A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian - Feature and Review


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.



The Great PretendersThe Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian is a 2019 Berkley publication.

As the heir to Empire Pictures, Roxanne only need play by the rules and her life of privilege and glamour would go on as usual. But, when her grandfather demands she accept the young Hollywood starlet he’s married, she refuses. Now, for the first time, she’s on her own, determined to make it as an agent for screenwriters. However, in 1950s Hollywood this is a job few women hold, and Roxanne isn’t taken very seriously.

To complicate matters, many talented screenwriters have been blacklisted due to the ‘red scare’. Although, Roxanne carves out a niche by finding a way to help these writers, it’s a bold and dicey deception.

But when she meets African- American journalist Terrence Dexter, she takes an even bigger risk, by falling in love with him.

Everything thing Roxanne is involved in, every decision she makes could put her in terrible jeopardy.

But this spoiled little rich girl rises to the occasion, refusing to sacrifice her convictions.

She fights for her unconventional career with one fist and for the love of her life with the other.

However, society may never accept her in either role…

Roxanne is my kind of gal! I loved her right from the beginning and took great pleasure in watching her blossom into a strong, ground- breaking heroine. The old Hollywood setting is always a draw for me, but this time the glamour is not the focus of the story. The dark side of 1950s Hollywood is on display, as is the racism and fear in the decade we often look back on with fond nostalgia. This novel reminds us of the tension and segregation of the era, which was fraught with many uncertainties and taboos.

We need more spirited, strong willed women like Roxanne. She’s passionate and full of life, occasionally na├»ve, but also fierce in her determination. Many people talk a big game, but when met with the consequences of their decisions, they lack the courage of their convictions. But, not Roxanne. She talked the talk and walked the walked.

Roxanne may no longer be the darling princess of Hollywood, but what she gains is worth more than fame, glory or anything that money could buy.

Overall, this is a fast -paced piece of historical fiction, full of intrigue and well-drawn characterizations, with many nice historical details added in, giving it another layer of authenticity.

Naturally, I enjoyed the love story best of all, but I also loved the way Roxanne carved out a niche for herself in a climate unaccustomed to career driven women. Roxanne was a true trailblazer, well ahead of her time.

This story also carries a strong cautionary message for the present day, as we continue to battle the same demons now, more than ever, as we did back in the fifties.

Roxanne is a true inspiration, and her story is one we can all learn something from.

4 stars

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Laura Kalpakian was nominated for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for American Cookery. She won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award (twice), the Anahid Award for an American writer of American descent, the PEN West Award, and the Stand Internations Short Fiction Competition. She has had residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Montalvo Center for the Arts, and the Hawthornden Cast in Scotland. She is the author of thirteen novels and over a hundred stories published in collections, anthologies, literary journals and magazines in the USA and the UK. 

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