A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. How far would you go to follow your dream?
Queensland, 1994 When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she’s captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia’s most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema’s reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire’s career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.
Hollywood, 1950 Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena’s timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.
Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they’ve dared to dream?
Chapter by chapter, this novel drew me in further and further. The dual timeline structure was a harmonious blend of characters and settings.
I was immediately drawn into Lena’s world, an actress struggling to make it big in Hollywood in the 1950s. Her big heart, empathy and down to earth manner sets her apart from the actresses who will sell their soul for their careers. Aren’t these the characteristics we hope actresses and actors have?! As role models for the teenagers of today in many respects, it was wonderful to read about a compassionate and kind actress hoping to make a difference. I also love reading about this era, as I love the fashion and a variety of other aspects of the time period.
The parallel setting is a small, layered, mysterious and intriguing town. Starlight Creek is referred to as ‘two parralel worlds.’ This concept is dealt with as the reader begins to understand the town and the characters who live in the town. It is 1994 and Claire Montgomery arrives in Starlight Creek with the career changing idea to shoot a documentary in the run down old cinema. Its beauty and stories felt within the structure appeal to Claire immediately. Although, she runs into many obstacles, the main being the owner, Hattie and her handsome nephew, Luke.
I fell in love with the main characters and their budding romances. Lena and Claire both struggle to balance their careers and relationships. This juggling act between following one’s dream, falling in love and having it all is a constant balancing act, especially for women as their roles change, including motherhood. This is something I find to be a struggle. Although the time periods are vastly different, these concerns remain. The focus on women’s rights and lack of equality in 1950s was well researched, along with the expectations of women in the film industry. I also did not realise the extent of the restrictions caused by the Motion Picture Production Code, known as the Hays Act.
The novel is beautifully written and was Lena’s ‘story to write, no one else’s…’ On a cold winter’s night, I enjoyed snuggling up under a blanket whilst reading a historical romance novel that had me from start to finish. I read of love, following one’s heart, dreams and realising the importance of professing our love. We shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to true love. I am grateful to have read such a novel that allows the reader to be reminded of this and I would therefore, highly recommend The Cinema at Starlight Creek.