American Diva / Julia London. 2007
One of Julia London's historicals has an epilogue that takes place some 50 years after the end of the book when the heroine is on her deathbed. I read on AAR once that lots of readers hate that epilogue--they don't like the idea of ending a book with a death. I think it's a wonderful epilogue and I prefer to think of the book ending with a realization that this couple had a wonderful marriage and happy life together. Anyhow, that book made Julia London one of my favorite authors and I've enjoyed her contemporaries as much as I've liked her historicals. In fact, I think I like the contemporaries even better.
So all this to lead into the fact that I pretty much devoured American Diva over the last 24 hours. AD is the 3rd and final book in her Thrillseekers Annonymous trilogy. Hero Jack Price accepts the job of bodyguard to pop singer Audrey LaRue while she goes on a nationwide tour because she's been receiving death threats. Don't be mislead, this is not a suspense novel; the death threats are secondary to the story of a woman who is a talented singer/songwriter, but she has no control over her life and knows it. I liked Audrey. She's not supposed to be easy to like; her inability to cope with her own life makes her a doormat to her manager/boyfriend and bitchy to everyone else around her. Jack refuses to accept any BS from her and his proximity to her gives him a chance to see just enough of Audrey's softer, more vulnerable side to become attracted to her.
I've read a few other reviews and the reviewers who didn't like the book, didn't like Audrey. As I said, I don't think she's supposed to be easy to like. But here's why I liked her anyway. She comes from a highly dysfunctional family and her determination to escape them and her small-town life is part and parcel of what makes her successful. She's also like so many women I know who deal poorly with open conflict. Audrey gives in and/or runs away from conflict. It's why her life is out of control and she remains in a relationship with her manager that leaves her frustrated and lonely. She's not a strong woman and has to grow into her strength. This kind of heroine is not going to appeal to alot of readers.
There are other things to like about the book. In between several of the chapters are "excerpts" from tabloids and blogs gossiping about Audrey. Those are fun and campy. But they do date the book. This book is fun to read in 2007 because people like George Clooney and Kelly Clarkson are in the news. But I think anyone reading this 5 or more years from now will find it quite dated. That can be a problem for a contemporary that does a ton of name dropping. But I guess it's why it's called "contemporary."
Julia London has the ability to take risks with her books. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. It's clear the appeal is not universal. What works for me won't work for others. But I had a hard time putting this one down and it rated an A from me. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not buy this book. It was published as a trade, so I borrowed it from the library. You know, it ticks me off that books 1 & 2 of this trilogy are one size and book 3 is another. It totally throws the shelving out of whack if you buy book 3 as a trade.