The Memoir of Johnny Devine
Publisher: Ashberry Lane Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Number of pages: 279
Awards/Honors: RT Book Reviews (rare) 5 goldstar Top Pick, a Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee (of 5), and the December 2015 Seal of Excellence winner, which makes it a Book of the Year Nominee (1 of 12 out of thousands reviewed)
The Memoir of Johnny Devine (RT Book Reviews 4.5 GOLD Star Top Pick): In 1953, desperation forces young war widow Eliza Saunderson to take a job writing the memoir of ex-Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Devine. Rumor has it Johnny can seduce anything in a skirt quicker than he can hail a cab. But now the notorious womanizer claims he’s been born again. Eliza soon finds herself falling for the humble, grace-filled man John has become—a man who shows no sign of returning her feelings. No sign, that is, until she discovers something John never meant for her to see.
When Eliza’s articles on minority oppression land her on McCarthy’s Communist hit list, John and Eliza become entangled in an investigation that threatens both his book and her future. To clear her name, Eliza must solve a family mystery. Plus, she needs to convince John that real love—not the Hollywood illusion—can forgive a sordid past. Just when the hope of love becomes reality, a troubling discovery confirms Eliza’s worst fears. Like the happy façade many Americans cling to, had it all been empty lies? Is there a love she can truly believe in?
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Camille Eide writes romantic, inspirational dramas about love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, oldies Rock, and Peanut M&Ms.
What a fresh and unique voice Camille Eide has! The first two thoughts that enter my mind are that 1) this is why I read Christian fiction, and 2) the major publishing houses should be beating on Camille’s door. But if this is an indication of the quality of Ashberry Lane’s authors, I will certainly be looking into more of their books.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine is set in 1953 during a time when fear of communism ran high and everyone was suspected until proven innocent. It’s a well written and intelligent book, one that will make you think. I was born in 1947, so I have some sketchy memories of this era as a child – with President Eisenhower and Senator McCarthy being in the news a lot. It was fascinating to learn about organizations such as American Women’s Alliance and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Camille has a vast knowledge of the movie world and has done an outstanding job at conveying a strong sense of place in old Hollywood, as well as the suspicion that seemed to lurk everywhere.
Johnny and Eliza are wonderful characters, flawed and honest. I loved Eliza’s passionate crusade against racial, ethnic, and gender oppression – a risky stand to take during these times because it was seen as Communist propaganda. Johnny, a screen idol with a notorious reputation, is writing a memoir in an effort to witness of his faith through the confession of past mistakes. Both have previous experiences that make them wary of forming a new romantic relationship. And with her kindness and spiritual wisdom, Johnny’s housemaid, Millie, is an enchanting secondary character.
“With each surrender of my will, I find myself a little
freer in my soul, a little less chained to myself,
a little closer to God, a little more like Him.”
One of the strengths of this novel is its spiritual theme, with Christ’s love, mercy and grace evident on every page. Both Johnny and Eliza have a journey to make, for although Johnny has received Christ’s forgiveness, he can’t let go of the guilt – and the idea of “surrender” to anyone scares Eliza. This story has an emotional spiritual impact that any reader can relate to.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine reflects the essence of what Christian fiction should be. And while it could be classified as historical romance, if offers so much more to the reader! Highly recommended.
Thank you to Singing Librarian Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.