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Book review: The Cast by Danielle Steel

The Cast by Danielle Steel
The Cast by Danielle Steel
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At the age of 54, twice-divorced mother-of-three Kait Whittier is an empty nester with a high-flying job and no desire to immerse herself again in the complications of a new love.

But a chance meeting at a New Year dinner party propels her into the glamorous world of television and the lives of a cast of colourful, star-studded actors… can she face the challenges of reinventing her career, her life, and herself?

American writer Danielle Steel, hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors with over 650 million copies of her novels in print, is back to seduce us with an entertaining and engaging story which celebrates the strength of women and the powerful bonds that form the bedrock of family life.

With more than a nod to the hit British period drama Downton Abbey, The Cast takes us behind the scenes of the production of a family saga television series, from the writing and the filming to the people who bring it the screen and act out the parts.

Over the last 19 years, New Yorker Kait Whittier has built her women’s issues column in Woman’s Life magazine into a hugely respected read followed by fans across the country. She is often cited as an expert and has been invited on to panels and appeared on TV shows.

Her three adored children are grown up and scattered across the world and she treasures the time they spend together but after two failed marriages, she insists she is happy on her own and remains fascinated by new endeavours, the people she meets and her work.

But after a chance meeting with Zack Winter, a television producer visiting Manhattan from Los Angeles, everything changes. Fascinated by the true story of Constance Whittier, Kait’s indomitable aristocratic grandmother who fell on hard times and started up her own successful catering business, Zack encourages Kait to write the storyline for a TV series.

And when she shares her work with Zack, he is so impressed that he decides to make The Wilder Women his next big-budget project. Within weeks, Kait is in meetings and on set with the actors and industry professionals who will bring her vision to life.

And life certainly isn’t dull when you are dealing with an eccentric young screenwriter, an Oscar-winning actress coping with private tragedy, a reclusive grand dame from Hollywood’s Golden Age, a sizzling starlet whose ego outstrips her abilities and LA’s latest ‘bad boy’ actor whose affairs are setting the city on fire.

As secrets are shared and revelations come to light, friendships deepen. But in the midst of this charmed year, Kait is forced to confront the greatest challenge a mother could ever know and this unforgettable cast, now her ‘second family,’ become more important to her than she ever could have imagined.

One senses that Steel had a lot of fun in the creation of this sparkling and emotionally insightful story as we follow the talented and resourceful Kait through the launch of her television series, the recruitment of an unforgettable cast and a tumultuous year that will see triumph and tragedy, and love and loss.

Filled with fascinating characters, dramas both on set and behind the scenes, real-life problems that everyone can recognise and plenty of twists and turns, this is the perfect summer, escapist read and Danielle Steel at her storytelling best.

(Macmillan, hardback, £18.99)