Close Up by Kate Forster

In brief: Best friends Maggie and Zoe are the toast of Hollywood. But as the bestselling book The Art of Love begins to take shape as a film, their friendship will be tested as newcomer Dylan comes onto the scene.

The good: Amazing coincidences, strong emotion and nonstop action make this a page turner.

The not-so-good: I really hope grumpy, angry Australian superstar Will isn’t modelled on anyone!

Why I chose it: From Penguin Australia and The Reading Room – thank you, a perfect choice!

Year: 2014

Pages: 337

Publisher: Penguin

Setting: USA and Europe

My rating: 9 out of 10

I don’t care what anyone says about covers – they attract me! But in very shallow ways – my first thought of the cover of Close Up was, ‘which lipstick is that?’ (I really need a coral red colour like that) and was shortly followed by, ‘I want those sunglasses’. Inside the covers though is a book where the majority of the characters have all the tangible things they could possibly want. Naturally, it’s the things that money can’t buy that they want – love, family and success. The road to obtaining that is one hell of a ride!

Let me backtrack for a moment. Kate Forster is an Australian author, but this book is firmly centred in Hollywood. It’s the kind of juicy Hollywood story that I love to devour over the course of a weekend – spurned lovers, fierce friendships, a race for an acting role, fights that make you squirm in your seat and that all-elusive happiness. Close Up has it all – watch out Jackie Collins!

The book is centred around three women – Maggie Hall is an incredibly successful actress who age is just starting to catch up with. A genuinely nice person; a gift of a pair of designer heels to a washroom attendant sends her and friend Zoe on a crazy ride of drama and coincidences. Zoe is Maggie’s best friend and agent, but has a desire to produce the book that all Hollywood is talking about – The Art of Love. After securing the film rights and hiding drunken writer Hugh in L.A., she’s out to make a deal studio bigwig Jeff. Can she get past Jeff’s blustery façade and demands for actors?

Dylan’s trying to make ends meet as a washroom attendant, valet parking person…anything that allows her to stay in L.A. while she hunts for her birth mother. After meeting Maggie Hall, a job working for her ex-stepson post heart transplant sounds easy. But she didn’t think she would fall for Elliott – or that Aussie heartthrob Will would be such an idiot…

Meanwhile Maggie is trying to get the role of Simone in The Art of Love. But is her growing friendship with the author true, or just very, very good acting? Add in some flashbacks to two young girls abused and alone and this makes for a plot at breakneck speed! I loved the plot of Close Up – sure, you may have already guessed the answer to how the main characters fit together, but the ride is damn good. Forster has a talent for writing arguments that I was embarrassed to witness because the emotion came through so strongly. But there are some beautiful moments too where everything comes together just perfectly. Some of the coincidences in the book are probably too out there to be true, but if they can’t happen in fiction, where else can we dream?

The supporting characters are wonderful and really lift the book from Hollywood romp to wonderful book. Elliott, Maggie’s ex-stepson (and son of Will) is a shy character who has been through a lot – a heart transplant and a crazy-angry father have him wanting to stay in his room for eternity. It’s wonderful to see him blossom with Maggie’s support, followed by Dylan’s friendship and love. Will (who I really hope is not based on any Aussie star) is just unlikeable – he doesn’t seem to care for much beyond a starlet and throws his weight around, expecting all to bow in submission. It’s nice to see a little payback occur! Jeff, studio head with a triad of divorces, is beautifully gruff and has some of the best insults-come-compliments in the book. His presence lit up the page.

I loved this book – a perfect weekend read (but make sure you don’t have much else to do, because you won’t stop reading)!

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