The daughter of Hollywood royalty, Roxanne Granville is used to getting what she wants—even if she has to break the rules. But after a falling-out with her grandfather, a powerful movie mogul, she has to face life on her own for the first time.…
Roxanne forges a career unique for women in the 1950s, becoming an agent for hungry young screenwriters. She struggles to be taken seriously by the men who rule Hollywood and who often assume that sexual favors are just a part of doing business. When she sells a script by a blacklisted writer under the name of a willing front man, more exiled writers seek her help. Roxanne wades into a world murky with duplicity and deception, and she can’t afford any more risks.
Then she meets Terrence Dexter, a compelling African American journalist unlike anyone she’s ever known. Roxanne again breaks the rules, and is quickly swept up in a passionate relationship with very real dangers that could destroy everything she’s carefully built.
Roxanne Granville is a woman who bravely defies convention. She won’t let men make all the rules, and won’t let skin color determine whom she can love. The Great Pretenders is a riveting, emotional novel that resonates in today’s world, and reminds us that some things are worth fighting for.
After a lengthy hiatus, Kalpakian (American Cookery, 2007) returns with a chick-lit homage to 1950s Hollywood. The opening, a self-absorbed monologue by 20-something Roxanne Granville at her grandmother's graveside, sets a lugubrious pace for the copious, name-dropping backstory. Her movie mogul grandparents stood as parents to her, but adult Roxanne is estranged from her McCarthyite grandfather, Leon, whose serial infidelities have culminated in infatuation with a blonde starlet. Roxanne demands that he dump the starlet; he refuses. So she embarks on a pattern of pretending to take self-sufficient steps while still relying heavily on her connections and family. Living in Leon's Malibu beach house, she boldly goes to work as an agent in the movie business. The venture isn't initially successful but she inherited a pile of cash from her grandmother, so life rolls on amid champagne and diamonds. She dares to hang out in mixed-race spaces but she and the other white characters evince plenty of period-accurate casual racism, going beyond "Negro" and "colored" to toss around the occasional outright slur. Eventually, Roxanne enters a risky, albeit warmhearted business scam, and also falls for Terrence Dexter, a black journalist. She begins to balance her whims with passions and ethical commitments, sort of. But too many hot-button issues and too little empathy for less rich, less beautiful, less white humanity make this a superficial and often cringe-worthy exercise that comes across as an unironic travelogue of pampered white obliviousness.