You’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity satire that out-name-drops Beneath a Starlet Sky (St. Martin’s, $24.99) and does it with such perceptive humor. The novel, a follow up to Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper’s “Celebutantes,” revolves around the Cannes Film Festival, a party scene that makes the Oscars look like a church picnic. The 27-year-old heroine, Lola Santisi, is a “Daughter of” (an appellation stuck to her name like an advanced degree, her father being an Academy Award-winning director). But now she’s out to prove herself by launching a friend’s clothing line. These authors know what they’re talking about: Goldberg is the “daughter of” legendary Hollywood/TV producer Leonard Goldberg; Hopper is the “daughter of” the late actor Dennis Hopper. “Beneath a Starlet Sky” celebrates Hollywood culture and makes authoritative fun of it, pushing trends to their illogical conclusions: biodegradable stilettos, breatharian restaurants (“the ultimate in sustainable noneating”), cyber couture (“slashed silk sweatshirts with live Facebook status updates”) and movie sequels like “Eat More, Pray Harder, and Love Hotter.”
Now on her third book, 30-something Laura Dave can comfortably call herself a master of the chick lit novel. You want meet-cute? Young women and wrong men? Burgeoning careers and best friends? Dave’s your gal. In The First Husband (Viking, $25.95), the protagonist is a somewhat lost travel writer, dumped without warning by her live-in L.A. boyfriend when he tastes his first sip of Hollywood fame. Enter a charismatic, curly-haired chef on his way back to the Berkshires to open his own restaurant. Suddenly, the globe-trotter who made her name writing a column called “Checking Out” has to learn how to check in for love.
Set on the English Channel island of Guernsey during the German occupation in the early 1940s, The Soldier’s Wife (Voice; paperback, $14.99), by Margaret Leroy, hits all the sweet spots: forbidden love, familial loyalties, agonizing moral dilemmas and the awesome responsibilities of motherhood. But this wartime novel hits the dark spots, too. Against the flowered backdrop of this sea-surrounded place, Leroy describes acts of willful ignorance and cruelty. The plot is reminiscent of one of the novellas in Irene Nemirovsky’s amazing “Suite Francaise” — unloving husband away at war, cultured German officer housed uncomfortably close — but Leroy makes the story her own.
The publisher of The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs (Grand Central, $24.99) is determined to convince us that Christina Hopkinson’s new novel is the second coming of Allison Pearson’s “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” the book that launched the Working Mommy Lit movement. And, yes, there’s something to the comparison. In Hopkinson’s telling, mother of two Mary Gilmour has dialed back on the job front, taking a ride on the Mommy Track, a route that combines less interesting work, a thinner paycheck and more crap from her colleagues. But Hopkinson’s story isn’t centered on the office side of the work-life balance. Instead, it concentrates on the infuriating inequality that Mary perceives between her home-front responsibilities and those of her charming but sloppy husband. Mary’s solution: a secret Excel “star chart” that tracks his daily household failings, with an eye to calculating whether to keep him. Yeah, most men do less around the house — gotcha, sister. But, wow, Mary is kinda annoying. Oh, wait. Is Hopkinson suggesting we working moms are . . . ? Don’t go making us look in the mirror — we totally don’t have time!
In The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil (Touchstone; paperback, $15),Victoria Christopher Murray tells the tale of the aptly named Adam and Evia Langston. They’re a D.C. couple who survived a tough youth in Anacostia and have made it to the gold coast, with three happy kids, a three-car garage and a sex life that, after nearly 16 years of marriage, would be the envy of most newlyweds. But there’s a serpent in the garden, alas, in the form of Evia’s beautiful boss, who wants Adam for her own purposes and finds an opening when the Langston family hits the economic skids. The premise is pretty crazy, but Murray’s story has the kind of momentum that prompts you to elbow disbelief aside and flip the pages in horrified enjoyment.
In any other season, The Little Women Letters (Touchstone, $25) might be too sweet, but when the drinks come frozen, fruity and topped with little umbrellas, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel could be just the perfect pool-side read. The story centers on the two bohemian parents and three 20-something daughters that make up the London-dwelling Atwater family. It seems that American-born Mamma Fee got her feistiness from a certain Grandma Jo. . . . Yes, that Jo, the tomboy sister in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. Middle daughter Lulu got the feisty gene as well, but a year and a half after graduating from college, she’s still rudderless, drifting between temporary jobs and cooking for her keep. Resolution comes from some intergenerational enlightenment provided by the discovery of a trove of correspondence between Grandma and her sisters. Sweet.
Claudia Deane is a writer in Silver Spring, Md.