Friday, May 24, 2019

Review: The Cinema at Starlight Creek

Title: The Cinema at Starlight Creek
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 20th May 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups

A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. How far would you go to follow your dream?
Queensland, 1994 When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she's captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia's most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema's reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire's career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.
Hollywood, 1950 Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena's timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.
Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they've dared to dream?
My Thoughts

Looking at this stunning cover, I was eager to get into Alli’s latest tale - a dual time narrative (a fave here at GRTL) blending modern day and historical stories. The Cinema at Starlight Creek moves between 1950’s Hollywood, to 1994 small town country living in the Queensland's sugarcane belt. There is much to love in both locations and both timelines.

‘What kind of world are we living in when people willingly buy into fairy tales that are totally unrealistic? What’s wrong with the ups and downs of real life?’
‘Sometimes real life is too painful to endure. Movies and books and music can transport people, change their emotions, soothe their hurts, trigger memories of happier times or give them hope that their luck will change.’

I have thoroughly enjoyed Alli’s previous books and here, once again, she presents two strong women from both time periods, who attempt to break down the gender barriers in their respective film industries and live their own dreams. There is much to love in both tales - love and lies, dreams and disasters - yet it is the courage that shines through as the most endearing quality for both women. Whether it be Hollywood in the 1950s and Lena’s dream of becoming a Hollywood star (but at what price?) to Claire’s 1994 dream of becoming a documentary maker (but at what price?) - both women have obstacles and challenges to overcome.

I truly feel that with each novel Alli’s storytelling gets better and better. This is a great book. Always happy to learn something new, it was obvious the research she had done into such things as the Hays Code and the Communist witch hunt in the US of the 1950s. I also appreciated the detail of the filming industry, whether it be the Hollywood starlit 1950s or the pressures of filming at a grassroots level in today’s society. Both stories provided engaging windows into the ‘behind the scenes’ events and the fact that it’s not all good or pleasant.  

‘Romantic movies always ran the risk of breaking the Hays Code, which slithered its tentacles into every movie produced in the USA, but Harry had found a way to tell the stories and take scenes right to the edge before the censorship board wielded its shiny scissors.’

The Cinema at Starlight Creek really cements Alli as one of the now established sensational Aussie authors currently producing fabulous stories. If you are interested in historical drama with a particular focus on Hollywood 1950s you are sure to enjoy this tale. However, combined with the current day story, the book provides an overall message for women to follow their dreams, stay strong and be true to themselves.

‘I will make this up to you.’ Lena grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
‘You don’t need to. It’s society that has it wrong, not you.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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