Audiobook Review: A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: A Touch of Stardust by Kate AlcottA Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 10 hrs, 57 mins
Published by Random House Audio on February 17, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana, for Hollywood, she never imagines she'll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie's provincial Midwestern hometown. Although the young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, the only job Julie's able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick - who is busy burning through directors, writers, and money as he begins filming Gone with the Wind.

Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world ofGone with the Wind come to life. Julie's access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable - who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler.

Carole Lombard, happily profane and uninhibited, makes no secret of her relationship with Gable, which poses something of a problem for the studio as Gable is technically still married - and the last thing the film needs is more negative publicity. Julie is there to fend off the overly curious reporters, hoping to prevent details about the affair from slipping out. But she can barely keep up with her blonde employer, let alone control what comes out of Carole's mouth, and - as their friendship grows - soon finds she doesn't want to. Carole, both wise and funny, becomes Julie's model for breaking free of the past.

Vivid, romantic, and filled with Old Hollywood details, A Touch of Stardust will entrance, surprise, and delight.

Last year, I read Kate Alcott’s The Daring Ladies of Lowell, which I really enjoyed. Naturally, when I saw the audiobook come up for her next book, I immediately downloaded, thrilled. It almost wouldn’t have mattered what the subject matter was, but certainly the Old Hollywood theme didn’t hurt my interest at all. A Touch of Stardust didn’t end up grabbing me the same way Daring Ladies did, but let’s be real that’s probably because I didn’t care about the ship in this one.

A Touch of Stardust uses the production of Gone with the Wind as the frame for the novel’s events. Julie Crawford, a college graduate from Fort Wayne, heads to LA with big dreams of screenwriting and manages to get a job in the publicity office for David O. Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind. Or maybe I should say that she GOT a job, since she promptly gets fired for not delivering a message quickly enough. However, that doesn’t really end up mattering, since she impresses Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, who hooks her up with Carole Lombard, who gives her a new job.

Julie and Andy are both fictional, but most of the other figures were actual people. Obviously adding in a purely fictional main character offers a bit more distance, meaning there’s somewhat less need to fabricate the events occurring to the actual people. Still, I couldn’t help feeling that Julie just wasn’t as interesting as the others around her. Despite her talents, she spent most of the book feeling like no one in particular, a character there for self-insertion.

This feeling that Julie was mostly a shell was exacerbated by the un-reality of her experience. She knew nobody but ended up getting hired thanks to the connections of an assistant producer who thought she was cute and spunky, based on pretty much nothing. Her whole job seems to consist of hanging out with Carole and very occasionally making calls. Perhaps Carole Lombard really did hire people for this, I don’t know. I’d certainly take that job.

Though I absolutely hate Gone with the Wind (I didn’t even make it through the whole movie), the production details were fascinating. I loved all the squabbles on set, the power plays and alliances. For example, Lombard got to hang out there even though the morality police didn’t approve of Clark and Carole, since Clark wasn’t yet divorced from his wife.

Andy and Julie had a nice enough romance, I guess, but I really couldn’t ship them. The thing is that Andy’s a good deal older than Julie. That alone doesn’t have to be a shipping dealbreaker, but his nickname for her is “kid,” which just makes the whole thing uncomfortable for me. What I liked most about their plot line was the way it was affected by Nazi Germany. Weinstein’s concerns about his family and the war made a nice counterpoint to the superficiality of Hollywood.

The real stars of this book are Gable and Lombard, which isn’t surprising, since I suspect they were Alcott’s primary interest. Julie’s first attempt at a script is a thinly veiled romance between two characters like Lombard and Gable; Julie is a romantic and believes deeply in their love. In the afterword, Alcott says that she feels similarly towards those two, and I think that’s why the spark and fire of the book is all about them.

My gut instincts tell me that Alcott’s A Touch of Stardust won’t be a particularly memorable read, but I did enjoy listening to it. Most of all, Alcott made me curious about Lombard and Gable, actors I know little about.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif is that necessary carole lombard
Pretty much how I feel about Julie

One response to “Audiobook Review: A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott”

  1. Holly says:

    Oooh, I recently listened to Searching for Grace Kelly, by Michael Callahan and was looking for something similar. I think this might fit the bill.

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