The Best Laid Plans

Close-up of woman’s face shows US Capitol reflected in her eyes
Reflection of the US Capitol is visible in the woman’s left eye.

The Best Laid Plans is a dazzling display of Sidney Sheldon’s cinematic flair.

The story is about Leslie Stewart, a PR and marketing genius who is smart, young, sexy, and ambitious, and Oliver Russell, the governor of Kentucky who is young, sexy, ambitious, but not nearly as smart as Leslie.

He’s also a drug addict.

When Oliver comes looking for PR help, he and Leslie become lovers.

Oliver finds a mentor in a Kentucky’s Senator Davis who sees his JFK-like charisma, properly managed, could take him to the White House.

Senator Davis is just the man to do the managing. That means tying Oliver closely to himself.

Leslie has no mentor, but she doesn’t need one. What she doesn’t learn by observation, she learns by doing research. She turns into a Katherine Graham-type power figure.

When Oliver abandons her for the Senator’s daughter, Leslie knows the best way to get back at him is to ruin his political career.

Sheldon’s story has no depth and it has mountains of implausibilities—where does Leslie get her money?—but all the main characters have enough real-world counterparts to keep readers on the edge of their chairs right up to the dramatic ending.

The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon
William Morrow. ©1997. 358 p.
1997 bestseller #7; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Valley of the Dolls is the pits

Valley of the Dolls is a tale of three amoral young women looking for happiness in New York City in 1945.

They live life in the fast lane, pointed downhill and accelerating.


Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan

Bernard Geis, 1966. 442 pp. #1 bestseller 1966. My grade: D-.

collage of women's faces, pills

Anne Wells is a Radcliff-educated beauty with impeccable taste in everything except men.

Through her job for a theatrical attorney, Anne meets Jennifer, who is trying to parlay her face and figure into a fortune, and Neely, who is trying to become a star through talent and hard work.

All three sink to bed-hopping and pill-popping.

Perhaps Jacqueline Susan’s packaging of her novel as an exposé of life in the fast lane was the bait that led normally sensible readers to make it the top-selling novel in the US in 1966.

It certainly wasn’t the plot, which is little more than a dramatization of the graffiti found in a high school toilet.

Susan ends the novel by assuring readers that people who do the things she has described so vividly will end in the valley of the dolls, a slang term for drug addiction.

Instead of being the saving grace that pulls the novel from the gutter, the tacked-on moral ending is the damming blow that condemns it forever to the trash heap.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Masquerader Is Bold-Faced Entertainment

QR code for The Masquerader
Masked link to The Masquerader

Within the first 1000 words, The Masquerader plunges from the back benches of Parliament to the backstreets of London, setting up a psychological thriller that readers won’t soon forget.

In a dense fog, John Chilcote bumps into a man who could be his twin. John Loder’s resemblance to him offers Chilcote a way to maintain his position without giving up his morphine addiction.

He hires John Loder to exchange places with him.

Loder had at one time eyed a political career. The opportunity is too good to be passed up.

Thanks to Chilcote’s reputation for eccentricity and Loder’s interest in politics, the masquerade works smoothly, until women get involved.

Though married, Chilcote has been flirting with a woman with whom Loder had had a brief affair years before. But Loder find’s Chilcote’s wife, Eve, far more to his current taste.

The personalities of the characters make the outcome inevitable.

Katherine Cecil Thurston doesn’t give readers time to realize the absurdity of the look-like theme before she sweeps them away into the plot.

The Masquerader may not be great literature, but you can’t beat it for entertainment.

The Masquerader
by Katherine Cecil Thurston
Harper & Brothers, 1904
328 pages
1904 bestseller # 3
1905 bestseller # 7
Project Gutenberg ebook #5422
My grade: B+

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni