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Monday, August 15, 2011

California Dreamers by Belinda Jones

California Dreamers by Belinda Jones
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (303 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Ever wished you could make-over your life? Make-up artist Stella is an expert at helping other people change their images, but when it comes to transforming herself, she doesn't even know where to start. So when her new friend, glamorous Hollywood actress Marina Ray, summons her a movie set in California, Stella can't resist the chance to start afresh - it is the land of sunshine and opportunity after all! But are they really friends or does Marina have an ulterior motive? What is the secret that both women are hiding about the nautical (but nice) men in their lives? And what will it take to really make both of their California dreams come true? In a Pacific Coast journey that takes in Los Angeles, the world's most romantic ranch and California's very own castle in the sky - this story of friendship, long-distance love, kissing (and making up) is the perfect escapist read.

In England, Stella Conway, an accomplished make-up artist, is stuck in a dead-end job with a binding contract. Her life has gone colorless since she said goodbye to the love of her life when he chose the Navy over her. Every morning she wakes with the fervent wish: “Please let this be the day something happens”.

Talk about a wish being granted! When American movie star Marina Ray walks in wanting to be made up to look like the 1920s and 30s movie star Marion Davis so she can impress the director of the upcoming movie “Castle in the Sky”, a story of Marion Davis and her love life with William Randolph Hearst, Stella is assigned the task. A mutual feeling about the Navy sparks a unique friendship between the two women. Stella finds herself free of her contract and in the glitz, glittering, make-believe world of movies in sunny California.

The stereotype characters, the humor, and “the-wrinkle-in-time” situation make California Dreamers fast-paced, fun reading. Yet, there is the quiet but persistent need in Stella that permeates the story. Her love for Jonathan just won’t go away regardless of her efforts. As Stella reaches out to help others, Marina Ray reaches out to help Stella.

Even though these two women are from very different backgrounds and social groups, they each have a philanthropic streak that makes life better for others. The emotional maturation of Stella and Marina is beautifully developed by Belinda Jones even while she entertains the reader with delightful events at the Hearst’s mansion and at the San Ysidro Ranch where romance thrives.

Bodie, Marina’s dog and everyone’s friend, makes his mark on events. He is a darling. Milo, the quintessential leading man enlarges Stella’s world, but her Jonathan, with his innate elegance, sense of propriety, and easy laugh, is the only one she’s ever feels safe and protected with—the only one with whom she feels that “sense of belonging”.

How Stella finally reaches her happy-ever-after takes some expert maneuvering. Her journey from despondency to ecstasy makes a story that captivates and all the little asides with the many characters and the humor are bonuses that make the story sparkle.

Belinda Jones’s smooth writing style takes the reader on a fun adventure that is just right for vacation entertainment or for a short escape from the “daily grind”.