By Ekta R. Garg
July 1, 2020
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
A bestselling author disappears after the murder of her daughter. Months later, a newly-divorced former journalist becomes obsessed with finding the author. She’s convinced she’s the right person to tell the author’s story, but someone wants her to stay away. Author Emily Liebert tries to convince readers to suspend their disbelief in the unbelievable, poorly executed novel Perfectly Famous.
Even though her divorce has just become final, Bree Bennett can’t complain. Her husband let her keep their gorgeous home and is a perfect gentleman. They share custody of their teenage daughter, Chloe, and Bree needs the help. Chloe is a handful, and since the divorce she’s become even more moody and difficult to manage. Bree knows she should give Chloe time, but her husband was always the disciplinarian. Without him around, she knows her parenting isn’t what it should be.
It doesn’t help that now Bree feels at odds with her life in the suburbs. She left her exciting career in national-level journalism in New York City to become a mom. Now that she’s single again, it’s about time she gets a job and starts moving back toward the profession she loved.
The best she can do, though, is the local newspaper run by a nervous man who doesn’t know anything about running a news outlet. Bree convinces him she knows what she’s doing by covering a few community events, and she’s going to need the credibility because she has an idea for an investigative series. She knows, though, that it’s going to be a hard sell.
Bree wants to find and interview high-profile crime novelist Ward DeFleur. The previous year, Ward’s daughter, Stevie, was murdered on the night of one of Ward’s book signings. No one in the public eye has seen or heard from Ward since. Bree feels sympathy for the woman, also a single mother. Chloe was the same age as Stevie, and Bree thinks this makes her and Ward kindred spirits of sorts.
As she tentatively starts to navigate her dating life and tries to balance that with her articles, Bree finds herself stretched in too many different directions. The more she tries to look for Ward, the more pushback she receives from an unknown source. Someone is trying to warn her off Ward’s trail, and that just makes Bree more curious to find her.
Author Emily Liebert’s story starts on fairly firm footing but devolves into incredulous territory. Bree’s obsession with Ward is justified by the fact that on the night of Ward’s fateful last book signing, Bree’s husband told her he wanted a divorce. After his news, Bree goes to the signing and collapses into tears in the arms of the confused author who had never met Bree before or since. Nevertheless, in Bree’s mind that’s enough to forge a connection between her and the crime writer.
Although Bree seems keen to restart her career in journalism, she doesn’t spend that much time reporting. Not where readers can see, that is. Passing references are made to the stories she’s filing for her boss, and these along with random meetings with him are meant to convince readers she’s good at what she does.
In some ways, it’s a relief to see Bree good at her job because her character arc doesn’t give her room to be good at anything else. She’s a completely inept parent, enduring Chloe’s teen tantrums and angst with tearfulness and even more leniency. Also, while she says she can’t stop thinking about Ward, nothing about her actions rings true to the investigative journalistic spirit. She makes a few phone calls and visits the publisher who put out Ward’s books. A crucial piece of information in her “investigation” comes from her boss.
What, then, is Bree doing for most of the book? Balancing her time between two men. One she meets as the result of a blind date. The other has connections to Ward. Bree seems more determined to land one of them than she does to keep her job, parent her child, or find Ward. Her best friend, a practicing psychologist, eggs her on, and her ex-husband shows up occasionally to shake his head in disappointment at Chloe’s antics. Bree’s mother censures her over the phone from Florida, and while her dialogue might grate on the nerves it also seems to ring truer than anything else.
Incomplete subplots, unexplained details (the most frustrating tied directly to Ward’s disappearance,) and an ending that will confuse readers all make this a sure miss. I recommend readers Bypass Perfectly Famous.