Monday 29 August 2011

Book review : California Dreamers - Belinda Jones

Last year, I read (and reviewed here) Living La Vida Loca and was amazed and very impressed at just how knowledgeable Belinda Jones was about not just the dancing but also the culture and lifestyles of Argentina, Spain and Cuba. Despite being classic, uplifting, romantic, heartwarming chicklit, Belinda managed to impart countless nuggets of interesting information without ever sounding condescending or boring. That book was three years in the making and Belinda actually visited the countries and learnt the dances that she wrote about.

I have no idea how long it took her to research and write California Dreamers but, once again, it's clear that she's done her homework because the book is studded with fascinating facts, this time focusing on Hollywood stars and the history of Max Factor. (I didn't even know there was a Mr Max Factor, I always assumed it was a made-up brand rather than an actual name !). 

Another issue that is dealt with throughout the novel is the life of Navy wives and girlfriends. My first serious relationship was with someone in the Navy and one of the big reasons that that never worked out was that I knew I could never deal with the long periods, home alone, constantly worrying about what was happening to him if he was deployed in some distant war zone. Belinda accurately describes the conflicting emotions with sensitivity, compassion and understanding and the fact that she really manages to get under the skin and into the minds of her characters is what makes her writing so compelling.

California Dreamers follows make-up artist Stella as she embarks on a life-changing adventure with her new best friend, Hollywood actress Marina Ray, discovering the highs and lows of life on a film set. Both Marina and Stella, but also many of the supporting cast of characters, have really interesting backgrounds, filled with more than their fair share of heartache, but - this is chicklit after all - at the end of their journey of self-discovery, everybody gets their happy ending. Which is a good thing because by the end, you're so wrapped up in their stories that you're really rooting for them, wanting things to work out against all odds.

I enjoy reading chicklit as a bit of feel-good escapism but often find it a bit too frivolous and frothy. Belinda skilfully counterbalances this with the nuggets of interesting factual information that her in-depth research throws up so as well as feeling all warm and snuggly inside, you keep saying "ooh I didn't know that" ! The characters are multi-faceted and get beyond the obvious stereotypes of, for example, sailors and A-list movie stars, which makes it all seem more realistic too.

I'll definitely be looking out for Belinda's next novel as I really enjoy her style of writing.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99 (but only £3.59 on amazon)

Other reviews you may be interested in :

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read a decent book in ages, this sounds perfect!


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