Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: The Publicist and Shelf Life

By Jami Deise

One of my favorite mini-genres is the industry insider book – that funny, behind-the-scenes, detail-laden novel that shines with authenticity. Books like The Nanny Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, The First Assistant and Bond Girl. And as a writer, I’m fascinated with the publishing industry. So when the opportunity to review The Publicist, as well as its sequel, Shelf Life, came up, naturally I jumped. These two books by Christina George set inside the publishing world are marketed as “the story only an insider could tell.”

While author George has created a strong story, unfortunately it wasn’t the snarky “Devil Wears Prada” type that I was looking for. The book starts with a compelling hook – publicist Kate Mitchell is awoken in the middle of the night to talk her distraught author off the roof – but the momentum quickly changes from a satire about crazy authors and the insane publishing world to a more run-of-the-mill romance. Therefore, the book is probably a better fit for readers who prefer romance to workplace satires.

Publicist Kate Mitchell lives in New York City and works for the publishing company Morris & Dean (MD), which used to be a factory for bestsellers but whose president, Edward, now seems more infatuated with non-fiction tell-alls by crazies, celebrities, and crazy celebrities. Kate has a best friend, artist Grace, and a father figure in author Allan Lavigne, whom MD has been waiting for years to produce a second book. But it’s MD editor MacDermott “Mac” Ellis who really has her attention, despite his marriage and reputation as a serial adulterer. As Kate tries to get publicity for her sane authors and keep the crazy ones from self-destructing, can she keep her hormones in check where Mac is concerned?

Kate’s story unfolds over Book One, The Publicist, and Book Two, Shelf Life. I’m not sure why George decided to divide it into two books, as book one stops abruptly and the material could have easily been combined into one volume. Although this is Kate’s story, George also writes chapters from Mac’s point-of-view, which is the hallmark of traditional romance. She also occasionally dips into the POV of other characters, which is generally considered a no-no by editing professionals. (The books are self-published.) There’s also a love triangle and a lot of sex.

Kate’s career is a roller coaster of highs and lows, and reading about these twists and how she deals with them were the best parts of the books for me (although in the second book, there is quite a bit of “telling” rather than “showing” when Kate moves effortlessly into a new phase). Still, with Kate being a publicist and Mac an acquiring editor, there was no talk at all about the process of finding, acquiring, and editing fiction. For a work of fiction, this feels like an oversight.

In short, The Publicist books are not The Devil Reads James Patterson. But for readers who prefer a hot romance set in the publishing industry, they might be just the right books.

Thanks to Christina George for the books in exchange for an honest review.


Connie said...

This one sounds like a great book!

heavy haul trucking said...

I just have to say, I love this book...I love this series...I love this author's writing style. Shelf Life is so painfully close to the real life world of book publishing, it has to make a few executives nervous. Secrets are spilling all over the place in this series. You should check it out!