2010, Gallery Books. 243 pages. $24.99
Soap opera actress and television personality Lisa Rinna has written a breezy novel that follows three young actresses looking for their big breaks in Hollywood. It’s called Starlit, and it was published in 2010. While it certainly doesn’t qualify as great literature, it does have the ring of authenticity as it describes ambitious and ruthless people playing sex and power games in Tinseltown.
Tally Jones is a good actress but can’t find a job. Her friends Sadie and Mandy are in the same boat. An awkward meeting at an Oscar party introduces Tally, working as a waitress, to a handsome television actor, and soon she has a featured role on a soap opera. She’s thrilled, but the actress she replaces, Susie Sheppard, is not, and vows revenge. Meanwhile, Sadie gets a job as a producer’s assistant, learning the hard way how self-centered and hollow the entertainment business can be. Mandy gets a boob job and wanders her way into porn, which she finds that she really likes.
Sex is one of the major threads weaving through Starlit, bringing couples together or, just as often, used as a power play to rip couples apart. I was taken aback a bit by Mandy’s path into porn, which may really be that easy, but which didn’t seem to carry any moral scruples or career consequences for her. Indeed, porn footage, whether made professionally or clandestinely as a secret sex tape, is treated like just another job by these characters — and, presumably, the industry in general. As puritanical as our society remains about sexy stuff, I don’t think that view is justifiable when it comes to stars, although the times are certainly changing.
The book is smoothly written by Rinna, who has a nice ear for dialogue and certainly knows her milieu. It could use more description, but trades descriptive detail for a quick pace and breezy tone. I enjoyed the book most of the way through, until Susie Sheppard forces Tally’s lover, a movie producer, into a situation that I just could not believe, or abide. No man would stand for it. Starlit is a book about, and really for, women, and that’s fine. I’m all for books, movies and other entertainment projects to feature women as protagonists; their perspectives and actions are often more intelligent and remarkable than that of men. But at least treat the men in the story with a little respect.
The novel’s trashiness may have been good for sales but it lessens the book’s literary value. The premise is solid and the main characters are well-drawn. Rinna blends real stars into the mix as background; Tally, for instance, does a movie with director Paul Haggis. I would have liked more detail regarding the process of creating the films and television shows described, but the personal intrigue that they involve is definitely convincing. If it wasn’t for the total wackiness of Susie Sheppard and her scheming, I would rate the novel higher. My rating: Fair. 7 July 2014.