Publisher: Ashberry Lane Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Number of Pages: 279
Awards/Honors: RT Book Reviews (rare) 5 goldstar Top Pick, a Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee (of 5), and the December 2015 Seal of Excellence winner, which makes it a Book of the Year Nominee (1 of 12 out of thousands reviewed)
Eliza’s articles on minority oppression land her on McCarthy’s Communist hit list, John and Eliza become entangled in an investigation that threatens both his book and her future. To clear her name, Eliza must solve a family mystery. Plus, she needs to convince John that real love-not the Hollywood illusion-can forgive a sordid past. Just when the hope of love becomes reality, a troubling discovery confirms Eliza’s worst fears. Like the happy façade many Americans cling to, had it all been empty lies? Is there a love she can truly believe in?”
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Eliza gasped in spite of herself and stood, almost too numb to move. Millie was right—there were probably few who wouldn’t recognize Hollywood’s legendary Johnny Devine. He leaned on a cane, but straightened to a full six-foot-plus when his gaze found Eliza.
Her heart thudded. The silver screen had not done his looks full justice.
“Mr. John,” Millie said from her post. “This is Mrs. Saunderson.”
“How do you do?” Johnny Devine asked in that trademark voice that made far too many sensible women swoon. He eyed Eliza carefully, waiting.
Still numb, Eliza couldn’t answer.
Millie’s description of her employer as “famous” was an understatement. Notorious was more accurate. Louella Parsons’s Hollywood gossip column had been the first to dub him “Devilishly Devine.” From all accounts, Johnny Devine was extremely fond of women—young or old, rich or poor, married or single, loose or chaste. Rumor had it he could seduce anything in a skirt quicker than he could hail a cab.
Johnny turned to Millie, and the old woman gave him a single nod. He returned his attention to Eliza and studied her for a painfully long moment.
“Mrs. Saunderson,” he said finally. “Won’t you please be seated?”
Reminding herself to breathe, Eliza found her seat. He’s just a man. Just a regular man.
While Millie held her place, Johnny Devine went to the fireplace and lowered himself onto a chair, squeezing his cane in a white-knuckled grip. He drew a deep breath and faced Eliza.
Then he smiled.
Oh … my … stars … On screen, that smile was a heart stopper. But in person? It could melt the stockings right off a girl.
“I’m writing a book,” he said. “A memoir, actually. It’s under contract with a New York publishing house, Covenant Press. I have the first three chapters here—”
He began to rise, but Millie tut-tutted at him and retrieved a manila envelope from the fireplace mantel. She tottered over and handed it to Eliza.
Memoir? Eliza stared at the tan packet on her lap, wishing she didn’t have to touch it.
“After going over those first few chapters,” he said, pointing at the envelope, “my publisher suggested I hire a typist with strong editorial skills. You can see his marks for yourself. He likes the content, but wants me to find someone who can do the edits on those chapters and get the project back on schedule by sorting out any other … grammatical issues that arise as I write the rest.”
Eliza stared at the envelope, thoughts whirling. The last thing she wanted was to read three hundred pages of him boasting about his dressing room adventures, much less fix the grammar. But the pay was so unbelievably good.
And yet there was also the issue of working with him. In his home.
Eliza stole a glance at him. He was surely older than he’d been in his last picture that she’d seen, but every bit as attractive. In fact, he was more handsome than a man had a right to be.
She stiffened. Of course, this was a man whose good looks, breathtaking smile, and smooth charm had gotten him anything and anyone he wanted. However, she wouldn’t be duped by a sweet-talking liar, no matter how handsome. She’d learned that lesson all too well, thanks to Ralph. “I have extensive editing experience and am confident I can do the work.”
“Tell me about your qualifications,” Johnny said, his deep voice businesslike.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in English.” Eliza resisted the urge to lift her chin. Though she’d worked hard to earn it, the degree had done her little good. “With a minor in Journalism.”
Wincing, Johnny Devine shifted slightly in his seat. “Impressive. And your experience?”
“During the war, I worked in the steno pool at McClellan Air Force Base. Since then, I’ve worked as a freelance editor, writer, typist, and stenographer.” Not steadily enough to make a decent living, but that wasn’t any of his business. Those good-paying base jobs had been given to men returning after the war, leaving Eliza, and many women like her, jobless.
“Excellent,” Johnny said. “Do you have any questions for me?”
“Yes.” Why hadn’t she inherited Papa’s forthright-sounding voice like Betty had instead of Mama’s soft tone? She sat up straighter to bolster her nerve. “Do you intend for us to work alone?”
He frowned. “Alone?” But just as quickly as it appeared, his frown dissolved. He turned and stared out the window, his lips pressed tight. “No. I should have mentioned that at the start. Millie is here every day of the week. And my handyman, Duncan McBride, lives on the property, so he’s always around.”
Millie chuckled. “Well, where else he gonna go? That ol’ leprechaun older than me.”
Swell. Two ancient domestic workers were Eliza’s only guarantee against unwanted attentions. But at least their presence meant she and Mr. Devilishly Devine wouldn’t be completely alone. And she’d be nuts to pass up the money. Betty would sermonize about the man’s reputation, but Eliza was a grown woman. She could manage the consequences of her own decisions just fine.
Johnny’s gaze was on the hooked rug at his feet and would not meet hers.
She had better not regret this. “Very well, I would like to be considered for the job. But if you intend to hire me, I need to make one thing clear.”
“And that is?” Johnny asked.
Eliza forced her voice steady, because what she was about to say stretched every one of her nerves taut. “Any funny business and I quit. On the spot.”
Millie’s face bunched up in confusion. “Funny business? What in the world kinda—”
“It’s all right, Millie,” Johnny said quietly.
Eliza lifted her chin and waited, heart racing.
“You will not be insulted in this house,” he said. “You have my word.”
She studied him, heart hammering. “Your word?”
“Yes.” Slowly, Johnny Devine looked up and met her eyes. “Though it may be of little worth to you, I am a man of my word.”
For now, she had no choice but to take him at that word.
For whatever it was worth.
But it was so much more than that. Let me first tackle the historical and mystery aspect. If you haven’t heard about the Red Scare, then Ms. Eide’s novel is a great way to be introduced to the trials people suffered. To sympathize and empathize with the people who came under scrutiny. My heart ached for Eliza as she came under suspicion for communist ties. The mystery kept me on edge, made me wonder what would happen, and if she could solve her family’s mystery. Mind. Blowing.
Now for the romance. Sigh. Y’all there is nothing better than seeing how the grace of God changes a person. Johnny Devine has a notorious reputation not only in the Hollywood circles, but in the home of every American who has ever heard of him. Can such a past be overcome? Can God really redeem a person and give them a fresh start?
The romance that developed between Eliza and Johnny was sublime. There’s just no other word for it. It started as a small spark that slowly but surely morphed into the love that takes hold and wraps it way around your heart with no end in sight. I loved how Ms. Eide described it. I could literally gush about some scenes, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Let’s just say, their romance should be earning awards for some Swoon worthy moments.
Did I mention I cried? I can’t tell you why I cried and if it was happy or sad tears…I’ll leave that to your imagination. If you’ve read it already, will you please put me out of my misery and let me know you cried as well? And if not, feel free to keep this link and come back to tell me if you cried.
If you’ve never read Ms. Eide, please do so. The world of Eliza and Johnny are waiting for you.
* I give this 5 out of 5 stars. (Let the Camille Eide book binge began!)
** I received a book via SLB in an exchange for an honest review.
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