Love can’t rewrite the pages of one’s past, but it can cover a multitude of sins---one page at a time.
Premise: A WW2 widow hired to write an exclusive memoir lands on McCarthy’s hit list and must clear her name while trying not to fall in love with the born-again, ex-Hollywood heartthrob whose scandalous past keeps him too busy to notice her. Or does it?
Summary: 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?
Camille writes tales of tender love, grace, and redemption. Her novels include Like There's No Tomorrow, Like a Love Song, The Memoir of Johnny Devine, Wings Like a Dove, and The Secret Place. Her novellas include Savanna's Gift and The Healer.
I had the pleasure of reading this book and it instantly went to the top of my all time favorites list. I won't share much about the plot as it's just way too fun to discover on one's own so I'll just say this - I started it at noon and finished it a bit after midnight and somewhere in between HAD to cook dinner and sort of have a life (which was really difficult!) so OH BOY...this book was so fantastic. Absolutely no surprise that it got 5 stars from RT book reviews. It's one that I read on eBook and plan on getting in paperback as well to have on my keeper shelf and to share with friends!
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.
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 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 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 past experiences that make them wary of forming a new romantic relationship.
One of the strengths of this novel is its spiritual theme, for Christ’s love, mercy and grace are seen 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 her. This story has an emotional spiritual impact that any reader can relate to.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine has romance, but it is so much more! Highly recommended.
Thank you to Singing Librarian Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Just after the close of WW2, war widow Eliza is trying to make ends meet; she’s having a hard time holding down a job in post-war California. As a war widow, she’s entirely dependent on her own efforts to earn a living. When she gets a chance to become a ghostwriter, she can’t say no.
Then there’s Johnny—damaged by his own past excesses and scarred by war wounds, but finding new life in his new faith.
I really loved this story. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about the McCarthyites before and the extreme excesses of suspicion. The FBI figures in this story and some scenes were pretty intimidating!
Well, Camille Eide has done it again. Swept me away to another time and place. Once I opened the pages of The Memoir of Johnny Devine (okay, so I was reading it on my computer as I was copyediting it), I found myself transplanted to 1950s California. I immediately fell in love with the characters, especially Millie and Eliza. I liked Johnny Devine too, picturing Gary Cooper in my mind.
This story has thematic elements that are not appropriate for younger audiences. But it is definitely a good read that I recommend for adults who want to experience a tale that could have actually happened. It isn't based on a true story, but it kind of feels like it is. The story comes to life so easily under author Camille Eide's watchful care. She has quite a way with words and story elements, artfully weaving each thread into place until the full tapestry blazes on the pages. I cannot wait until I get to read this one again upon its release!
I honestly expected a little more since this book was so highly rated. I did enjoy it and it was well written, but it didn't compel a 5 star rating out of me.
My major point of contention is that Johnny's age is never explicitly stated. At one point he refers to his age in a certain year, so I could probably do the math if I really cared to, but it left me a little confused throughout the whole story. Is he going to be the love interest or is he way too old for her? Does he walk with a cane because of a war wound or because he's an old man? I can't picture him unless I know if he's in his 40s or 60s. . . Maybe I should've just done the math. Lol.
Other than that, though, it was a well told story - something different than the norm in Christian fiction, which I appreciate. It's set in an era I've read very little about (the early 50s, MacArthur and the "Red Scare"). There were various storylines throughout the book, but they weaved together well and were all sufficiently concluded.
I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend and I am so very glad that I did. This is a beautiful, emotionally-charged story that grabs your attention from the very beginning. The author writes some beautiful turns of phrase and descriptions that are delightful and enjoyable. It moves at a steady pace with several well-placed conflicting events that keep the book from dragging along like some romances tend to do. The sympathetic characters, sweet romance, and intriguing mysteries make it an absolute delight to read.
“The Memoir of Johnny Devine” is a historical romance novel set in Hollywood in the 1950s. I can’t remember the last time I read something set in this time period, but I found the history and culture of the time to be fascinating. The story is told from the viewpoint of Eliza Saunderson, a talented but unknown writer who barely makes enough to survive and stay in her tiny, one-bedroom apartment, but who is spunky, likeable, and sympathetic from the very beginning. The other leading character is John Vincent, also known as Johnny Devine, a reformed heartthrob/ladies’ man/movie star with regrets and wounds much deeper than the shrapnel that crippled his leg during the war. While we don’t get to hear much from his point of view, the reader can’t help falling for the wounded, noble hero that we see through Eliza’s eyes. When hired to assist in writing his memoir, Eliza has no idea that her life (and his) will never be the same.
This book definitely falls under the inspirational/Christian fiction category because it is full of instances of redemption, grace, and forgiveness that were well-written without being too “preachy.” I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone with a love of Christian fiction and/or historical romance. 5 stars!
FTC Disclosure ex.: A review copy of this book was provided via SLB Tours.
I was privileged to read this story from the first snippets through the final draft. From the beginning, I was mesmerized by the concept, and being a lover of all things nostalgic, Camille – who usually writes contemporary – astounded me with her talent for reaching back into the pages of time and delivering a story that not only resonates, but is packed with wonderful romantic tension, just like the old films I love to catch on Netflix. Here’s my short endorsement, which doesn’t do this story justice at all. “Film noir and gripping romantic tension leap from the pages of The Memoir of Johnny Devine like a perfectly choreographed dance. Camille Eide’s writing is poignant and lovely from the first page to the last.”
Combining the romance of classic Hollywood, the intrigue of the Cold War era, and a stirring spiritual message, The Memoir of Johnny Devine is unforgettable. Eliza, John, and all the supporting characters are compelling, and Camille Eide’s strong and evocative writing brings the story to life. A novel to savor.
I loved this book. It's not often that I find a book that keeps me up at night reading. This one definitely kept my complete interest until I finished it. Also contains some very swoon-worthy kissing scenes.
I won this book in a Facebook giveaway, sponsored by the author. I wasn't asked to leave a review, but I did anyway because it's a good book.
I can't remember who recommended this to me but it was a fun read. It takes place in post WWII America. A war widow struggles to make ends meet and is forced to get work through a temp agency helping a reformed Hollywood star write his memoir to help change lives. I enjoyed a lot of this. I found the McCarthyism a little forced, but otherwise it was good.
Hollywood, glamour, fame, and misery. When Eliza and John meet, they have no idea how much they will end up needing each other.
I LOVE the setting that Camille Eide has chosen for this novel. Post WWII in California, with a Hollywood star, the "Red Scare", and a woman pushing toward her dream even if it doesn't fit the mold people expect.
I instantly fell in love with the main characters of this book. Eliza with her forthright attitude and determination to give a voice to those who have none. John with his brooding nature and all encompassing charm. And we can't forget Millie, she is definitely one of my very favorite secondary characters of ALL time! Her compassion and heart for Jesus and for John is so very tender and precious.
Filled with redemption, romance, heartache, and forgiveness, this book has truly "You have bewitched me, body and soul." With the turmoils of the times, fear of communist spies in America, distrust and hidden pasts, can Eliza trust anyone? Will her life be torn apart just as she begins to feel safe? Find out for yourself when you read The Memoir of Johnny Devine.
I received a complimentary copy of The Memoir of Johnny Devine from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
Camille Eide’s new release, The Memoir of Johnny Devine, is one of those special reads you hope to find, but rarely do. It’s a unique story that plays out in glamorous 1950’s Hollywood. With a unique quiet tension, the story builds, drawing readers into the lives of heartthrob, Johnnie Devine and unpretentious, Eliza Saunderson, co-writer of Johnnie’s memoir.
While Johnnie’s past carries the two collaborators into a maelstrom of memories they are also drawn to each other and their own story. In the midst, an over-zealous, anti-soviet campaign charges them with being Communist sympathizers and threatens their careers and reputations.
The power of this story drew me in and refused to release me. When forced to put down the book the characters went with me, and I couldn’t wait to return to its pages. It is brilliantly written and felt as if every fragment of story and nuance of character were real. It did not feel like fiction.
I really enjoyed this book! A fantastic story, I felt like I had been transported back to old Hollywood. I loved the main characters and one of the supporting characters--Millie--quickly made her way into my heart. The romantic tension is great--a must for me! As a lover of history, I loved finding out about the Red Scare, a subject I knew little about. It was very poignant to read about some of the prejudice during the time of the book. This book has some great truths in it and I dog-eared quite a few pages. Highly recommended!
Quote from the book: "Grace takes far more strength than hate does. Because grace isn’t given based on what’s fair or deserved. It’s an undeserved gift, given deliberately. Maybe that’s why it’s easier for people to dole out justice than grace. And maybe that’s why some of us find grace so difficult to accept."
Ms. Eide had me at 1953, and really won me over with the reality of Eliza's plight and her determination and pluck to continue writing, even though her topics about racial, ethnic, and gender oppression were considered subversive for the era. The Memoir of Johnny Devine superbly captures the raw emotions and fears bubbling so near the surface in the early 1950s, all because the 'red scare' was sweeping through the US like a flash flood, snatching at the innocent along with the guilty.
Communism and social issues both play a large role in this novel, perhaps uncomfortable to some, but also very real and necessary to understanding how events like the Salem Witch Trials and the 'red scare' could ever happen. Fear is a great motivator and paranoia is often birthed from that same fear.
However, don't suppose that just because Ms. Eide's latest deals with such somber topics that it's a book without humor, because it is awash with good humor and entertainment. I love the 1920s through the 1950s and so I loved the realism of the era captured on the page. But also, I admit this novel also chipped a little of the rose colored lenses I wear regarding earlier eras. Life wasn't perfect, neither were the people. Perhaps those happy little lives and marriages we see captured in such shows as I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best really go only skin deep, not even scratching the surface of reality.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine will make you think, if nothing else.
I'm drawn to damaged characters. Eliza Saunderson was deeply scarred by her husband's infidelity and cruelty. When he died in the war, her first reaction was relief, followed by guilt. Now she spends her days writing articles about oppression and struggles with serious trust issues, especially when her older sister keeps pushing her to remarry because she's not getting any younger and marriage is the only respectable occupation for a woman. She's a sympathetic character with strong passions toward the downtrodden and I can connect to those things.
As for Johnny Devine, I believe firmly that anyone can be redeemed. John hides nothing while he's writing his memoir. He was a louse and a scoundrel with more sexual partners than you can shake a stick at. But that's not the man he is now, and I loved seeing how God changes lives. I've found throughout my life that a lot of Christians try to pretend that their lives are perfect, when in reality, we're all sinners, neither better or worse than Johnny Devine and his string of lovers and self-indulgence. He has no arrogance about his salvation because he knows Who did the raising up and renewal of his life. His is a beautiful and heart-rending story of redemption.
Millie and Duncan, John's servants, are both dear souls, especially Millie who reaches out to Eliza and helps her realize the compassion and forgiveness of a heavenly Father. All of the characters, even the ones I despised, even the ones like Eliza's sister Betty who is one of the naggiest women on earth, felt genuine.
I am absolutely over the moon when it comes to Camille Eide's writing! Her work is fresh and original, with an authentic voice of realism that makes me feel all the things I should be feeling, without the sensation that I'm being prodded there by artifice. I wish all writers possessed her same mastery of voice for truly, Ms.Eide's work is a cut above the rest in my book!
My Final Thoughts
Every time I pick up one of Ms. Eide's novels, I'm reminded anew of how much I love her work. I never imagine it possible for me to love her next book more than the one I just read, but it always happens! Crazy, I know, but there you have it. She is now of my favorite authors, who I will continue to treasure and whose works I will continue to read for as long as she writes. I encourage anyone who loves "real" fiction and who yearns to be divinely touched by an author's writing, reminded of God's faithfulness, to give Camille Eide's books a try, be it this one, or Like There's No Tomorrow or Like a Love Song (review to be written at some point).
The Memoir of Johnny Devine delves into an era and setting that is not touched on much in Christian fiction. I applaud the author for taking the chance because it certainly pays off. Her writing style is fresh and engaging, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with these characters. I wasn't expecting this story to have so many elements to it - romance, yes, but also family secrets, suspense, and a hint of danger. The plot flows smoothly, and there really isn't a point that things lulled for me.
Eide gives a strong portrayal of the dangerous extent that the United States government and the people were afraid of Communism. Anything that even hinted at it could have been grounds for arrest, and suspicions were rampant. Eliza Saunderson wants to write in order to speak up for oppressed people, but doing so makes her a target of anti-Communist government agents. Equally strong is the author's portrayal of the glamour of Hollywood, along with it's sometimes seedy underbelly. There was no place for empathy and mercy for a has-been or someone caught in scandal. These elements make John Vincent, also known as Johnny Devine, an intriguing figure, and I loved peeling back the layers of his story along with Eliza. Even more dangerous than leaving Hollywood behind is being accused of Communist activity, and both Eliza and John are under intense scrutiny that culminates in some exciting moments.
And, ah, the romance. Such a slow burn, but so tender, lovely, and dare I say, swoon-worthy. I just adored every moment of it. Overall, each element of the story flows together well - the confusion and heartache of her family's past tie in nicely with the rest of the story, adding a compelling layer to an already complex story. I think that's what impressed me most - the emotion that the story evoked, whether it was love or fear or the joy of discovery, they're all keenly felt and never compete with one another.
The themes of judgement and forgiveness are strong in the story, with both characters needing to forgive themselves and others to move toward reconciliation. Highly recommended to fans of romantic, historical fiction! Can't wait read my next Camille Eide novel!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author, which I chose to review. This review is my honest opinion.
I really liked this book. This author loves the Lord indefinitely. It. has come through her writing and her characters. Johnny Devine is a broken person until he meets Jesus for the first time in his life. He learns that Jesus will forgive us our sins and can help us turn our lives around if we truly want it. I believe this man does. Especially after what he puts in his memoir. I was astounded by what this man has done in his life. I was pleased that he wanted to use his memoir to lead ppl to God through his book and then just maybe that ppl will follow Jesus. Eliza is a young woman who I truly admire. When she set out on this adventure to write Johnny's memoir she had no idea what was in store for her. Eliza had guts to stand up for what she believed in and that to me is awesome no matter what other ppl think. Millie is a sweet old lady who believes in her Lord faithfully and is Johnnys housekeeper. She is the one who is responsible for nudging Eliza in the right direction. Eliza starts opening her ❤ to Jesus and eventually let's Him help guide her. I love this book because it has helped me to be a stronger believer Christ. I need to let Him guide me instead of me guiding myself. I think it's very wrong to judge ppl for their skin color or whatever the case may be. God created us all equal to be like in His image. I loved Millie from the start. I'm like her in many ways. I too am ready to go home to be with my Jesus. All we need to do is ask Him. I received this book through the SBL tours for an honest opinion on this book. Again I loved it!!
I was truly blown away by acclaimed author Camille Eide’s powerful and inspiring story, A Memoir of Johnny Devine. Eliza Saunderson is requested to help ex-Hollywood star Johnny Devine write his memoir. She is in desperate need of the money and accepts. As Eliza learns about Johnny’s life of past regrets and secrets, she must deal with her own struggles, as her parent’s unknown ethnicity and past catch up with her and is accused of being a Russian communist and spy. This story reaches a deep place in the heart of readers as secrets from the past unfold, family ties are reclaimed, and Eliza discovers the healing Grace of God’s love, friendship, forgiveness, and eventually romance, while helping Johnny write his memoir. With a beautifully written story and enticing characters, I would recommend this story to any reader that enjoys historical fiction and is ready for an enlightening and spiritual journey.
Genre: historical, Literary Awards: 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) Publisher: Ashberry Lane Publishing Publication date: December 1, 2015 Number of pages: 279
Content Rating: PG Book Rating: 5 stars
A review copy of this book was provided by SLB Tours.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine turned out to be not at all what I was expecting—and I mean that in the best way. I thought I'd be reading a Golden Age of Hollywood romance, and while there is some romance present, this novel is about so much more.
John's story—from being a high school dropout running from his past to becoming one of Hollywood's leading men to finding the Lord and changing his priorities—is simply fascinating. It also feels so real. In fact, I finished the novel wishing I could pick up John's memoir just to get the rest of the story.
Besides the slow unfolding of John's story, the novel also contains intrigue, as it takes place at the height of McCarthyism, and both Eliza and John find themselves the target of investigation—John because of his Hollywood connections, and Eliza because of her parentage. Eliza's quest to clear her name was especially fascinating.
Completely captivating and wholly engaging, The Memoir of Johnny Devine shows the power of Christ to change someone's life, whether that person has lived a life of debauchery or a life of striving to be good; no one is out of the reach of Christ. 4-1/2 stars.
The Memoir of Johnny Devine is a treasure of a story. A story I couldn't unwrap fast enough, page after page. I knew it had to be good, after sky-high praise from writing friends I trust.
But I really couldn't put down this gripping tale of a writer/journalist collaborating on the memoir of an ex-Hollywood heartthrob. Desperate, wary Eliza and humble, broken John were so very real, their lives and hurts so vivid, I felt like I might run into them walking down the street.
The author's detail to the timeframe and setting--early 1950s Hollywood--is meticulous; while reading the story, I caught myself thinking, 'swell, I have to..." :) And a riveting subplot detailing the frightening Red Scare adds an air of mystery and tension that mixed beautifully with the burgeoning romance between the main characters.
And the romantic tension--Wow. Ahhhh. Sigh. So well done!
Most important, the message of redemption weaving through each scene, is faith-affirming. Grace and its power bursting through Eliza and John's lives was just exquisite on the pages of The Memoir of Johnny Devine.
What a lovely, unique story, one I so enjoyed reading and highly *highly* recommend.
Eliza Saunderson is a widow struggling to earn a living as a writer. Notoriously famous Johnny Devine is an actor writing a memoir with a message. Unfortunately, he knows more about Hollywood than he does about authoring a book.
When Eliza is sent by an employment agency to edit a manuscript, she has no idea that the book’s author is a Hollywood legend—until she meets him. Based on his reputation, she is hesitant to work with him, but she needs the promised salary. The charm of The Memoir of Johnny Devine is seeing how these two confront their differences.
Camille Eide has done a masterful job of taking the reader back to the early 1950’s by adding sub-plots about McCarthyism and the racial prejudice of the times. A strong theme of the Lord’s healing and redemption flows through the pages, adding to the plot rather than detracting from the story as a whole.
From the blurb, I figured this book was going to be a good historical romance with a little mystery thrown in. But it was so much more than that. Let me first tackle the historical and mystery aspect. If you haven't heard about the Red Scare, then Ms. Eide's novel is a great way to be introduced to the trials people suffered. To sympathize and empathize with the people who came under scrutiny. My heart ached for Eliza as she came under suspicion for communist ties. The mystery kept me on edge, made me wonder what would happen, and if she could solve her family's mystery. Mind. Blowing....
I love stories that are set in unique time periods, especially when the author does the work needed to truly capture the era. Camille Eide does that in spades. From the magical silver screen and Hollywood gossip all the way through McCarthy’s hunt for communists, this novel drops you head first into the 1950s and you won’t step out until you’ve read the final page. And trust me–the finish is “sigh-worthy.” Not only is the romance tender, the story is a beautiful rendition of God’s grace and forgiveness. Don’t miss it.
Camille does not disappoint with this book, it was a fantastic read. Set in 1953, it is the beautiful story of a women called Eliza struggling to live independently in a time where women were only considered successful when they were well married. There are many loveable characters throughout the story and I couldn't put it down once I started reading.
This book needs to be made into a film! Thank you for writing another amazing book Camille.
Sometimes I'm a little nervous when a book gets great early reviews. But in this instance, those reviews are well deserved. I was captured by Eliza's determination to be a writer and do her part to right perceived wrongs. And Johnny broke my heart with his sorrow and regret over all those wasted years. Throw in a little Red Scare to keep me on the edge of my seat and this book went by too quickly. Great story, important message, and satisfying ending. Check it out!
This book really surprised me. The characters are believable and the historical setting is intriguing. I think I connected with the character because I'm a writer myself. I also really enjoyed the McCarthyism Red Scare subplot. Some subtle social commentary is present, but not in a preachy way; rather, it's approachable and relatable.
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, because historical/inspirational/romance is NOT my go-to genre. But what I found was an entertaining story that portrayed the characters with a redemptive narrative arc that also remains true to the human condition. The character...the tension...the dialogue...the romance...Johnny Devine is a truly entertaining, well-rounded book, and worth the read.
[For the sake of transparency, I do want to disclose that I do know the author personally. But everything I said here is genuine: I really liked the book!]