Doing it at: 50%
Catnip: Hate to Love You, Small Town Girl, Hollywood Hunk, Rags to Riches, Strong Female Lead, Down South, Dual Narrative
Shame Scale: This is basically a regular old book, you could read this in your lady’s wine and cheese book club.
Fantasy Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town.
Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.
We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.
From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.
Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.
I started seeing tons of buzz for Hollywood Dirt as soon as it released, and since I was still rolling in birthday gift-card riches, –and because I hate to tell myself no– I one-clicked. I was also intrigued because the synopsis was kind of reminding me of an Elaine Kagan book I really like, and of my favorite Danielle Steel novel. YES, I have a favorite Danielle Steel novel, say what you will about her but the lady can write a story and I think she’s where a lot of romance readers cut their teeth. It turns out Hollywood Dirt didn’t have much in common plot-wise with either of those books, but it was a super absorbing, well-written read.
Cole Masten is a Hollywood heartthrob, he’s followed by paparazzi everywhere he goes, worth millions of dollars, and married to a model turned actress who he essentially plucked from obscurity with his dick. When our story opens, Cole and Nadia have been traveling a lot for movies, hardly seeing each other. Cole is eager to get home and reconnect (i.e. bone) with his wife, so of course he comes home early to find another man taking her hard and unprotected up against the bathroom vanity. And very reasonably he wings a big heavy object at that guy’s head in retaliation. Cheaters deserve what they get, guys.
Its a huge scandal, because we live in the age of TMZ, and Cole’s cutthroat divorce lawyer (who appears to be the main character in this other Torre book) advises him to get the hell out of Hollywood, and then makes sure that Cole listens by whisking him away to Quincy, Georgia where he’s set to direct and star in a movie that could be the biggest of his career.
Summer lives in the tiny Georgia town full of Coca-Cola millionaires where Cole’s movie will be shot (there really is a Quincy in Florida full of Coke millionaires), and even though she’s an outcast in town for a BIG SCANDAL in her past, she’s working as a liaison between the movie people and the townfolk. To the secretive and clannish Southern folk an insider with a nasty past is still better than a slickster from LA with a pocket full of new money. No one would work with the location scout the studio sent ahead of Cole’s arrival, and basically the movie wouldn’t be getting made without Summer’s help.
For Summer’s part she’s using the movie gig as a stepping stone to get the hell out of town and away from her past forever. Summer lives in a caretaker’s cottage on an old plantation, with her mom, and has no friends in town. She wants to go someplace where no one knows her and live a quiet life, she just has to get through a few more months. How hard can it be really? She’s found Cole Masten dreamy for years and the movie is exciting to everyone in the small town. Then Cole shows up on her front porch full of entitled attitude, all of her prickles come out to play, and its hate at essentially first sight. Hate and lust, natch.
Cole surprises everyone by insisting that Summer act in the movie, taking over for a leading Hollywood actress who was vying to get out of her contract anyway. Summer is reluctant to work with Cole everyday, but knows that 500k would get her out of Georgia forever. She charms the director, and lands the role in a not-at-all improbable twist. Besides, she reasons with herself its not like she’s playing Cole’s love interest. It’s not like Cole could just have the writers add in love scenes or anything.
It’s been a long time since Cole lived in a world that he wasn’t the center of, and his arrogance takes a big hit dealing with Summer. She may have been picturing his face while dialing the pink telephone before he rolled into town, but she’s certainly not letting him know that:
“Did you just fall asleep?”
“Uh-huh” A response completely lacking in apology.
“Do you know how many girls would kill for me to call them? The studio runs contests for shit like this all the time, with millions of entries.”
“Girls,” she mumbled. “Not women. I used to want a belly button ring too, once.”
“I’m not a belly button ring.” That was a statement he never thought he’d say aloud.
Hollywood Dirt unfolds slowly, with lots of banter and simmering tension. The characters are multidimensional and the scenes towards the middle where Cole and Summer decide to call a weekend long truce and give in to their feelings for each other were delightful.Even a trip to WalMart becomes something romantic and silly under Torre’s hands. She did a wonderful job conveying the giddy joy of a couple who are just getting to know each other and can’t get their fill of talking and fucking and playing together. She also gave us a very movie worthy HEA, it was saccharine, but in a way I really loved.
This was my first novel by Torre, and I *think* this is her first foray into more classic romance as opposed to heavier erotica. I like Hollywood Dirt enough to want to seek out her older, dirtier stuff. I’ll also be adding her to my ride-or-die reading list if her follow up novel is half as good. You guys should read this one if you’re into gossip, banter, hot sex, and men who dote over pet chickens (just trust me on that last point).
Check it out: