Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review: "Malibu Bluff" by Janna King

I've always been partial to soap operas and melodrama. Growing up, I used to watch General Hospital after school (in the heyday of Luke and Laura—the first time around) and then moved on to more daytime and nighttime soap operas, like Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest, and Knots Landing. When the era of big hair and shoulder pads passed, I was able to replace those programs with 90210, Melrose Place, and, I'll admit, even a little of The O.C..

This is one of the reasons I've enjoyed Janna King's two novels in her Seasonaires series: The Seasonaires (see my review) and now, Malibu Bluff. They're soapy, fun books that make me feel like summer, and honestly, I wouldn't have been surprised to hear one of the characters in this latest book utter the words, "Welcome to the O.C., bitch."

Famed fashion designer Lyndon Wyld is a shrewd entrepreneur. She recognizes that the success of her clothing line doesn't just hinge on the stylishness of the clothes, but it's more about the buzz she can create. So she hires a group of beautiful young people for the summer to be "seasonaires"—social media brand ambassadors, raising public chatter about her clothes and looking great while wearing them. It's an amazing opportunity for an unforgettable summer, to live the glamorous life.

While things with last year's group of seasonaires didn't quite go as planned, Lyndon was able to ride out the storm and has decided to up the ante this summer. She's moved the group to a Malibu mansion and doubled their salary—but expectations are greater, too, since not only will they have to have a near-constant presence on social media, but they'll also be filmed this year by Brandon, the son of Lyndon's business partner.

Returning to shepherd this year's group is Mia, who hopes to use the summer to recover a bit from her mother's recent death. Her best friend and nemesis, Presley, is handling public relations for the brand, and she knows what it's like to turn trouble into opportunity. Presley hasn't quite forgiven Mia for all that transpired last year, so she's going to have to watch her back. And this year's group is full of stunners looking to grab every opportunity that comes their way, but each comes with their own baggage, so Mia will have her hands full.

As Mia tries to get back into the swing of things, and concentrate on Lyndon's promise of her own collection, she finds it increasingly more difficult to put the events of last year behind her. And little by little, as some who tried to do her harm begin circling around again, she has to decide whether she's willing to risk her dreams, her life, or the safety of those around her. Perhaps this "dream life" isn't quite what it seems...

Once again, King has written an utterly readable book, providing a glimpse at "how the other half lives," full of glamour, glitz, and sudsy melodrama. I still find myself shaking my head at times, incredulous that there really are people who make a living building buzz for brands on social media—and then I remember that I post book reviews on Instagram and other social media channels. (But the old man in me sometimes emerges saying, "What? They make money putting pictures up? Unbelievable.")

You could read Malibu Bluff without having read The Seasonaires but I wouldn't recommend it, because events and people that are alluded to in this book are more rounded out once you have the background from the first book. These characters aren't necessarily likable or sympathetic, but then again, that's part of their appeal, much like the characters from the soap operas I used to watch.

If you're looking for a light read that makes you long for summer, beautiful people, and stylish clothes, Janna King has just the answer for you. I don't know if another book in this series will come, but if it does, I'll be waiting!

NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

This book will be published May 7, 2019.

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