It’s my great pleasure today to be a part of the blog tour for Alice In Theatreland, the new novel from Julia Roberts. My thanks to Julia for inviting me to be a part of this tour. I have a great guest post from Julia introducing the stars of the show, and I’ll be sharing it along with my thoughts on the book with you in a moment, but first up, here is what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
It’s summer 1976; London is languishing in the sultry heat. Beautiful and talented nineteen-year-old, Alice Abbott, arrives in the city with high hopes of one day seeing her name up in lights but first she must impress Richard, the producer of a new West End show, Theatreland.
Alice is befriended at the audition by the more experienced Gina, who, although burdened by her own dark secrets, is determined to protect the newcomer from the sleaze behind the glamour. She also attracts attention from the male lead in the show, Peter, a former pop star struggling to escape his playboy reputation.
Alice’s star seems to be rising as fast as the temperature until she naively accepts an impromptu dinner invitation from Richard. What happened that night? And how far will Richard go to protect his guilty secret?
Introducing Alice …
∼ Julia Roberts ∼
Thanks so much Jen for inviting me on to your blog today to talk about some of the characters in my new novel, Alice in Theatreland. The book is set in the West End theatre world of London during the long hot summer of 1976. It is an era and setting I know plenty about as I was a regular attendee at dancing auditions.
The title character, Alice, is loosely based on me. She is from Nottingham, my home town, attended a local dancing school rather than one of the big stage schools, is on the ‘curvy’ side for a dancer and is pretty ‘wet behind the ears’ when she first arrives in London. Fortunately, what befalls Alice at the hands of theatre impresario, Richard, is just my imagination working in overdrive. Alice has to grow up very quickly during the course of the book and make decisions most of us would wish we never have to, which she intends to keep secret from all but her best friend, Gina. Ultimately, she finds the strength to tell her mother and receives the support and love she needs to face the future carrying the burden of guilt.
Gina becomes Alice’s best friend after taking her under her wing at the audition for Theatreland , a new West End show. She is initially doubtful that Alice has a thick enough skin to deal with the bitchiness of some of the other girls but wants her to succeed because of the undoubted star quality she possesses. Gina has also made some disastrous decisions in her life, the worst of which was going to work as a ‘hostess’ in a West End nightclub when she was between dancing jobs. She is afraid of her boss, Franco, who she thinks maybe in the mafia and is a dangerous bully, resorting to violence if any of the girls step out of line. Gina is a ‘salt of the earth’ character who sees everything as black and white rather than shades of grey and acts accordingly without thinking of possible consequences. Her actions unwittingly place herself and Alice in grave danger towards the end of the book.
Richard, the theatre impresario, is a despicable loathsome human being who I thoroughly enjoyed writing. Not only is he awful to his wife, Anita, who he has repeatedly cheated on, he also thinks he can do or say anything without being challenged. He is totally self-centred and manipulative and will do anything to protect his sordid secret. One reviewer described him as ‘wicked’ and I would completely agree.
The other main character is Peter, the male lead in Theatreland and Alice’s love interest. Formerly a member of a successful pop group, he has a playboy image which he is finding hard to shake. He fancies Alice the moment he lays eyes on her but, understandably, she is unsure whether she can trust him particularly after he is photographed leaving a London nightspot with his arm around another girl. Peter is prepared to fight to win Alice back, believing she is ‘The One’ for him.
Other peripheral characters worthy of a mention are Larry, the rather colourful choreographer and long-time friend of Gina’s. Edward, who owns the luxury riverside apartment that Gina stays in for a peppercorn rent – you may well ask why?! And Ruby, a tenant in the flats where Alice lives when she first comes to London who initially complains constantly about everything Alice does but eventually shows a kinder side.
I hope you like the sound of the ‘cast’ of Alice in Theatreland.
I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for Julia Robert’s last book, Time For A Short Story, which I thoroughly enjoyed so when I heard that she was releasing a new book centred around the other big love of my life, the theatre, I couldn’t wait to read it. Needless to say I was pretty chuffed to be asked to be a part of the blog tour as well. I am so glad I was able to be a part of this as I was completely sucked in by this book, charging through each and every page and finishing it in just one evening as I really couldn’t put it down.
In Alice In Theatreland Ms Roberts introduces us to Alice, a nineteen year old dancer who, armed with her trusty equity card, leaves the relative safety of her Nottingham home to try her luck in the big city. She has an audition for a new West End Show, a place to stay and a whole lot of talent. What can possibly go wrong? Ask that again after she falls foul of the producer for being overweight and after making a fool of herself with the star of the show, heart-throb Peter Flint.
If there is one thing you can say about Alice it’s that she knows how to make an impression. I have to be honest. I really did like the character of Alice. God lord, was the girl a naive as they come, totally green about the perils of the big city, but rather than being too saccharin or perhaps unbelievable, Julia Roberts manages to create a totally charming and engaging young heroine who you really want to see succeed. Yes, she makes some very bad choices but then the book is set in the seventies when perhaps girls weren’t always as street smart as they like to think they are today. And this totally works with Alice’s story. She is from a small city in relative terms and a close knit family unit, and the dishonesty and bitchiness that are rife within the theatre world are not things she is used to. She is almost too nice to succeed but it is refreshing to have a heroine who is believable and honest and not world weary.
Speaking of world weary, Alice’s best friend in this story is the polar opposite of our young heroine. Gina is a dancer by day and ‘hostess’, amongst other things, by night. She takes Alice under her wing from the first audition and, although they make an unlikely pairing, they really do work. Alice offer’s Gina a touch of innocence she hasn’t had in her life for a while, and perhaps even a sense of purpose in looking after the fledgling actress. Again, Gina is a character you can really get behind. A lot more brash and confident than Alice, she has a hard back story, one which doesn’t elicit pity but does give understanding and perhaps even empathy. And she was funny and kind and depressingly described as old despite being ten years younger than I am. Sooooo glad I don’t work in entertainment. I have enough paranoid complexes already…
As for the men in this story, again we have polar opposites. First up you have Peter who is fighting against a bit of a reputation to try and convince Alice that he is a truly nice guy that she might want to take a chance on. And he did come across as such in an entirely honest way. It is easy to fall into cliche when dealing with the misunderstood hot guy, but it never felt like this at all. Next up we have Larry, Gina’s best friend. I don’t know why (well actually I do – it’s the name) but every time I read about him I kept thinking of the choreographer Larry in ‘A Chorus Line’ and couldn’t help picturing him as Terence Mann. In fact there are probably strong parallels here in terms of Larry ensuring Gina has a place in the show, much as Larry (film) helped Cassie get her rightful place in the chorus line.
And then there is Richard, a man so loathsome I could feel my skin crawl almost every time he was mentioned. Sadly there were (possibly are still) far too many people like Richard in the industry back then and again Ms Roberts has captured his blend of arrogance, sense of entitlement and complete disdain for others perfectly. He really is one of those characters you want to punch, or worse,and I longed to see his comeuppance. Ugh. Vile, vile character with no redeeming qualities at all.
I think with this book, Julia Roberts manages to capture a brilliant blend of romance and drama. There is no doubting the authenticity which comes from her own experiences and knowledge of the audition process and the desires of those wanting to make it in the theatre. I could feel the frustrations and the upset of those who failed to make the cut, even the bitchiness and cliquishness of those who were not quite in Alice’s league. As I said before, for me this was a page turner of a book. It wasn’t necessarily driven by fast pacing or action, although that said the opening of the book left me completely intrigued and I needed to know who was being talked about, plus there were moments of great peril and tension dotted throughout. But the truth is, in spite of my curiosity, once I had got to know Alice, I just wanted to read more, wanted to see her come good and overcome her battles. I wanted to see her take on ‘Theatreland’ and win. Did she succeed in that? Well… You’ll have to read it to find out won’t you.
My thanks to author Julia Roberts for the advance copy of the book for review and for the insight into her characters. Alice In Theatreland was released in paperback on 27th June and is available from the following retailers.
About the Author
Julia Roberts’ passion for writing began when, at the age of ten, after winning second prize in a short story-writing competition, she announced that she wanted to write a book. After a small gap of forty-seven years, and a career in the entertainment industry, Julia finally fulfilled her dream in 2013 when her first book, a memoir entitled One Hundred Lengths of the Pool, was published by Preface Publishing. Two weeks later she had the idea for her first novel, Life’s a Beach and Then…, book one in the Liberty Sands Trilogy, which was released in May 2015.
Julia still works full-time as a Presenter for the TV channel QVC, where she has recently celebrated her twenty-third anniversary.
She now lives in Ascot with her partner of thirty-nine years and occasionally one or other of her adult children and their respective cats.
Also By Julia Roberts
Life’s a Beach and Then… (Liberty Sands trilogy, book one)
If He Really Loved Me… (Liberty Sands trilogy, book two)
It’s Never Too Late to Say… (Liberty Sands trilogy, book three)
Time for a Short Story
The Shadow of Her Smile (free short story on http://www.juliarobertsauthor.com)
One Hundred Lengths of the Pool
Do make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour.