWAY DAUGHTER’ BY JOANNA REES


Well, it’s official, the bonkbuster sub-genre is dead. I shouldn’t be surprised since I’ve known this for quite some time. Still I cringe every time I think about it. You see, I’m a sucker for those sex and shopping novels and, despite their untimely demise, I guess I’ll always be a fan. Historical novels are still the in thing, apparently. Hence, this one penned by former bonkbuster writer Joanna Rees (as Jo Rees). THE RUNAWAY DAUGHTER (2019, Pan) it is called.  Though it may not be a bonkbuster novel per se, the highly-charged plot and sexual and romantic situations make it as close to it as it can be—in my book anyway.

Set in the swinging ‘20s (jazz, bobbed hair, shorten skirts), the story revolves around Anna Carson who, after fleeing her home in distress over a heinous crime involving her mean-spirited brother, ends up in downtown London where she, as Vita Casey, befriends a bunch of colorful characters who’ll help her bring to light the flapper in all of her. Of course, life—or in this case the author—has a way of slapping you when least expected as the past finally catches up with her. Will she be able to finally free herself from the blood ties that bound her?

I’m just about to finish reading this baby but so far I have nothing negative to say about it save perhaps for the way the author manages—at least in this one—to often put her heroine in favorable situations just so to get the plot going. It irked me a little at first then not so much as the dust finally settled and I was able to concentrate on the strong narrative of the story itself, that of friendship, acceptance, and love. Not any kind of love but a love for oneself and for others, despite whatever gender does it for you. And that’s a big deal for this queer reviewer, finally seeing some gay characters emerging in women’s fiction, not only as secondary ones, but as fun loving decent (well, some of them are) people who are a pivotal part to the plot.

There’s more to THE RUNAWAY DAUGHTER than what is mentioned but as usual I choose not to reveal too much so you guys can really savor the novel. And this is a keeper, supposedly the first in a trilogy. I look forward to finish it then to embark on the second book whenever that might be. Jo Rees may have escaped her bonkbuster past but the Joanna Rees we came to know is one fine storyteller as well. 

You can catch this title whenever books or ebooks are sold. My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for this ARC.



Until next post—Martin 

UPDATE: It’s a few minutes later and I finally turned the last page of this quite addictive novel. Color me surprised by that ending. That’s all I’m going to say.


Monday, 29 July 2019

‘THE FIRST WIVES CLUB’ BY OLIVIA GOLDSMITH


I picked up THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (1993, Pocket) by Olivia Goldsmith only after reading FLAVOR OF THE MONTH. I found the latter to be an absolute gem and I couldn’t wait to get into her first work. Now, to say that THE FIRST WIVES CLUB is in the same league as FLAVOR OF THE MONTH would be unethical of me. Yes, it is lively and witty and the pages almost turn by themselves, but still, it’s far from reaching the perfectness that is Goldsmith’s second novel. What we have instead is a well-delivered tale of women’s revenge that basically is in symbiosis with what we came to see on-screen a few years later. Yes, I agree, the novel is far darker and funnier but overall you do get the feeling that the film did the book justice. 

The premise is about the same. Four longtime female friends, all miserable in love and who have lost touch over the years, come together when one of their own commits suicide. Revenge mode is not far behind as they set up plans to make their other halves suffer for screwing with them. What follows is one zany situation after the other, laugh out loud moments, and a pull of the heartstrings here and there as the trio become more and more dependent on one another.  That’s about as much as I can remember about this book. I read this in the late ‘90s and never went back to it. What I do recall is having had a good time with it.  I also remember a chapter where it involves doo-doo as an art form which I found to be completely disgusting (it was meant to be). But for the most part the novel did entertain me.  

When it was announced that a movie version would be made I was definitely ecstatic, especially when it was mentioned that Elizabeth Berkley from the cult classic SHOWGIRLS would be in it. I was hoping that she would get a meatier role but I had a hunch that she would end up playing one of the mistresses. She nonetheless made the role her own and it was fun seeing her in it, as it was fun spotting the author in the chapel scene giving the deceased woman’s husband the eye as he shows up with his second wife. All in all, I would say read this title but don’t expect to be as wowed by it. First novels are mostly sketchy and THE FIRST WIVES CLUB is no different, even underneath its funny scenes, strong narrative and fast-paced delivery. 

For some strange reason, this one has yet to be available digitally. Probably a copyright thing since the rest of Olivia Goldsmith’s backlist is alive and kicking on Kindle or Kobo.





Until next time—Martin   
UK PB Edition



Monday, 15 July 2019

‘ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH’ BY JONELL LAWSON



I admit, the only reason I ever approached this novel is my interest in the spectacular miniseries on which it is based. Mind you, I did read the novel before watching it all played out on TV. I wanted to savor the story from the get-go. Besides, I was so enthralled with glitz and glam at the time that I sort of made a rule to never watch an adaptation before reading the book. I never succeeded completely but I did try my hardest. 

ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH (1986, Signet) is a gripping tale of passion and revenge set in Texas.  Jonell Lawson's heroine is a strong-willed young woman who will stop at nothing to avenge her husband and baby from a ruthless rich man who may have caused their untimely death. And boy, does she succeed at it. I won’t expand too much but hold on to your copy because the lives of the rich and the rotten in ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH are a torpedo of glamour, sins and dirty little secrets that’ll make you smile from cover to cover. Lawson's plot takes you on a wild ride of a girl's self-discovery who sets her mind to have it all no matter what, even at the cost of her own happiness. You may not end up agreeing with her choices, but one thing's for sure, this gutsy woman's journey definitely makes for an impossible to put down read.  

Alas, this is the only work available by this author. She passed away in 1987 at the young age of 51. She never got the chance of seeing her work on the small screen when it aired in mid-May of the same year. A shame, for I think she would have been proud of the results. I will definitely review the miniseries one of these days. I’ve been meaning to but never got around to it. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, I intend to focus even more on hidden gems such as ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH. They’re what really set my motor going. I sometimes have to remind myself of that. Anyways, pick up this title if you ever cross paths. The connection will likely be worth it.





Until next post—Martin




Tuesday, 2 July 2019

BAD GIRLS CLUB: JOAN CRAWFORD IN ‘PAID’ (1930)



After gushing over WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE on-set rivalry in Shaun Considine’s BETTE AND JOAN: THE DIVINE FEUD in one of my last posts I found myself catching one of Crawford's early projects called PAID, which, come to think of it, is exactly what the audience should have gotten sitting through this hammy of a film. Indeed, released in 1930, this pre-code revenge flick is far from being Crawford’s silver screen glory but has just the right amount of craziness to render it quite tolerable if not delectable in a sordid campy way. Now, before you devoted Crawford fans go suddenly cray-cray on me, let me just quote a knife-wielding Nomi Malone on her way to Vegas in SHOWGIRLS: chill! It’s just a movie, a very silly movie.   


In it, Crawford plays Mary Turner, a down on her luck department store clerk who, after being accused of wrongly theft, is put in jail for three whole years. Her time there is presented, or should I say, represented, by a soapy doo-doo floating on the shower floor. Crawford, as the viewers, is disgusted by it, despite the nonchalance of a fellow black inmate who turns her way and says, ‘Don’t fret, honey, it all goes down the drain’. With revenge still on her mind, Crawford finally gets out and, with the help of a former fellow convict, schemes her way to the accuser’s turf and marries the man’s wealthy son. Of course, falling in love is never in her plans but she does, big time. You can see it just by the way she looks at actor Douglass Montgomery (Kent Montgomery for this film). Her big beautiful eyes are always sad and teary—or are they as such because she knows she is trapped in a mess of a film? Either way, she seems always tormented and oh-so torn.    


Cut to a major heist at the house of her tormentor that goes awry and the viewer is left again with a teary Crawford in a final confrontation at the DA’s office. It all plays out like a mediocre dinner theater where everyone howlers and screams, and unless you’re very attentive you will find yourself lost in the scene. One thing is certain, though, Crawford is spared the slammer this time and, still teary-eyed, is hurt and devastated by all that she had to endure. We would be too if we had to sit through this turkey once again. 


PAID is directed by Sam Wood who went on to helm 1939 GOODBYE MR CHIPS which earned him his first of many Academy Award nominations. He even wound up being uncredited for his work on the troubled GONE WITH THE WIND which ultimately went to Victor Fleming (though many were used). Judging by talent alone, it’s fair to say that he made a big leap after the release of PAID.  Yes, I may be a tad too harsh on this one, for I have seen worse films, but I expected more from what I’ve got. As you all know I’m a serious cinephile now. Oh, who am I kidding, I just wanted to see the supposedly Crawford’s five minute fight scene in the shower that was supposed to be a riot but shamelessly cut by the studio. Now, THAT would have elevated the film to an all-time high campfest. As is, I can only recommend it to die-hard Crawford fans.





Until next post—Martin



Tuesday, 11 June 2019

‘THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA’ BY LAUREN WEISBERGER



After giving two thumbs up to WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULUMONS last year I made the conscious decision to revisit THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2004, Broadway Books), the novel that started it all. Yes, I could have chosen to dive into the unread sequel REVENGE WEARS PRADA instead but I figured once I re-invested myself with the first book in the series, the sequel would be a doozy to get into. Besides, I wanted to see if THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA still held up after all these years. It did. Re-reading it was like discovering it for the first time since the movie has become so iconic since its release in 2009.

Indeed, having seen the film before reading the novel I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised to find the latter as enjoyable, if not more. The journey of poor Emily, from frumpy ingénue to effective stylish worker is as exciting as anything seen on-screen. Sure, it takes a while before things really start cooking and the subplot involving the protagonist's best friend, though effective, could have been toned down. But as a whole, the novel sure captivates, due mostly to the fine pacing of the narrative. The behind-the-scene roman à clef style also works to its advantage, as does the heroine likability status. Oh yes, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA deserves all the stops, especially for those beach read types who like nothing more than to submerge themselves in the lives of the beautiful people.

Now I’m even more excited in starting its sequel. I have a hunch that the author will try her luck on a fourth Prada novel very soon. If not soon, well, in some distant future. In the meantime, do enjoy this trilogy and the other novels she has successfully written over the years. I’m happy to say that Lauren Weisberger has indeed become quite an interesting author to follow.



Until next post—Martin 

HarperCollins  edition


Friday, 7 June 2019

‘WHAT’S WRONG WITH VALERIE?’ BY D. A. FOWLER



I’ve never been good at describing the plot of a novel. I always fear saying too much. Like this title from Capricorn Literary in which the content is such intriguing that I feel I need to say as little as possible. But to be fare I will say this: Valerie is a strange girl. She is an aspiring writer in her thirties who not only sees dead people but also yellow-eyed little monsters. And they need comfort food, the human kind.  So not to be part of the menu herself Valerie must find ways to grant their wishes by inviting people over, like renting a room in her home for instance. But is this form of depravity really happening or is it all in her head? Like I said before, Valerie is a strange girl. 

I've been wanting to read WHAT’S WRONG WITH VALERIE? for such a long time, even before it got featured in PAPERBACKS FROM HELL in 2017. I’m what you call a vintage paperback collector. Been doing it for over 25 years, and when the publishers graciously handed me an ARC in exchange for an honest review I just couldn’t pass up the chance of featuring it on this little blog of mine. And let me tell you I had a ball reading this thing: fun, gory, well-written and original enough to be considered very impressive. Not only is this story a fun ride but D. A. Fowler has a way of telling her tale that makes you want to devour (pun intended) the book in one sitting, which I almost did.  

I hope to see more of her books available in the near future. I really want to find out what happens next since WHAT’S WRONG WITH VALERIE? is the first in a trilogy, I believe. Heck. I want to go over all of her backlist and miss nothing. This woman (D. A. stands for Debra) is freaking awesome. She is worth every penny. So get this title and be amazed by her storytelling genius.





Until next post—Martin  
1991 Pocket paperback




Tuesday, 4 June 2019

‘RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE’ BY GRACE METALIOUS



 
After giving some well-earned praise to the classic of all classics PEYTON PLACE by Grace Metalious a few years back on this little blog of mine I was very weary of reading the sequel, RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE (1960, Dell). The main reason being I didn’t want it to pale in comparison. ‘Cause let’s face it, Metalious is no Jackie Collins. She’s a very talented lady, but compared to the queen of trash, rising to the challenge may be a difficult task for her. Well, turns out it was, for RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE is fine but overall half as fun as its prequel.

The main problem is the feel of the novel. It seems like a rushed project, as if the author just wanted to be done with it and the faster the better. There’s barely any passion in it. Sure, rekindling with the main character and most of the town’s friends and foes is fun but the excitement factor tires out very quickly when boredom settles in instead. I probably shouldn’t say boredom. Blandness is much a better word. Everything is so bland this time around.

After making a name for herself as a writer in New-York Allison returns to her hometown following the publication of her first novel and faces the hostility of most of its residents who think she has sold their secrets for a quick buck. Things go from worse to worse when the book ends up being banned from the school library and her stepdad gets fired from his job as the school principal. Moreover, it seems that once goodie-two-shoes Allison has followed in her mother’s footsteps and become a mistress herself. Mix it all with a slew of subplots involving an attempt at dissolving a marriage, the return of a slutty character (Betty) now with child, and an acquitted for murder rape survivor (Selena) trying to adjust to her new life as a business woman and you got yourself one tepid sequel that should have been so much hotter.

Yes, I may be a bit too harsh on this one. Then again maybe not. What did come out of reading RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE is the feeling of being cheated, since I was led to believe that the fun would be just as grand. Therefore I stand my ground and give this novel just a meh rating. Only those hardcore fans of the infamous town will perhaps be charmed again by this sequel. As for the rest of us, perhaps her next novel THE TIGHT WHITE COLLAR will do the trick.




Until next post—Martin 

1959 Hardcover



Wednesday, 29 May 2019

‘FRIEND OF THE FAMILY’ BY TASMINA PERRY



I have had a soft spot for Tasmina Perry ever since the release of DADDY’S GIRLS in 2006. She writes the kind of glitzy novels you want to invest yourself in. She does not always hit bull’s eye but she always comes close. One thing she’s done right is make the trashy novel (or bonkbuster if you will) hot again after a dormant decade or so. I admit I have yet to read all of her backlist but I’m getting there. One I did savour is her latest, FRIEND OF THE FAMILY (available now in any book format), which was handed to me by the folks at Headline and NetGalley and which deserves to hit the best-seller list just as well.  

FRIEND OF THE FAMILY features yet again a strong independent woman who this time is an editor for a fashion magazine. Her name is Amy and she is happily married with child. When a spot opens at a rival magazine she jumps at the chance of getting the position despite being already swamped by responsibilities like taking on a friend’s daughter as an intern and letting her stay at her house. When her regular nanny is suddenly injured, Josie, the intern, agrees to take the nanny’s place for the duration of the family vacation in Provence. But of course things turn quickly sour when Amy starts suspecting Josie of deliberately sabotaging her life. If right, can she stop her before it’s too late?

This variation of THE HANDS THAT ROCK THE CRADLE and SINGLE WHITE FEMALE may be nothing new but done well it is just as riveting. Tasmina Perry has what many glam fiction novelists lack nowadays: the ability to make you care about the characters. FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is filled with interesting people who are far from being perfect. The book is a cross between a suspense thriller and a glitzy novel and is carefully thought-out. If having a front seat view of the well-to-dos (exotic locations, beautiful gowns, glam shoots) is your thing, then look no further—and it will give you chills as an extra. The novel also goes back and forth in time to cement the tumultuous lives of certain characters. And that climax, trust me on this, it does not disappoint. Yes, FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is a must-read. Brava, Miss Perry.






Until next post—Martin  






Thursday, 16 May 2019

‘BETTE & JOAN: THE DIVINE FEUD’ BY SHAUN CONSIDINE


Two years ago when I sat down to watch TVs FEUD created by Ryan Murphy I immediately remembered this bio by Shaun Considine which I had a blast reading and which is the inspiration for the high-rated series. In it Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, playing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford respectively, winningly bring back the Hollywood glamour as well as the much-publicised rivalry between the two. It was a fabulous eight-parter of bitchiness, cigarette smoking, on-spot re-enactments, superb gowns, lavish locations, and most importantly, a slew of dramatic moments that touched a nerve in all of us. Murphy and his crew delivered a great season—and we would have gladly taken another one if FX hadn’t cancelled the series soon after.  

Thank goodness we still have the Considine reprint from Graymalkin Media to go back to (in my case it’s the 1990 paperback edition from Dell) if we are ever in need of a fix. I never get tired of reading about these two legendary divas who allegedly nearly came to blows on the set of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. Their love-hate relationship is as famous as their tormented lives behind the camera. The author clearly has fun taking us back before, during and after the filming of this timeless classic. It is a thrill ride you’ll likely never forget. Sure the content sometimes reminds of an ET interview vault but, who cares, the fun is certainly there for any movie classic buff to enjoy. 

I will certainly pick up BETTE & JOAN: THE DIVINE FEUD again one of these days, just to remind myself how much cray-cray these two broads really were. I have a better penchant for Crawford, probably because of the MOMMIE DEAREST craze, but give me a Davis or a Crawford film marathon on TCM and I’m gone for the day. It’s probably a gay thing but to those who get it with or without the label attached to them, more power to you I say. Now if only Ryan Murphy could tag himself to Shaun Casidine’s other highly delectable bio BARBARA STREISAND: THE WOMAN, THE MYTH, THE MUSIC and adapt it to the screen, big or small, I would die a very happy fan.





Until next post—Martin  
The 2017 reprint edition



Tuesday, 30 April 2019

‘THE SPANISH PROMISE’ BY KAREN SWAN



I’ve got to hand it to prolific writer Karen Swan for always delivering the goods. I don’t know how she does it—well, maybe I do a little, read on—but in her latest one, THE SPANISH PROMISE (2019, Pan Macmillan), she again succeeds in capturing her readers with an encompassing tale of Spanish ancestry and the after affect of secrets long forgotten. Or are they really? You don’t have to be Nostradamus to know exactly where this one is headed. We all know that towards the end the truth will finally be revealed and in effect set every one free. There’s a gimmick to these types of read. Take a smart but clueless when it comes to love heroine and put her in an unfavorable situation, most preferably overseas, and watch her crumble then flourish as she finally confronts whatever she has to confront. It’s the rule of the game in romantic sagas, and believe you me this one is no different.

If I sound a bit like a know-it-all I apologize. I have nothing but good will regarding these reads. They help me escape from whatever gets my goat, and I’m always grateful for that, especially when a title like THE SPANISH PROMISE hits my Kindle. The central character is what you call a lovable mess. She is good at her job (a wealth counsellor. In other words, she helps people deal with a sudden load of cash) but when it comes to her own personal life, well, everything is in chaos. She’s about to get married to a guy she does not really fancy. The one she so very much digs does not want anything to do with her (even after a hot session of lovemaking, I might add). But most importantly, she keeps finding herself caught in vulnerable, if not embarrassing, positions that only make things worse for her.

Thank goodness her personal predicaments are only half of the plot since everything else is greatly focused on a rich man’s will. This guy has a big secret to share and in no time do the flashbacks involving another heroine, one that is as feisty as she is beautiful, are on the go. To say that these parallel lives are equally strong would be a false statement on my part. Truth be told, I much preferred those remembrance parts than any of those present-day plights involving all. Call it a far more original tale perhaps, who knows. But I found myself turning the pages even more quickly whenever flashbacks beckoned.

Still, everything in THE SPANISH PROMISE is top shape, from the tight narrative to the Spanish setting, not to mention the romantic liaisons that keep the story moving along. If not only for those, there are enough of twists and turns to satisfy any jaded reader who might be looking for something extra. Karen Swan has got another best-seller in her hands.

THE SPANISH PROMISE is available in Canada wherever books are sold. The rest of the world will have to wait until July 11 to get their hands on a copy. My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC.




Until next post—Martin 






Wednesday, 10 April 2019

‘A BREED APART’ BY JEANNE DAY LORD




I have seen A BREED APART (Pocket, 1988) very often during my many trips to used bookstores across the land but I always chose to leave the novel behind. Why? Well, it does have a great ‘80s cover art by famed photographer Onofrio Paccione, I’ll admit that, but the subject matter is a little bland for my taste. It’s all about horses; thoroughbred racing, to be precise. I figured if it isn’t written by Jilly Cooper (Google her) the best thing is to keep away, and I did, for many years. Then one late summer during our vacation in Miami I found a copy real cheap. Again I got tempted and, suffice to say, succumbed despite my misgiving. Did I eventually regret the decision of buying it? Keep on reading, people. 

First and foremost, I had no idea at the time that A BREED APART was written by Robert Rosenblum, this multitasker fellow whose use of pseudonyms (Joanna Kingsley, Jessica March...) made him hot for a little while in the ‘80s. To me, Jeanne Day Lord was solely a one hit wonder novelist published a year earlier in the UK. It took this blog and the web to finally figure out who she really was.  

Since my last Rosenblaum novel, FACES by Joanna Kingsley, failed to impress me, I held on a couple of years before venturing into this one. One night after reviewing many forthcoming books for Net Galley I decided to give this guy another shot. Who knows? I might hit the jackpot after all. Besides, I was in desperate need to read some vintage trash, any vintage trash. People often think that calling a book trashy or sleazy is quite demeaning. But to me, it’s always been the highest of compliments. It means that the work in question is hitting all the right buttons. The more glamorous the novel gets, the more fun I end up having. Sure, the narrative needs to always be on point but put me up with the trouble of the rich and I’m a happy guy.  

This Jeanne Day Lord effort, however, failed to get me there, probably because the novel focuses too much on the main character’s long rise as a top vet (300 hundred pages of it) and not enough on her life as a jet-setter. Sure, the author redeems himself in the second-half by getting her right into the swing of things—without ever relinquishing the ABCs of horse breeding and racing—but it all ends up being just a little too late and too much for this reader.  

Oh don’t get me wrong. A BREED APART is far from being a bad book. It is actually well-written and the heroine is quite likable. Her story of a child of poverty who makes a name for herself despite the odds is almost gripping at times but in the long run I found it to be quite boring. I’m sure there are plenty of horse lovers out there who will dig it. It just isn’t for me. It’s the second time that a novel penned by Rosemblaum fails to win me over. I cringe into thinking what the rest of his work looks like. Better stay away, I think. On second thought, TREASURES, again by his nom de plume Johanna Kingsley, looks mighty tasty.





Until next post—Martin

UK edition



Thursday, 21 March 2019

‘PRIME TIME’ BY JOAN COLLINS





When Joan Collins decided to put out this fiction number in the late ‘80s I remember thinking, oh here we go, another actress who thinks she can write, forgetting that she had already proven her skills with a few highly successful autobiographies a decade or so earlier. Furthermore, to me, moving into her sister’s established turf seemed, well, very shady. Remember, I had been (and still am) a die-hard Jackie Collins fan and I just couldn’t see anyone else doing it just as well, even if it’s her wildly successful sibling. But curiosity won me over and I just had to take at least a peek. Turns out I did more than that, finishing the novel in a record time. Now, was this title just as good as a Jackie Collins novel? Read on.

The thing about PRIME TIME (Pocket) is that you have to avoid comparing it to any other work to truly enjoy it, and I did enjoy it, make no mistake about that. It may not be the sharpest book to come out but, boy, it sure is one of the sleaziest. And I say that with all the genuine love I have for this type of efforts, because what we have here is a fun, no holds bar romp of the rich and the rotten that highly deserves the accolades from seekers of trash fiction. It sorts of remind me of THE DEBUTANTES by June Flaum Singer which reached the top of the best-seller list in 1982 despite being considered unreadable by many insiders. Both narratives have little substance but a whole lot of scandals to compensate.

In a nutshell PRIME TIME centers around five women who vow for a spot on a top-rated TV series à la Dynasty. There are many secrets and sins already attached to their names and half the fun is trying to figure out who will eventually overcome them to win the coveted part as, what else, the wife of a business tycoon. The other half is trying not to smirk too much at all of the silliness of the bed-hopping, demoralized urgings, crazy antics that fill the pages of this juicy best-seller.

Not once did I find the book boring and say what you want, Joan Collins is a great storyteller. She may not have the opus operandi of say, her dear departed sister, but boy does she know how to make a scene sparkle. The last time I uttered those exact words were in reference to Jacqueline Susann’s body of work. Not too shabby a compliment, if I may say so myself. 

Collins has written many other novels since PRIME TIME. All have been international best-sellers. If you want a go at them you can easily use a Kindle or a Kobo. As for I, I will stick with my physical paperbacks and hardbacks ‘cause, hey, that’s the kind of crazy dude that I am. 



Until next post—Martin








Tuesday, 5 March 2019

‘NEVER LOVE A STRANGER’ BY HAROLD ROBBINS



If you ever want to experience Harold Robbins the writer—and not the redundant storyteller he later became—start with his debut novel NEVER LOVE A STRANGER. This one’s a sure bet. His best even. Some may argue otherwise, preferring THE CARPETBAGGERS or A STONE FOR DANNY FISHER, but I still believe he gave all he’s got for NEVER LOVE A STRANGER. Mind you, he did hit home runs with his early subsequent novels but in my heart of hearts nothing can beat this reviewed title. Whether it’s in his strong narrative, likable protagonist, fine storytelling, or sexual situations—which, BTW, is a lot tamer on account of the novel being published in 1948—there is something important going on in between those pages, and I’m not talking about Robbins’ fresh gutter mind. No, what I’m getting at is that Robbins is actually a talented bloke if you scratch beneath surface, and in insight NEVER LOVE A STRANGER is the perfect example of that.


The plot, told mostly in first-person flashbacks in a span of over twenty years, is all about Frankie Kane who, we come to learn early on, is an orphan who knows his way around. He’s what you call street smart, a thing I always wish I could have been, but this isn’t about moi so let’s just move on. After numerous dangerous situations that would be too long for me to describe Kane eventually becomes one of the biggest mobsters of his time—but at what price? From rotten deals to violent confrontations of all sorts, Kane manages to find himself and eventually becomes the person he’s meant to be. Nothing new, I admit, but handled with care, and, dare I say it, class. Yes, Robbins takes out his Sunday clothes for this one, delivering a riveting tale of a hoodlum whose ups and downs make for a fine character study. And of course, this character deserves everything that comes to him because, as you all know, without his despair there wouldn’t be a novel such as this one. In return, the reader can’t help getting caught up into the swirl of things and before he knows it the end is near and a few chapters more would have been more than welcome. Yes, this is the kind of a novel NEVER LOVE A STRANGER is.  


Mind you, one has to be ready for Robbins’ wicked ways. His world is far from being apple pie. Every female character is used as an excuse to heighten the importance of the male counterpart—when she is not caught solely in the sheets. And of course those women are always fully stacked. I’m sure the Me Too movement would have had a field day with these publications had it ever existed back in the day. But if you’re ready to overlook this tiny little flaw (if you can call using women a tiny little flaw), then I’m positive you’ll find this novel as compelling as anything Robbins has ever written. 


There’s a 1958 B&W movie adaptation starring John Drew Barrymore (son of stage and screen legend John Barrymore and Drew’s dad) and Steve McQueen (in his first film). I own it on VHS. I shall review it one of these days. Until then, I’d suggest that you get busy with NEVER LOVE A STRANGER. If you’re like me, you’ll find the rewards worth your while. At least I hope you will.



You can still get NEVER LOVE A STRANGER wherever digital books are sold.



Until next post—Martin  

Sunday, 27 January 2019

‘THE PARISIANS’ BY MARIUS GABRIEL




I’ve been collecting the work of Marius Gabriel for quite some time now. The first novel I got a hold of was THE ORIGINAL SIN (1992); then I found THE MASK OF TIME (1994). Before I knew it I had at least four of his novels, not counting the Kindle titles I got later on. This book loving of mine is nothing new. Ever since I decided to amass as many racy novels as possible, anything resembling that genre definitely has had a place on my busy bookshelves. So you can easily imagine what my reading room looks like. A tornado of books, I tell you. But am I complaining? No freaking way. I feel rather blessed to have and own so many titles, vintage or current. Some authors I have already read, some I have still yet to. Mr Gabriel used to place himself in the latter category—until a few weeks ago when NetGalley came a-calling for me to review his latest one THE PARISIANS (2019, Lake Union Publishing). Of course I had no choice but to accept.   

Turns out, I very much enjoyed THE PARISIANS where real and fictional characters do a cross over in a plush hotel in Paris during WW2. From Coco Chanel to famed French actress Arletty—not to mention a bunch of other well-drawn fictional characters—all are faced with the invasion of the Nazis and all yearn to survive the best they can. This of course is far from being simple, especially for the central heroine who longs to save her boyfriend who is at the hands of the Gestapo. One thing’s for sure, though, simple or not, their many problems do make for a compelling read. The narrative, as the plot and subplots, is solid, and I found myself totally invested in the denouement of these complicated but oh-so fascinating people. Marius Gabriel has a knack for re-imagining true moments in time, and I look forward to read more of his stuff in the future.  

So I guess I was right about getting a hold of this guy’s work. Funny thing, though, I thought I had everything he ever published but, boy, was I wrong. It looks like he’s also written a bunch of romance novels using the pseudonym of Madeleine Ker, from the 1980s to the mid-2000s. I doubt I’ll ever get to them but I wonder if I would ever change my mind had I easy access to them. Better to focus on the many unread titles I already do own. Besides, I barely have the time or the energy, not to mention the cash, to venture into other publications. Still...



Pick up THE PARISIANS. Like I, you’ll find it interesting, especially if you’re into biographical historical fiction. It’s a new subgenre to me but one I’ll definitely return to now that I had a first taste of it.



Until next post—Martin