'Mama Sees Stars' By Deborah Sharp. Midnight Ink, 327 pages, $14.95
A Hollywood company's invasion of a small town to film a major movie makes instant fodder for myriad plots. Think the comedy "State and Main."
Fort Lauderdale author Deborah Sharp's entertaining fourth novel has Hollywood coming to Himmarshee, a fictional town in Central Florida, somewhere near Lake Okeechobee. And whatever story makes it to screen pales to the shenanigans that occur on the set in "Mama Sees Stars."
Mace Bauer takes a break from her job at a nature park to be an animal wrangler for the filming of Florida author Patrick Smith's classic "A Land Remembered." Only in true Hollywood fashion, the movie version has been renamed "Fierce Fury Past," with a script that has little to do with Smith's lovely novel. Wrangling the horses is no problem for the fearless Mace; wrangling her mother, Rosalee, her two sisters and her love life prove to be the real chore.
Mace discovers the body of Norman Sydney, a nasty executive producer who delighted in denigrating everyone from the staff to the high-paid actors. Few mourn his passing, but Mace still is astounded at the vehemence that the man inspired. Police detective Carlos Martinez -- who's also Mace's on-again, off-again boyfriend -- heads the investigation but Mace does a little sleuthing herself. A series of near-fatal accidents plague a set filled with scheming crewmembers and spoiled actors used to getting their own way. Even Rosalee has turned into a diva, as she gets ready for her close up and her scant few lines.
Energetic plots and laugh-out loud humor are staples of Sharp's series, and the author's skills are at their finest in "Mama Sees Stars." Sharp avoids clichés as she presents realistic characters in believable, but often absurd situations. While her novels depict the decidedly rural areas of Florida and are filled with colloquialisms, Sharp never stoops to corn-pone stereotypes. She obviously has respect for those who live in small towns and who may be just as savvy as those from the big city.
Sharp gives more than a surface look at an out-of-control Lindsay Lohan-like starlet and an egotistical actor, depicting the various dimensions to their personalities. But she has too many breakup scenes between Mace and Carlos, whose jealousy over an old boyfriend frequently erupts. His refusal to listen to Mace and to always assume she is cheating on him, even in the most innocent of situations, are monotonous, interfering with an otherwise lively story.
At the heart of each of Sharp's novels is the close relationship between Mace and her family. These three sisters may get annoyed with each other, but nothing will shake their love for each other and for their eccentric Mama.
Sharp delivers another delightful Florida-centric story about a devoted family in "Mama Sees Stars."
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the author
Deborah Sharp will discuss "Mama Sees Stars" at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790, and at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21 during a panel on book promotion at a meeting of the Writers' Network of South Florida, Main Library, Sixth Floor, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Free, but reservations required; contact email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun