When an award-winning Broadway producer such as Ruby Preston decides to enter the literary arena with a series of chick lit novels revolving around a young producer and the lengths she has to go in order to bring her first musical to the stage, you can be sure that a plot otherwise implausible to any stretch of imagination (aspiring Broadway producer Scarlett Savoy accepts to pose as girlfriend of a theater mogul Graham Steward in order to secure a stage for her musical) becomes an entertaining and ‘not too hard to believe’ portrayal of a world where acting goes on even when the curtains are down and where more than appears on the scene is staged.
For those who are firmly convinced that the marriage between iconic actor Tom Cruise and TV teen drama starlet Katie Holmes was just a big hoax, it won’t be hard to accept the idea that, in a business that plays on ‘dress up, pretend and make-believe’, staged affairs and marriage contracts happen more often than we, the paying audience, would imagine. Through the expert perspective of an insider, we can expect back-room business deals and behind-the-scene dramas to be spilled in the pages of a work of fiction.
In Staged, Scarlet is an up and coming producer in desperate need of a theater for her first musical, Swan Song. Graham is a theater tycoon in desperate need of a “prop” fiancee in order to convince his family and board members that he is the most reliable heir of the Stuart Broadway empire. The young producer will enter into a fictional relationship with the powerful CFO as part of a business proposition. After all, she isn’t looking for real romance at this point of her life and, like Graham, she is focusing all her energy on the achievement of her career goals. So far so good: up to this point I didn’t have to try too hard to suspend my disbelief. Less convincing for me was the characterization of the two protagonists: to be able to carry on in the Broadway showbiz, Scarlet is supposed to be a tough-as-nails producer, and Graham is introduced as a hard-as-granite tycoon, but there are circumstances throughout the narration where they both come off as inconsistently insecure, vulnerable and swinging between conflicting moods. Graham’s character is not fully nuanced (I think the author willingly left part of his story and personality in the dark in view of a future development), while Scarlet has a back-story and emotional arc that go back to the prequel book published in 2012 (Showbiz). Staged is, in fact, the transition installment of a trilogy (the sequel, Starstruck, should be in the works) and it reads as a transition novel, where new characters are introduced in order to set the scene for open-ended plot developments, and old acquaintances complete the picture and add zest with their colorful and somehow more convincing characterization.
The Verdict: Overall, Staged is an enjoyable read. It features the addicting qualities of a light TV drama and it fired my interest.
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Dress Circle Publishing
Author: Ruby Preston