Cover Image: The Cinema at Starlight Creek

The Cinema at Starlight Creek

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Book blurb...
A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. 
How far would you go to follow your dream?
Queensland, 1994: When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she's captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia's most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema's reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire's career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.

Hollywood, 1950: Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena's timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.
Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they've dared to dream?  

My thoughts…
I’m drawn to dual timeline stories, especially one with connecting threads that are not immediately obvious.
I know picking favourites is probably not okay, but I really, really enjoyed the Hollywood 1950 time period. This is unusual for me as I’m usually drawn to Australian landscapes and characters. Of course, a good portion of this novel is set in Queensland, in the current day, but (did I mention) I really, really loved Lena Lee (I even love the name) and I wanted more of her story.  A fabulous character!
This is just a personal opinion. Picking a favourite in no way affected the enjoyment of the story.
Thanks, Alli Sinclair, for giving me days of enjoyment.
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Can a small cinema in the country town of Starlight Creek get people opening up, can it bring people together not just a town but help people find love and above all find their dreams?

It is 1994 and Claire Montgomery arrives as location manager working on a TV mini -series she discovers a beautiful art deco cinema, and now she must convince the owner to let them film in this cinema, not an easy task when she comes up against the owners great nephew Luke, a heartfelt appeal by letter to the owner Hattie Fitzpatrick, gets her permission and brings her closer to the wonderful lady and her great nephew, Claire pushes to make her dreams come true.

We go back to 1950 Hollywood the time of glamour and leading ladies and men, a time where everyone is competing to make it to the top and the woman are struggling more with wages and the way they are treated there is also a lot going on with codes directing the way movies are made, and here we meet the beautiful Lena Lee who is making it to top billing with her leading man when everything turns upside down.

I loved the book from the start both Claire and Lena are strong woman they are caring and thoughtful, and they have dreams that have taken them from their homes to places that have made a difference in not only their lives but other peoples as well. There are tears and smiles throughout this story of love and loss, but the strength that both show in different time periods and then as secrets are uncovered and truths are told, this one left me feeling so good such fabulous characters that I felt very close to and Claire and Luke yes. Thank you MS Sinclair this one is a keep and one that I highly recommend.
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The Cinema At Starlight Creek is my first Alli Sinclair book and what a fabulous introduction to this talented author it has been. This is a dual timeline story and for most of the book I wondered how the two stories were linked. Don’t get me wrong - I was hooked from page one and eagerly lapped up both stories, but it took a while to see the links. Of course they were there and as with all good stories they came together very nicely at the end.
There was so much to like about this book. First of all the characters own their places on the page. Claire, Luke and Hattie in the 1994 story each had their own challenges to face. I loved the way Claire approached her work with honesty, integrity and drive, always looking for a solution when faced with a problem. I admired her grit and determination to make her way in a male-dominated industry, and I loved the way she approached Hattie with her bid to film in the Starlight Creek cinema. Hattie was also a wonderful character with her quiet elegance. 
Hollywood actress Lena Lee was very much at the centre of activities in that story. Here was a woman driven to achieve equality for women at a time when women were expected to take a back seat. Author Alli Sinclair has done her homework well and showcased the issues facing film makers and actors of the time. The censorship board seems to have had far more of an impact on films in the 1950’s than I had been aware of, while it seems women actors faced the same issues then as now - less pay, worse conditions and difficulties in getting strong roles. I loved Lena’s efforts to improve conditions, and her loyalty to her friends in the face of a complex political climate.
This book is beautifully written and utterly engrossing. The characters wormed their way into my heart to the point that I felt as though I were watching their story unfold on a screen in front of me. I’ve absolutely loved this book.
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Looking at this stunning cover, I was eager to get into Alli’s latest tale - a dual time narrative (a fave here at GRTL) blending modern day and historical stories. The Cinema at Starlight Creek moves between 1950’s Hollywood, to 1994 small town country living in the Queensland's sugarcane belt. There is much to love in both locations and both timelines. 

‘What kind of world are we living in when people willingly buy into fairy tales that are totally unrealistic? What’s wrong with the ups and downs of real life?’ 
‘Sometimes real life is too painful to endure. Movies and books and music can transport people, change their emotions, soothe their hurts, trigger memories of happier times or give them hope that their luck will change.’

I have thoroughly enjoyed Alli’s previous books and here, once again, she presents two strong women from both time periods, who attempt to break down the gender barriers in their respective film industries and live their own dreams. There is much to love in both tales - love and lies, dreams and disasters - yet it is the courage that shines through as the most endearing quality for both women. Whether it be Hollywood in the 1950s and Lena’s dream of becoming a Hollywood star (but at what price?) to Claire’s 1994 dream of becoming a documentary maker (but at what price?) - both women have obstacles and challenges to overcome. 

I truly feel that with each novel Alli’s storytelling gets better and better. This is a great book. Always happy to learn something new, it was obvious the research she had done into such things as the Hays Code and the Communist witch hunt in the US of the 1950s. I also appreciated the detail of the filming industry, whether it be the Hollywood starlit 1950s or the pressures of filming at a grassroots level in today’s society. Both stories provided engaging windows into the ‘behind the scenes’ events and the fact that it’s not all good or pleasant.  

‘Romantic movies always ran the risk of breaking the Hays Code, which slithered its tentacles into every movie produced in the USA, but Harry had found a way to tell the stories and take scenes right to the edge before the censorship board wielded its shiny scissors.’

The Cinema at Starlight Creek really cements Alli as one of the now established sensational Aussie authors currently producing fabulous stories. If you are interested in historical drama with a particular focus on Hollywood 1950s you are sure to enjoy this tale. However, combined with the current day story, the book provides an overall message for women to follow their dreams, stay strong and be true to themselves.

‘I will make this up to you.’ Lena grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
 ‘You don’t need to. It’s society that has it wrong, not you.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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have adored each of Alli Sinclair’s novels to date and her latest, The Cinema at Starlight Creek, is no exception. I think I read this at the right time too as I had just come away from quite a heavy read in a genre that I don’t normally dabble with, so it was nice to be able to relax with something easy. Now, I want to point out though, that by easy, I don’t at all mean light and fluffy. What I mean is that this was easy to get lost in and it wasn’t hard work to read: the writing was so eloquent, the story so absorbing, and the characters were realistically crafted. In short, this is a superb read, and with its themes of inequality and discrimination, it’s also ideal as a book club pick.

There is a strong parallel between the two women at the helm of this story, Lena and Claire, which becomes apparent early on, strengthening as the story progresses. I enjoyed this mirroring of experiences, with the author demonstrating within her two eras – 40 years apart – that some things are slow to change, so slow, that change is at times not even apparent. The main issue Alli tackles in The Cinema at Starlight Creek is that of inequality and discrimination within the film and television industry. There are some powerful examples woven into both narratives, and I will admit that many caught me by surprise – and I don’t mean that in a good way. The double standards, the games of sabotage, the blatant discrimination towards women: lower wages, lower conditions, yet higher expectations when it came to body size and shape, modesty and chaste behaviour. In Claire’s circumstances, she had to fend off on the job hostility and bullying from a man who was disgruntled at her getting the position she was in over him. I liked how the author gave Claire and Lena different career paths but within the same industry, effectively demonstrating the widespread nature of these issues. 

‘She stared at the food and shake in front of her. When was the last time she had eaten something she wanted? Something that wasn’t water-based, like celery or carrots? Lena picked up a fry and used it to push the others around the plate. Just being near the fries made her skin feel like it was coated in grease. But they smelled so good. Lena quickly shoved the fry in her mouth, closed her eyes and chewed slowly, allowing the salty goodness to dance across her tastebuds. Never in her life had a fry tasted so delicious. Opening her eyes, she stared at her plate, the willpower she’d been cultivating since working with Lawrence falling by the wayside. In her head she could hear Lawrence chastising her about the potential size of her derriere if she ate such food. And he’d be telling her this while stuffing his face with a burger. Her gaze rested on the milkshake and an image of Yvonne struggling to get the zipper done up on Lena’s latest gown crowded in on her.’

Another element to this story that I found interesting was the impact working in the film and television industry had upon a woman’s personal life. For Lena, it was as far reaching as having her relationship status dictated to her. For Claire, it was the burden of succeeding, putting all else aside to chase the next job, to be as ‘free’ to move about as a man. These women both struggled to be taken seriously, their roles important, yet deemed secondary and always at risk of being taken away from them – minor misdemeanours regarded in the same vein as serious ones. The scrutiny must have been exhausting to the point of debilitating.

‘I seriously don’t think us being a “couple” off-screen gets more people interested in us or our movies.’
‘My teenage nieces would say otherwise.’
‘How can all this be healthy, though? Men—and women— can be very successful without being tied to someone else.’ 
Pierre let out a loud laugh and doubled over, clutching his side. ‘Oh, Lena. You do amuse me.’
Tension gripped her shoulders and raced up her neck. ‘I am not here to amuse. I am voicing my concern that a woman is not considered successful in this industry unless she is attached to a man off-screen. Why are women seen as a threat just because they don’t have a husband? Or, worse, people think there’s something wrong with them, so no one will marry them?’ 
Pierre snort-laughed then stopped. ‘You’re serious? Happy married couples on-screen, happy married couples off-screen, this is how they want it. Good little Americans living the dream. You don’t want to be responsible for tearing the very fabric of our society, do you?’

Old world movie glamour was captured to perfection within this story and I felt as though I was transported while reading it. Likewise, the vivid descriptions of the Starlight Cinema itself were evocative of days gone by, the beauty of it apparent in the way Alli brought it to life for her readers. She has such a skill when it comes to breathing life into her stories, sprinkling a special kind of magic throughout that speaks to me of a great passion for her subject, no matter what she writes about. She’s firmly on my ‘read everything this author ever writes’ list. The Cinema at Starlight Creek is highly recommended reading and I can assure you that the story itself is every bit as beautiful and atmospheric as the cover that adorns it.

‘You remind me so much of me when I was younger.’ Hattie’s smile was slow and warm. ‘You’re strong, independent, and want to change the world. I did— for a time. And I suspect you will as well— with longer-lasting effects, I hope.’

Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a copy of The Cinema at Starlight Creek for review.
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Warning - I fear that this review may be a lot of gushing as I absolutely LOVED this book!  I have not read anything by Alli Sinclair before and now I wonder why.  This book has me absolutely captivated and I did not want it to end.  I so looked forward to reading time to get lost in the lives of these wonderful characters. I am a lover of the classic films from Hollywood - Some Like it Hot and Breakfast at Tiffany's amongst my favourites and this book let me indulge in that love whilst reading.  The writing was beautiful, setting the scenes so well between the rural Queensland towns and Hollywood - I felt that I was actually there. I am learning more and more about the fantastic writing talents that we have in my home country and Alli Sinclair is absolutely firmly on my list.  

This is a story told from 2 points of views - and 2 different time periods.  But the themes in both timelines are the same - strong women working in male dominated professions.  Neither women is prepared to settle, believing that they are worth more and should have equal rights.  Both are very good at what they do but as females they are dismissed as weaker than the men who preform the same roles.  I love both Claire and Lena as characters.  Worlds apart but so similar.

First of all there is the story told from Claire's point of view  - in rural Queensland in 1994.  Claire is working on a TV mini series and needs to convince the owner of the Starlight Creek cinema, Hattie Fitzpatrick and her great nephew :Luke Jackson to allow them to film inside the beautiful art deco building.  The town do not like outsiders and her work is cut out for her. Starlight Creek is a beautiful small rural town surrounded by sugarcane and farming is what the town know.  Hattie and Luke are very stubborn and Claire really has to work hard for what she wants.  The gorgeous cinema is no longer used and would be perfect for the mini series.  

Then we have movie star Lena Lee.  She has been signed to a major studio in Hollywood but is struggling to be taken seriously as an actress and wants roles where women are seen as strong and capable.  It is a difficult time in Hollywood with politics and censorship playing a big part in decisions - mostly made by the men.  Male actors and even extras are being paid a lot more than the women and Lena wants equality.  She puts her career on the line to try to get it as well.  She is also having to hide her love affair with fellow actor Reeves Garrity.  She should be happier - it is everything that she has ever wanted.

It is not clear how these 2 women relate to each other until much later in the story.  It is a wonderful story that I highly recommend everybody read.  This is not my usual genre, being a big reader to crime and thrillers, buut I am branching out and I am so glad that I did and that I found this book.  

Released on Monday 20th May - go and get it!!  It has a beautiful cover as well - what is not to love!!

Big thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia, HQ and Mira for my advanced copy of this book to read.  All opinions are my own and are in no way biased.
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‘Dreams really can come true’ 
What a wonderful story Alli Sinclair has created in The Cinema at Starlight Creek. At its heart this is a story about following your dreams and your heart. It’s also about love, friendship, heartache, community and change and about having and being a voice for others. This is a story I’ve been anticipating since I heard about it nearly 7 months ago. It’s a dual timeline narrative, which is one of my favourite genres, blending historical with modern day stories. It has the most delightful cover, one of my favourites, especially as it tells the story so well.


I was transported to 1950s Hollywood so completely, I could see it all playing out in my head, just like a movie. Lena Lee, Hollywood starlet’s story was a very powerful one about a woman who followed her dreams and fought for what she believed in as well as giving others less fortunate a voice and paving the way for more equality between men and women in the movie world. If we think things are hard and less than equal now, you can imagine how hard things were then. Lena Lee gives us a voice, a real person to travel with and discover what it was like for women back then, especially a woman with integrity and a kind heart like Lena had. Though things have changed a great deal, things are still much the same around the world for women, we need people like Lena Lee to keep fighting for change and equality.

I had very little knowledge about the film industry in the 50s, yes, I’d heard of the hunt for communists, the Hollywood blacklist and the Hollywood 10. People who were jailed and or barred from the industry, most times for no good reason. I might have heard something about the censorship placed on the movie business, but had no idea how much influence, the Hays Code had on what film producers were able to put in their movies. I found this to be a very interesting part of the story. Now days these people would have a heart attack at what is played out on the screen.

Now cut to 1994 in small town Queensland, a town called Starlight Creek and a run down art deco movie theatre. We meet Claire who has been tasked with finding and acquiring the use of one of the last cinemas designed by a female architect Amelia Elliot so as they can continue filming a mini series. Claire has big dreams of making her own documentaries one day, and she is working her way up through the industry, this is a make or break time for her. Even now chauvinism is rife in many industries, (I should know, I’m in the mining industry), and Claire has to work harder to prove herself while up against many odds.

We meet Hattie, a strong and stubborn older woman who owns the cinema and her nephew Luke, neither of who want to help Claire with her plans.

I loved Hattie, she seemed like such a generous soul, one who had much to teach Claire and Luke. I loved Claire whose determination and belief that dreams could come true and you could have everything you wanted, were in direct opposition to Lukes ideas and beliefs. I loved getting to know Luke and when he opened up to Claire about his dreams, I was sure Alli Sinclair had been looking inside my head, I could totally relate to his dreams as they are in essence my own. If only he (and myself) could believe in them and trust they can be made real.

As well as the history, the icons, the dreams, the role models, there is of course the romance. Both Lena Lee and Claire encounter men who make them question their paths, though the outcome for these relationships is quite different for each woman. I loved both storylines, but part of me loved Lena Lee’s a fraction more. Everything Lena went through felt so intense and there’s a few scenes that made me teary (just a warning).

This is a wonderful story and I enjoyed every minute of it, it definitely was worth the 7 months of waiting to finally get to read a copy.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia, NetGalley and Alli Sinclair for providing me with a copy to read and review.
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It was the 1950s when Lena Lee braved Hollywood as a naïve young woman, determined to make it in the big time. She could sing and act – she just needed a chance. Signed by a big studio, her dreams looked like coming true. But with the censorship police cutting many scenes, and the expectation for the female actresses to be demure, innocent and well covered, and always looked after by a man, Lena’s frustrations grew. Pretending to be someone she was not was what acting was all about – but she drew the line at deceit and lies. Her desire to improve the lot for the women in Hollywood; create equality in an industry dominated by men – caused her trouble. 

Starlight Creek was a small town in the sugarcane area of Queensland in 1994 and when Claire Montgomery discovered the cinema it was run down and abandoned. It wasn’t the best she’d seen but it would have to do. But would the owner allow her to film her TV mini series in the historical cinema? When she met the elderly Hattie Fitzpatrick, owner of the cinema, and her great nephew Luke Jackson, the immediate and emphatic answer from them both was NO. With Claire’s job on the line she was desperate to convince Hattie and Luke she needed the chance. But how was she to do it? Would she and her team be kicked out of Starlight Creek? Or would there be support?

The Cinema at Starlight Creek is another spectacular historical fiction novel by Aussie author Alli Sinclair. Set in two timelines between Hollywood and Queensland, the writing is such that I was there – in the dressing room while Lena’s make-up was being done; in the café in Starlight Creek or gazing at the sunset over the sugarcane. The depth of the characters made them easy to know and feel for; the blend of glamour and hope, of loss, heartache and love, made the reading of The Cinema at Starlight Creek a delight. I read until I’d finished last night, unable to put it down. Alli Sinclair is fast becoming a favourite and I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Harlequin AU and NetGalley for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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This is only my second Alli Sinclair read, however I know I have to go back and read more.

I live in a small town, so I could understand all the issues Claire had coming into Starlight Creek - heck, I encountered most of them myself when I did the tree change a while back.

Claire and Lena's stories, though so different, are so similar. Both beautiful, strong women, tearing down walls to get to their dreams.

Told in 1950s Hollywood and 1990s small town, the stories of the lives and loves of 2 strong, smart, sassy women changing the world around them. And I couldn't help but adore both of them.

I wanted to find a time machine to go back to the days of the Hollywood starlets, and I wanted to hop in my car and drive to North Queensland to visit Starlight Creek

There is a bit of a twist that I kind of had an inkling about what might have been happeneing, but i wasn't sure if I was right or not. And I liked that I couldn't be certain.

Beautiful writing, wonderful imagery that drew me right into the story. I adored this story, and can't wait to see what Ms Sinclair brings us next.
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