December 2012, Chick Lit
Self-Published, $9.99, 226 pages, Amazon ASIN 1478247525 Part of a series
When I saw the blurb for this self-published novel, I'll admit it caught my eye. Christina George is, per the author's description, the pseudonym of someone who has worked 20+ years in the publishing industry and the book promises one author's view of the publishing world from the inside. And that peek behind the curtain contained in The Publicist: Book One makes for interesting reading. However, one does not get so vibrant a look at the life and loves of lead character Kate Mitchell, so as a work of fiction, this book falls a little short of the mark for me. Even so, I have to admit that it had a certain cracktastic quality about it.
Publicist Kate Mitchell works at Morris & Dean Publishing (known as "MD") and dreams of hitting it big. For now, she represents lesser known(and not terribly respected) authors but she's working hard in search of her big break. It appears that this break may be about to come in the form of a project that star editor MacDermott "Mac" Ellishas demands she work on with him. On the surface, the project sounds like a dream as it involves the follow-up to MD's latest runaway bestseller. However, Kate has an uneasy feeling about the author and Mac's advances turn her world upside down, too. On the one hand, Kate finds Mac unbelievably attractive - but he's also very much married and Kate knows he'll stay that way.
While fighting her attraction to the unavailable Mac, Kate also finds herself meeting Nicholas, the nephew of a once well-known author Kate has befriended. Nicholas is gorgeous and very much single, and eventually Kate is going to have to decide between the eligible bachelor and the married man. One would think the choice obvious, but the author brings more believable tension to this plot than one might expect. I got frustrated with the characters at times, particularly Mac, but I also have to admit that I kept right on reading.
Where the book really shines is in its creation of the publishing world. Kate often has to think on her feet and this makes one root for her in the chapters featuring her professional life. The scene in which she sets out to rescue the booksigning of a mid-tier romance author whose work she adores was particularly fun reading. While some of the personalities (both publisher and author) appear over the top and larger than life, I couldn't help wondering just how much reality might lie beneath the fiction in this story. Kate seems to spend a lot of time on promotions for celebrity authors and those parts of the book do make a reader wonder just how much of a handful these folks can be in real life. It's impossible to read The Publicist without wanting to know the true stories behind some of the incidents Kate encounters, and I for one would love to sit down and hear some war stories from the author. After being in the business as long as she has been, I imagine she has colorful tales to tell.
While the author's picture of New York publishing makes for entertaining reading, the fictional saga of Kate's life itself needs more fleshing out. In the opening chapters, the author tells us a lot more about Kate and her friends than she ever actually shows us. There is just way too much narrative. More dialogue and action develop in later chapters, but the characterizations still tend to feel rather thin. We see Kate in both her professional and personal lives and that does make her seem a bit more authentic, but Mac, Nicholas, and Kate's other friends/co-workers really needed more development.
The romantic plots also needed a bit more oomph to them. At times, I felt like a publicist was giving me a blurb about Kate's romantic life rather than actually using words to paint a picture for the reader, and that tends to make one feel distanced from the story at what should be critical points(i.e. the moment where Kate has to decide if she's going to go out with the married Mac.) Even so, I have to admit that I kept flying right through this book. As with a few other books I've read (Tracey Garvis-Graves' On the Island comes to mind), the writing isn't as vivid as it needed to be but there's still some spark to the novel that keeps one engaged even as one's analytical side picks up on the parts of the book that fall flat. And that gut reaction tells me that this author has a compelling story to tell, even if it does need some real polishing.
While I can't unreservedly recommend The Publicist: Book One, it does have its fun moments and I did enjoy the peek inside a publishing house, albeit a fictitious one. Even with the issues I mention above, there is still something cracktastic and compulsively readable about the story. There's a sequel on the way, and I'll admit to some curiosity about it, particularly since Book One left more than a few plot questions unanswered. This author and her ideas do show promise, but I think this publicist may need some help from a good editor to develop characters more fully and make her stories really shine.
NOTE: This book is also available as an eBook for $0.99.
-- Lynn Spencer
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