Wednesday, 28 December 2011

'LORAYNE ASHTON' AND HER 'PARK AVENUE'



 

Here’s another author I discovered recently. Her name is Lorayne Ashton but she is really Ted Gottfried—and not the other bogus biographical Rita Picker pseudonym at the end of the novel. He has written a dozen of trashy best-sellers under two women’s names. From Ashton to Kathleen Fuller (no relation to the historical romance writer of the same name), his tales revolve around the super rich in a Dynasty-esque setting—which comes as no surprise since the TV series was still drawing enough viewers back then. The novel I was introduced to is the first of a seven book series. Written in 1987, it focuses on many characters living at 777 Park Avenue. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, and I agree. You can definitely smell the influence of Harold Robbins in the title, but rest assured the plot is completely different. In fact, in PARK AVENUE (yes, without the numbers) nothing reminds of Robbins, except perhaps the narrative, which, come to think of it, is a lot stronger. However, the overall effect fails to be up to par.
 
 
Like I said, this one offers a slew of unhappy New Yorkers living the big life in one of the most sought-after building in the city, from the unfulfilled Scandinavian who yearns to be touched by whomever to the reclusive Howard Hughes-like millionaire Mafioso who may or may not be involved in the death of his female neighbor. In other words, all desperately yearn to take the happy pill but just can’t seem to grasp it. Gottfried does fairly well in keeping everyone and everything in check with short chapters but the overall presentation ends up being a bit bland once the going gets tough, and even though the novel is rather short (340 pages) you can clearly feel the lack of total dedication underneath the scandals and sins.
 
 
Still as a whole it’s never boring. You may not find yourself flipping pages quickly to see what happens next but you won’t skip parts either. Furthermore, Gottfried does a pretty good job on his characterization, making some of his people interesting underneath their tame adventures. As for the book ‘80s feel, you can clearly feel the author’s flair for the era, not to mention the sometimes saucy dialogue. But I got to admit that it’s the strong climax that really hooked me. You’ll definitely be left with wanting more, and in the end that’s all one asks for, isn’t it?
 
 
Working on a serial like PARK AVENUE must have been a challenge for Gottfried, just to keep everything in check while satisfying his readers. It involves time and energy in all the right places. Just ask King or Collins who did it later on (and successfully, I might add). But based on this first outing, the PARK AVENUE saga might not fare as well but the author has to be patted on the back for having had the gall to do it before any others. Just for that reason, I recommend PARK AVENUE. I will definitely come back to this address, if not in a hurry then in between sure-fire best-sellers. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe the second book will be the slam dunk one expects it to be. Well, at least from this end.

 
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 
French edition

Sunday, 11 December 2011

'FAME' BY TILLY BAGSHAWE




While spending a few days in Barcelona for a well-deserved vacation around Europe, I got ahold of Tilly Bagshawe’s latest, FAME (yes, in English). You can imagine how thrilled I was finding this one. You see, in Montreal, most of her books are released much later, sometimes not at all (thank Heaven for online shopping), and coming across FAME (and J.J. Salem UK edition of THE STRIP for that matter) that easily was like finding gold. Suffice to say, I wasted little time in starting this one up since anything from Bagshawe has become a must over the years—and again she delivers.
 

FAME revolves around a few characters, Sabrina being the major one. She’s sort of a Lindsay Lohan-type who does not give a rat ass about her wild rep. In fact, at the start of the book she’s so out of it that she’s forced to work for zilch on a movie project (the remake of WUTHERING HEIGHTS) just to get her name back in lights. In comes newcomer and hunk extraordinaire Jake who, contrary to Miss Thing, gets millions for his part in the film, since he’s the current flavor of the month. Of course, this does not go well with Sabrina, who, before you know it, butt heads with her co-star (and with everyone else); but, surprisingly, a friendship soon evolves, one that may actually develop into something else—but divulging anything more will spoil it for you completely. Oh yeah, there’s also a rather obstinate single young mother named Letitia who leases her England estate for the film shoot. Her story line is as vital as it involves an irresponsible brother, a mom from hell, and a less than stellar environment at her work place over in Romania. Other characters include a down on his luck director who just can’t keep his buxom ex-starlet wife, now middle-aged, happy. His mission, to finish his film no matter what, makes for more troubling waters in his love life.
 

Just like in her previous work, expect to be enthralled with FAME. Bagshawe tries her best to keep the pace going, and succeeds at it—mostly, as the obvious sometimes resurfaces. But this shouldn’t let you stray away from enjoying the novel completely. Sex, sin, Hollywood hunchos, divas with claws, and, of course, romance—all manage to shake their respective bonbon pretty well throughout the book fast-paced thread. The author even incorporates a sub-plot involving forgotten institutionalized children in Romania, a cause that is dear to her heart (to learn more, click here). No doubt about it, the way she manages to churn out another best-seller despite “a rough year”, as stated on the acknowledgement page, just go to show you how talented (and thick skinned) she really is. So kudos to her for having delivered another firecracker beach read (or winter read), and long live her reign.




 


Until next post—Martin