By: Laurie Kalpakian
Published Year: 2019
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion of this book.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): The daughter of Hollywood royalty, Roxanne Granville is used to getting what she wants--even if she has to break the rules. But after a falling-out with her grandfather, a powerful movie mogul, she has to face life on her own for the first time....
Roxanne forges a career unique for women in the 1950s, becoming an agent for hungry young screenwriters. She struggles to be taken seriously by the men who rule Hollywood and who often assume that sexual favors are just a part of doing business. When she sells a script by a blacklisted writer under the name of a willing front man, more exiled writers seek her help. Roxanne wades into a world murky with duplicity and deception, and she can't afford any more risks.
Then she meets Terrence Dexter, a compelling African American journalist unlike anyone she's ever known. Roxanne again breaks the rules, and is quickly swept up in a passionate relationship with very real dangers that could destroy everything she's carefully built.
Roxanne Granville is a woman who bravely defies convention. She won't let men make all the rules, and won't let skin color determine whom she can love. The Great Pretenders is a riveting, emotional novel that resonates in today's world, and reminds us that some things are worth fighting for.
This cover got me. It is gorgeous. I love the shade of blue and the pop of the yellow dress is wonderful. The summary also interested me. Old Hollywood? Female agent? Covering for Soviets? It sounded like the kind of action packed historical fiction that I enjoy.
What I thought
When I first got this book, I was so excited about it that I read the summary of it to my mom. Her first response was “Wow. Seems like there’s too much going on there.” Well Mom, you were 100% right.
After the death of Roxanne’s grandmother, she decides to become an agent for writers in Hollywood. After running into sexual harassment and misogyny, she decides to start her own agency. She continues to struggle until one of the old Hollywood writers who was run out of town because of accusations of being a communist contacts Roxanne, he asks if she would be willing to take one of his screenplays and present it to a studio with a different writer as a front man. In amongst all of this, Roxanne meets and falls in love with a black man who is a journalist for an NAACP newspaper.
Phew! Is there enough in that brief summary for you?
I will say, I loved the first quarter of this book. It was a bit overly detailed for me, with a lot of long descriptions about unnecessary points that I found myself skimming. But, the story itself I enjoyed. I liked reading about the struggle of a woman in Hollywood, even though she is quite possibly the most privileged woman in Hollywood that you could get. Her grandfather owns Empire and she’s basically handed everything on a gold plate. However, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t face the typical challenges of a woman.
I liked the story up until Terrence, the black journalist, became a focus character. It just felt like at that point the book split and became two different stories. While Roxanne, the agency, and the danger of falsely presenting blacklist writers was once the lead focus, it completely disappears once she starts to fall for Terrance. All of a sudden, those aspects are no longer talked about and instead it’s about the difficulties of being in a biracial relationship in the 1950s.
So, here’s the thing, I have no issue with that being a storyline, but it’s not what I expected to get myself into and I didn’t like that the book did a complete 180 on storylines somewhere between 25-50% of the way through the book. Add that to the fact that there is a lot of excess descriptors that could be edited out and I just lost interest in this book.
I was about 200ish pages through when I found myself completely spacing out while I was reading. The interest and momentum I had when I started reading the story had disappeared. Unfortunately, I skipped to the final part and skimmed the ending of the book.
After reading the final few chapters, I was glad that I ended up skipping to the end, because it appeared that the Terrance/Roxanne love story continued to be the lead story throughout the rest of the book.