Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review of Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication Date: January 26th, 2016
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction


Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film. 

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen. 

With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. 

Featuring a glittering cast of ingĂ©nues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

What Did I Think About the Story?

There's something fascinating to me about peaking behind the glamour and spectacle of the golden age of Hollywood and seeing the grit, disappointment and sacrifice hidden beneath. I haven't read a book yet or seen a movie set during this unique time and place that doesn't highlight the hardships that come with the privileged life those that make it come to experience. This can sometimes come across to me as "poor me, I'm so rich and sad", but that isn't the case at all with Anne Girard's Platinum Doll. In this lovely novel of the life of Jean Harlow the reader is thrust into the heart and mind of this complex and incredibly admirable woman and made to truly appreciate all she did to make her dreams come true.

Right off the bat I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Girard's depiction of Harlean, aka Jean Harlow. I didn't know very much about her before, but from the very beginning I knew I was going to like her. She starts off as this bookish teen that was so vivacious, loving and full of hope for what the future could hold that it was completely infectious. Watching her tentatively go after this exciting new adventure in Hollywood and realize at such a young age - 17! - that she can be a wife, daughter and actress was inspiring, even as I knew it couldn't last. I ached for both her and her husband as they struggled to find their footing in a world where they had very different expectations for the future and I kept hoping they would find a way to get the help they needed and make it work, even with the villain (in my opinion) of the story doing everything in her power to push them apart.

Coming to this villain, it has been a while since I've disliked a character as much as I did Harlean's  mom, Jean (yes, they were both "Jean Harlow" once Harlean made it her stage name, but Anne Girard does a remarkable job of keeping the reader from getting confused between the two). "Mama Jean" is just vile to me, being as manipulative, greedy and pig-headed as one could imagine. The only real character flaw I found in Harlean was her inability to stand up to her mother and willingness to forgive her, again and again, when she knew full well the horrible things her mother had done and the  unbelievable lengths she went to to make Harlean the star her mother never had the chance to be. However, it must be noted that I don't think I would have such strong feelings about this character if I didn't care so much for Harlean, and I also don't think she would have become the woman she did without the trials she faced that were influenced by her mother's actions. As Harlean ages she matures and is determined to make a life for herself as well as her family despite the various challenges thrown at her, and how can I not admire that?

While Harlean, her husband, Chuck, and Harlean's mother and step father are the central figures of this story, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that so many other exciting people walk through and make there marks as well. We get to meet Clara Bow, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Louis B. Mayer and so many more! I've always had a pretty big crush on Clark Gable and that feeling is definitely cemented with his depiction in Platinum Doll. With so many names coming and going through the story, some I was already familiar with and some that were new to me, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking through old pictures of all these fascinating people and then going back and visualizing them within the story. This is one of my favorite things about historical fiction and the fact that Girard had me continually mesmerized by these people really speaks to her abilities to bring these people back to life.

Aside from the incredibly fleshed out characters, the vibrant setting was just as captivating to me.  Girard absolutely brings this world to life - from the homes in Beverly Hills to the Brown Derby and Cocoanut Club to Grauman's Chinese Theatre - and I had no problem picturing myself right there with the stars even though I have never been there.  It is such an awe-inspiring setting and was the perfect background to while away the hours.

Platinum Doll is perfect historical fiction, brimming with alluring real-life characters and settings filled in with drama, emotion and language that fills in the gaps that history has long forgotten or wouldn't have documented. Whether you're new to Jean Harlow's story as I was or already quite familiar with her, I think there is so much to love within these pages. Highly recommended!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's gorgeous! It perfectly fits the story - Harlean front and center, the palm trees, ocean and sunshine of California - and I think the font is very evocative of the time period. This cover would draw me in every time!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Thank you to publicist Suzy Missirlian for providing me with a free copy of Platinum Dolls in exchange for an honest review!

Praise for Platinum Doll

“A fascinating, page-turning, behind-the-scenes look at what it took to be a celebrity in early  Hollywood.”  Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“An engrossing look at a Hollywood icon. I couldn’t put it down.”  Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through A Glass Darkly

"Platinum Doll will entrance readers as Harlow entranced the world."  Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover

Buy the Book

About the Author

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in
English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso's last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow's home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Find out more about Diane on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

1 comment: