Diana Chesterfield and Dane Forrest: the IT couple of Olympus Studios... and the rest of 1938 Hollywood
Margaret Frobisher: a privileged Pasadena debutante who's so Starstruck that she'd like nothing better than to walk the red carpet rather than standing with the rest of the fans behind the velvet ropes
Amanda Farraday: after running away from the Midwest (and her abusive stepfather), Amanda survives by working as one of Olive Moore's 'girls'... until she gets a job as a contract player at Olympus Studios
Gabby Preston: a former child star of the vaudeville stage, Gabby has made the transition to film, but yearns for the type of leading role not generally offered up to actresses who are "barely five feet tall, with stumpy legs and unruly curls"
Diana Chesterfield has disappeared, and no one seems to know what happened to her!
Margaret's parents are absolutely DEAD-SET against her Following Her Dreams!
Amanda needs to keep her past a secret from her new employers... as well as her idealistic writer-boyfriend, who thinks she's as pure and innocent as the driven snow!
Gabby wants to be a star so badly that she's willing to throw anything aside for it: her friends, her conscience, even her health!
On the scale of realistic-yet-frothy historical fiction starring female protagonists—with What I Saw and How I Lied on the OMG, IT'S AHMAZING end, Vixen on the OMG, WHAT AM I READING end, and The Luxe squarely in the middle—Starstruck has more in common with The Luxe than the others. It has a similar format, in that the focus rotates through the main characters; it has some of the same character archetypes, including the not-so-pretty girl who resents the ridiculously sweet & pure ingenue; and it has a similar feel, in that it's super-soap-operatic and somewhat over-the-top and totally entertaining.
It's got great energy and moves along at a fast clip, though it's so heavy on the slang in some parts that it read more like April & Andy role-playing as Bert Macklin, FBI Agent and Janet Snakehole, Black Widow on Parks and Recreation than as anything, you know, particularly believable. (But, as I read those bits to myself in April & Andy voices, I found them totally hilarious. In a good way, though maybe not exactly how the author intended.) Shukert does a nice job of including some details about the political and social background—the rise of the Nazis and the rampant anti-semitism in the United States—though, like the rest of the dialogue, the Jewish characters' use of Yiddish slang is slathered pretty thick at points.
It's a vision of Old Hollywood that both creates and dispels fantasy: it's got the glamour and the clothes and the glitter, but it also shows the ugliness behind the magic. And there's a whole lot of ugliness. Loads of TWISTS and TURNS, and there are clearly some BIG THINGS TO COME in future installments: I couldn't help but notice that in addition to having a Cesarean scar, Olive Moore, Hollywood Madam wears a pin STRIKINGLY similar to Margaret Frobisher's gold-and-pearl heirloom brooch...
BONUS POINTS: For organically working in lots of details about what was being filmed that year (SERIOUSLY, EVERYTHING CAME OUT IN 1939), but especially for the mention of Bette Davis' performance in Jezebel, as well as a recreation of the famous red dress scene.
Book source: Review copy via Edelweiss.