Yes, it’s true – southern California really is a different place. I’ve lived in the area for what is coming up on a decade and to this day I can’t watch the local TV news because I start dropping too many IQ points. The cult of celebrity can pretty much be found all over the world, but it’s not quite as manic (and annoying) as it is where I currently hang my hat. And ultimately that’s my issue with Sarah M. Anderson’s latest Desire. The main couple is nice enough, and the story is mostly okay, but the Hollywood backstory never felt right.
James Robert Bradley used to be a star. A hunky Hollywood heartthrob who partied with Brad Pitt, had a bevy of beautiful babes on his arm, and even won an Oscar. After the death of his mother-slash-manager, he dumps Hollywood for ranching in middle-of-nowhere Montana. And that’s how J.R. Bradley has been making his way in the world for the last several years. He still has an agent, but for all intents and purposes, he’s no longer an actor.
Landing on his doorstep is Thalia Thorne. Thalia used to be an actress until an affair with an oily producer killed her career. She now works for the same oily producer as an associate producer, and promises the man that she can get James Robert Bradley to star in this hot new western he’s producing. With Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington already attached – how awesome would it be for James Robert Bradley to rise from the dead? To land in the comeback role of a lifetime and maybe get himself another Oscar? The fly in the ointment? Wild horses couldn’t drag J.R. back to Los Angeles. Well, that is, until he falls for Thalia.
Like I mentioned, it’s the Hollywood stuff that really held me back from this story and ultimately made it slog for me to get through. While I can buy the fact that J.R. isn’t annoyed by the paparazzi in Montana (too much work when chasing after Beiber’s Ferrari is way easier…), I couldn’t buy into his relationship baggage. Women start dating J.R. just fine, but then they find out he’s James Robert Bradley and they lose their minds. Um, really? Is this like Lois Lane not telling the difference between Clark Kent and Superman all because he puts on a pair of glasses? Even giving these women the benefit of the doubt (maybe they don’t watch a ton of movies) – it would be like Robert Redford moving to Utah and ending his career after Butch Cassidy. He still looks like Robert Redford! J.R. was THE heartthrob just a few years prior and he won a damn Oscar! And these women don’t realize that J.R. Bradley is the same person as James Robert Bradley until he lets the cat out of the bag? Really?
Then there’s Thalia who is a nice enough girl with vulnerabilities but no gumption whatsoever. And I’m supposed to believe she’s an associate producer? I mean, really? There’s no fire. There’s very, very little defensiveness. There’s no sass. There’s just sweetness and light and wow’ing J.R. with the fact that she knows what the backside of a horse looks like because she grew up in Oklahoma ::eyeroll::. And by the time her gumption does show up? By the time I get a scene where she tells J.R. he’s a hypocritical, judgmental ass? By the time I get a moment of feeling like yes, this is a woman who really could, believably, be living and working in Los Angeles? It’s the last chapter. The very last chapter of the book. Sigh. Where was this spitfire Thalia, oh I don’t know, in the previous 170 pages?
In the end I find this an okay story. Thalia is nice. J.R. is nice. I just don’t believe in the world they live in. A world where financing a western, even with Eastwood, Freeman and Denzel attached, is apparently pretty damn easy to accomplish. Hell, MGM barely got the last two Bond movies made because they’re under so much damn water and Bond grosses crazy money in the overseas market. Yeah, American westerns? Even successful ones? Aren’t going to gross crazy-ass Bond money. Although who knows, maybe in this fictional Hollywood, Eastwood directs for free.
Producer Thalia Thorne’s career is on the line. She’s promised to lure James Robert Bradley back to the limelight, no matter what it takes. But once in Montana, she sees that J.R. has built a new life for himself—as a real-life cowboy—and Thalia finds it hard to resist the man he’s become….
Then a blizzard strikes. Suddenly they’re alone, with only body heat to keep them warm. When the snow melts, she’ll have to choose: go back to the big city—or sacrifice everything for the man she can’t let go.