Family secrets. Forbidden love. And the true price of wealth.
Thomas is a small-town boy and when Lily invites him to a dinner party, he gains access to the exclusive upper echelons of Hollywood society. As he enters a world of private jets and sprawling mansions, his life and career take off beyond his wildest dreams.
Then he meets Matilda Duplaine.
Beautiful and mysterious, Matilda has spent her entire life within the walls of her powerful father’s Bel-Air estate and Thomas is immediately entranced by her. But what starts as an enchanted romance soon threatens to destroy their lives and the lives of everyone around them.
As soon as I read the blurb for this book I was immediately reminded of The Great Gatsby, one of my all time favourite novels. Young reporter Thomas Cleary is sent on an assignment to meet Lily Goldman, the daughter of the late Hollywood great Joel Goldman, to get some quotes for his obituary. A seemingly routine encounter, but one that will change his life forever. Through Lily, Thomas gains access to the opulent world of the Bel-Air elite, and he finds himself increasingly drawn into their lives, their confidences, and their secrets. Suddenly Thomas is the hot new talent on the journalist scene, and as the social invitations pour in he can't believe his luck. Then he meets Matilda Duplaine. Matilda has spent her entire life on her father's estate, shut away from the dangers of the outside world. Thomas is immediately beguiled by her and suddenly nothing else in his life matters. As romance blossoms between them, questions begin to form in his mind. Who exactly is Matilda, and why is she a secret? His journalist instinct kicks in, but what he discovers has the potential to rock Hollywood, and the lives of his new found friends, to its core.
I really enjoyed this book. As I mentioned earlier there are definitely echoes of Gatsby about it, and although it is set today there is a real old Hollywood feel about it. Matilda is an intriguing character. She is undoubtedly enchanting, but she has a real 'spoilt princess' quality about her that made me wary of her. She is Rapunzel waiting in her tower of an estate for a prince that may or not ever come for her. She is a naive childlike girl who thinks life in the outside world is like an Audrey Hepburn movie. In the time she spends with Thomas she quickly matures first into a stroppy adolescent (and a horrid one at that!), and finally into a young woman.
Thomas on the other hand is a very likeable character. Like Nick Caraway in Gatsby he is the outsider seduced by the glamorous life of his rich associates. For those of you familiar with the TV Show Gossip Girl (I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read the books), Thomas is also comparable with 'lonely boy' Dan Humphrey - the aspiring writer who happens into the social circle of New York's Upper East Side, and becomes involved with the society golden girl. Just as Thomas, Nick and Dan were seduced by the wealth surrounding them, so we the reader are seduced. There is a real opulence in Alex's descriptions of the lavish parties, the sprawling real estates and the beautiful landscapes, that makes us yearn for the lifestyle ourselves - however superficial it may seem.
I wasn't all that keen on the ending when I first read it, but, sort of spoiler alert, as both Thomas and Matilda reiterate, life isn't like the movies. On reflection, the ending actually works really well!
5/5 stars: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is an enchanting read about love, life and Los Angeles.
*Thanks to Netgalley for providing an e-copy of this book in exchange for a review!*