I picked up Down and Out in Beverly Heels because it looked like a fun romance with a bit of madcap mystery a la Janet Evanovich. While I enjoyed the novel, it’s nothing like I expected. There’s much more mystery than romance. And don’t be fooled by the bright, flirty cover. Actress Meg Barnes isn’t just down and out – she’s living out of her car because her disappeared conman husband’s schemes left her destitute and mostly friendless. It is a much darker read than I was expecting.
Meg Barnes is an older heroine. The book never says exactly how old, but I’d guess she is in her fifties. She made her name with a role as a magician’s assistant who solves mysteries, but she’s now too old for the attractive girl parts. Getting one of the few roles for older actresses is even harder, given the scandal attached to her name. Meg has a place to sleep and can manage a hot meal now and then, but that’s about it. Her only friends left would take her in, but she has too much pride. Then she notices that people are following her around. Despite her obvious dire straights, there are those who believe that she knows where Paul and the money he stole are. Soon enough Meg is determined to find him and get her life back.
Much of Down and Out in Beverly Heels resembles a buddy comedy. Meg stays a few nights with Donna, a fellow Meals on Wheels volunteer she doesn’t like much, but who just might be the person Meg needs to get her life in order. I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop. Donna is abrasive, but she knows Hollywood and is the kind of person who gets things done. She and Meg aren’t natural friends, but they figure out how to work with each other. It is also a nice change of pace from my usual reads to come across a novel centered around two women past forty. I also like that Meg’s career is important to the story. She’s not a former actress; just an aging one. Kathryn Leigh Scott’s background is in acting, which adds a nice bit of authenticity to the audition scenes.
The blurb makes it sound like Meg is torn between her husband Paul and the FBI agent, Jack Mitchell, sent to track him down. However, Paul is a minor presence in the novel. Meg still feels for him and his presence looms large in her life, but he’s not an immediate romantic option. Jack isn’t much more present in the novel. He takes a long time to show up and then he only makes sporadic appearances. Despite being the romantic hero, he appears on fewer pages than many of the minor characters. It makes it very hard to get into the romance. He and Meg go on approximately one date and most of their conversations revolve around the case. I can believe they find each other attractive and will really start dating after the novel ends, but I don’t buy that Down and Out in Beverly Heels is a romance.
I like the novel quite a bit, but I think it is poorly served by its cover and blurb. It is a mystery, not a romance. I think I would’ve liked it more if I had picked it up expecting a mystery, although I did adjust. I definitely would’ve liked it more if it had been lighter, but Meg’s homelessness is a good hook. By the end of Down and Out in Beverly Heels, I was over the bait and switch.
From brunch in Bel Air to homeless in Hollywood…
Former actress Meg Barnes used to have it all: tony Beverly Hills address, Amex Black card, Manolos for every day of the month. Not to mention a career as a popular TV detective that made her glittering life possible. But her lifestyle of the rich and famous has turned into a reality show for d-listed starlets. Lost in her Louboutins, she has one man to thank: her con man of a husband.
Handsome FBI agent Jack Mitchell knows a suspect when he sees one—even if she’s as beautiful and gutsy as Meg. Meg’s ex “made off” with half of Hollywood’s wealth in an epic real estate scam. And Jack thinks Meg may have been involved.
Determined to prove her innocence Meg teams up with her quirky, movie-mad best friend to track down her fugitive husband and exact justice. But getting her life, and her career, back on track is harder than auditioning for Spielberg. Especially when her life is threatened. Meg has to trust Jack, the man who may want her behind bars…or as his leading lady for life.
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