Author: Belinda Williams
Heartthrob is the first in a new series by Sydney author Belinda Williams. The City Love series was a four book series following a group of friends as they found their HEAs, I think Hollywood Hearts will become a series that follows a similar formula and is set in Hollywood.
Ally Valenti is a single Italian woman managing the family restaurant when her high school best friend, a hot property Hollywood star, invites her to stay for six months and have a shot at following her dreams. Ally once dreamed of becoming a fashion designer but just as she was about to head off to study her father became ill and she turned down the scholarship to stay and support her mother. Ally is an only child from a large extended family so, in a way, she has the best of both worlds.
It has been years since Ally designed anything and the whole idea of six months in Hollywood to design Awards ceremony outfits is surreal. If her friend hadn’t just separated from her husband Ally would have chickened out, she knows that this is Lena’s way of asking for help and asking Ally to be with her.
Ally and Lena have been friends for many years, a lot of them long distance. Ally has learned that not everything you read in the gossip mags is true and Hollywood stars are real people away from the screen. She tries to stay out of the celebrity loop and it’s worked for her, so far. Arriving in Hollywood to stay with Lena is a lot to take in, understanding that the stars are regular people away from the camera is easy to do in theory from half a country away but in the flesh and up close and personal it can be a little overwhelming.
There is nothing ground-breakingly original here but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun and engaging read. I ended up knocking this one off on a Lazy Sunday afternoon, when I should have been catching up on my washing. It was fun, it was entertaining and there was quite an element of suspense.
Ally feels quite the frumpy average woman beside Lena, she is curvy, voluptuous and short. She’s never really been happy about it but figured it is what it is. She’s Italian and she loves to cook, and she loves to eat; she doesn’t love to exercise. Her cooking is amazing, and hazardous to the health of the Hollywood stars who have to watch what they eat.
Heartthrob takes us behind the Hollywood scenes, it shows us the real lives of the stars and just how different they can be to the picture that is painted of them. Ally is thrust into the middle of the Hollywood scene by living with Lena and she just isn’t sure she’s up to the task of making Awards Ceremony gowns, she’s a nobody with no experience so how can she be expected to compete with the big name designers on the red carpet.
There are flying sparks as Ally gets to know Lena’s co-star, the super-hot Jacob Swan but she forever doubts that it could be her he is interested in, she thinks it must be her cooking because she is far from the hot Hollywood starlet that he should be seen with.
The night Ally’s first design debuts on the red carpet there’s a break-in at Lena’s and Ally’s entire workroom of designs is destroyed; and so begins the mystery. Who is the stalker actually after, is it Lena or Ally? And why? We follow that arc with different theories as to who and why but it takes a long time to start making any headway.
The romance element of the story is quite sweet, and at times a little predictable, small town average girl and hot hollywood hunk get involved and the paparazzi get in the way, the lifestyle makes things difficult and then there’s a misunderstanding that blows everything out of proportion and ends in disaster.
Williams does a great job of breathing life into her characters, illustrating the massive divide between what’s real and what’s not in Hollywood and showing that perseverance pays off because it’s never to late to follow your dreams.
I giggled, I cried and I was left wondering what we will discover as the series progresses.
Heartthrob is book #55 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.