Copy courtesy of the author
Holly McCartney is an anthropologist in Australia, far removed from the bright lights and red carpets of Hollywood. Her late sister Daisy was a famous actress and posthumously is up for one of the most prestigious acting awards that there is. Holly and her parents haven’t spoken to Daisy for some years after an incident at Holly’s wedding and to avoid upsetting her parents, Holly finds herself agreeing to travel to America and attend the award ceremony on behalf of the family and accept the award that Daisy is tipped to receive.
What she doesn’t count on is the paparazzi. They lay seige to her the moment she arrives at the airport and it’s only the intervention of Nate Devlin, a friend of Daisy’s that saves Holly. He takes her to the hostel she has booked in to only to find more cameras flashing there. On a whim, Nate takes Holly to his home, one of the few places she will be protected from the journos all looking for a pic and a story.
Nate isn’t sure why he’s so keen to help Holly – after all he’s heard the story of how Holly and her family cut Daisy dead a few years ago and how much she regretted the estrangement. But one look at Holly, who is so different than all the girls he is used to in LA and it seems like Nate can’t help himself. He finds himself offering her a place to stay and introducing her to his sister, a clothes designer so that she can find an appropriate dress for the awards ceremony. Through Nate’s sister, Holly also finds her hair, tanning and make up taken care of, which is helpful as she has no connections in the country and no idea what she’s doing. She needs all the help she can get!
What neither Nate nor Holly counted on was the chemistry between them. Holly has been hurt before and Nate is her sister’s former lover – she doesn’t want to get involved. Plus she’s only in the country for a short amount of time and she’s not the sort for a casual type of fling. Nate has his own issues surrounding commitment and has always made sure the girls he’s tangled with have known the rules – it’s fun only, no long-term. But both of them are going to challenge the other in many ways as they share secrets and passion. Is there anyway that they can get a perfect happy ever after just like in the movies?
This story is kind of like the ultimate fairy tale. Holly arrives in America and is pretty much besieged by paparazzi, all clamouring to get the gossip on her as she is the sister of famous and beloved Hollywood actress, Daisy McCartney, recently deceased in a tragic manner. She is rescued from this scenario by a handsome stranger named Nate Devlin, former paparazzi himself turned portrait and landscape photographer. When circumstances force Holly to stay with Nate during her time in LA, sparks fly. In more ways than one.
Holly has always been the lesser-admired sister, the one that was overshadowed. Despite the fact that she’s different to all the women he’s used to, or perhaps because of it, Nate is wildly attracted to Holly, even though he wants to resent her because of what he has learned of Holly through his association with Daisy. The attraction between them is definitely complicated by the relationships that both of them had with the late Daisy – Holly was betrayed by her in a pretty bad way, one of the worst ways in which a sister can betray another. Nate doesn’t know the full story of what happened to cause the estrangement between Daisy and Holly, just that there was one and that Holly had no interest in repairing it.
Despite his initial antagonism towards Holly, it doesn’t take long for her to crack through the protective shell surrounding Nate. All throughout his life he’s only cultivated very casual relationships, ones where the women know the score and not to expect anymore than friendship and a mutually beneficial roll in the hay. With Holly however, he finds himself confessing things to her, including the truth of his painful childhood and adolescence and the hard work behind his now-privileged lifestyle. In a short time they connect in ways that are real and serious even though Nate doesn’t actually want to recognise that.
I enjoyed this book so much! Holly is such an everyday sort of girl that it’s very easy to put yourself in her place and imagine how she must feel, travelling to a new country under such circumstances and being harassed from the time she arrives. I’d be super grateful for someone like Nate to come and rescue me too! Nate had his moments where he needed a wake up call but as far as heroes go, he was pretty dreamy – handsome, successful, sweet (the way in which he cares about his sister and his family is lovely) but with a touch of vulnerability that leaves him ripe for someone like Holly to soothe. Holly is down to earth and practical, not prone to dramatics and she’s able to help Nate see things the way they really are, not in the guilt-tinged way that he has previously.
Stand-In Star is a read that delivers on so many levels – it’s funny and sweet but also serious, giving a well-written insight into the dysfunctional family relationships of these characters. Both of them have their issues and things they both need to address and work through before they can really give themselves to each other and that process is so fun to read. Definitely a book that most people will want to get through in one sitting.
Book #273 of 2012
Book #90 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge