" --IANS"
By Vikas Datta

Title: A Night in With Marilyn Monroe; Author: Lucy Holliday; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 400; Price: Rs 499

We left this modern-day Cinderella quite happy with a smoking-hot actor dating her and a livelihood in something she enjoys doing, instead of the dead-end acting career her mother has foisted on her. However, good times can end rather abruptly -- and solace and support come from the most unexpected source. But Marilyn Monroe?

It is the Blonde Bombshell who appears to our heroine, Libby Lomax, who has picked up some of the pieces of her uniquely tangled life after her travails, but soon got in some more scrapes. And how indeed can be found in the second installment of Lucy Holliday's trilogy, featuring three of the biggest Hollywood divas of the 1950s and 1960s, with Marilyn as never seen before.

Readers familiar with the initial work, starring Audrey Hepburn in her own stylish, charming, and sympathetic real self, will remember London-based Libby and her chaotic, rather unsettled universe of her far-from-model parents, her attention-seeking actress step-sister Cassie, Nora and Olly, the sister-brother duo who are her best friends, her actor boyfriend Dillon O' Hara and last, but not least, Bogdan, a handyman by profession and hairstylist at heart. All of them are around here too.

This story takes on the course of Libby's life a few months hence, and sometime after we learn from a series of WhatsApp messages that Dillon, with whom she was on vacation in Florida, abandoned her after getting enamoured of a Scandinavian model. Worse, he has her passport and money and a hurricane is approaching.

The story proper begins with Libby having to attend her father's new marriage. If this was not depressing enough, Olly, whose plans to open his own restaurant are nearing completion, suddenly reveals plans with a go-getting, motorcycling colleague of his sister, ahead of its formal opening and how she is coming to help him.

Meanwhile, Libby who is trying for a future with Olly's business partner, doesn't find her cause advancing when found trapped in his house in an embarrassing position by his neighbours as he returns with his boyfriend.

Things couldn't be worse as we cross a fourth of the tale, but at Libby's home, the actress has materialised suddenly.

However even Marilyn, initially depicted at the beginning of her glorious -- but short -- career (and its pinnacle later), can only do so much for Libby when Cassie tries to drag her into her reality show, Dillon gets back into her life and Libby comes to learn the truth of a situation she has never given much thought to, though it being at the forefront of her life. It may also explain to her why Olly has renamed his restaurant at the eleventh hour.

Will the Oomph Girl be able to help Libby manoeuvre through all the complications -- and how -- forms the crux of this book, but there are plenty of comic, near farcical, events before that stop it from being just a rom-com or chick-flick-lit that may deter some readers (males especially).

Fear not, for Holliday, despite presenting a stew of romantic entanglements and sometimes -- but only sometimes -- letting the heroine undertake an extensive evaluation of her emotions and actions, leavens it with many other spicy ingredients.

These include but are not limited to hanging a lampshade over the appearance of the actresses, deft characterisations (Bogdan with his pedantic but twisted English is always a winner, but the honours here go to Marilyn, who is as friendly and intelligent, but also lonely and insecure, as she was in her tragically short life), wicked but keen insights into celebrity culture and lifestyles, some set-piece scenes and sparkling dialogue always.

Whether it is when Marilyn gets introduced to reality TV through the medium of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, models' diet (...while we were eating breakfast this morning -- well, I was eating breakfast; she was moving a single slice of kiwi fruit from one side of her plate to the other..), another surprise cameo appearance and much more, there is something or the other here to please a wide array of palates.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at [email protected])



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