Falling Star by Diana Dempsey
(Onyx, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-41035-1
Whoever shelved Falling Star in the Romance section of my local Borders was way off base. This book belongs with the Glamour novels of Judith Krantz, Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. If you like those authors, Falling Star may be right up your alley, but I found myself skimming the pages so I could move on to something more satisfying.

The novel follows the agonizing fall and eventual resurrection of Natalie Daniels, a successful, talented 40-year old local news anchor for KXLA in Los Angeles. Her greedy new boss, Tony, wants to get rid of her because her high salary stands in the way of the bonus he can earn for cutting costs. Her greedy and ambitious protégé, Kelly, wants to get rid of her so she can get off the reporter beat and take Natalie’s place at the anchor desk. Her greedy, ambitious and philandering husband, Miles, has already gotten rid of her, but he wants a large chunk of her savings in the divorce settlement. Poor Natalie has only two allies: Ruth, her grizzled producer and Geoff, her hunky Australian agent. Guess which one she’s secretly in love with?

I quickly grew weary of the machinations of the one-dimensional Greedy Trio, especially Kelly. Who wants to read pages upon pages about a promiscuous, sulky bitch who berates her cameraman, sleeps with her managing editor and makes stupid comments on the air, all to achieve her less-than-noble goal of a Bel Air address? Miles and Tony fare no better, although they are a little less over the top than Kelly.

Diana Dempsey is a 12-year veteran of local and national television news, which gives her debut novel credibility. But as an exposé of the industry, Falling Star is disappointingly shallow. So you’re trying to tell me that young, pretty women are preferred over mature, experienced ones? How shocking! So back-stabbing and double-crossing are rampant in the industry? You don’t say! Tell me something I didn’t already figure out 20 years ago.

Natalie is a sympathetic heroine, and as a 40-year-old woman myself, I rooted for her to come out on top. But while I want my heroines to face challenges, I don’t want to read about the excruciating details of their failures and degradations. The ultimate payoff at the end wasn’t worth the time spent wallowing in Natalie’s misery.

Here’s the final piece of evidence that Falling Star doesn’t belong in the Romance section: Geoff’s adorable, domesticated school-teacher fiancée gets the shaft so that Geoff can play footsie with career-oriented Natalie in the Big, Bad City. Wouldn’t all of those romance novel heroines who gave up their high-powered urban careers to find true happiness making homemade baby food in small towns be scandalized?

As Glam Fiction goes, Falling Star isn’t bad. But I don’t want to waste my valuable reading time with shallow, vain and greedy villains, and the Greedy Trio of bad guys account for too much space in this story.

--Susan Scribner

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