Having helped reveal the cover to Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox and featured her with a smashing guest post all about where to eat in New York to go with her book Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner that you can read here, I’m delighted to be starting off the New Year Celebrations for Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner. As well as my review I have a great guest post from Helen casting the film versions of the Secrets and Fries series.
Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner was published on 16th December 2016 is available for purchase here.
Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner
What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?
As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.
Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?
Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?
When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?
Casting The Secrets and Fries Series
A Guest Post by Helen Cox
As well as being an author and a cake addict, I’m something of a movie buff. I actually started out my writing career as a film reviewer. Consequently, I’m probably even more likely than most authors to dream of my books hitting the big screen in film format. I haven’t had any calls from Hollywood yet but you never know…
My dream director for a Starlight Diner movie would be Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve has an impressive understanding of just how long to linger on a shot, showing more boldness than most other directors who are often too quick to cut away, and I was really impressed with how he sensitively explored the journeys of the female protagonists in Sicario and Arrival. His pictures have a moodiness to them that would complement the underlying grit of the Starlight Diner stories.
When it comes to casting, Rosamund Pike would be perfect to play Esther. Her work in Gone Girl astounded me. Amy Elliott Dunne is a deeply complex and transgressive character and the temptation would’ve been to make that a big performance. Pike’s understated and wry approach to the character was much more chilling, and ultimately more compelling. Her recent performance in A United Kingdom also had a subtlety and grace to it not everyone could have conjured. She is one highly watchable woman.
Daniel Brühl would be my pick to play Jack Faber. Most people will have seen him in Captain America: Civil War last year when he played villain Helmut Zemo. A casting choice that to my mind elevated the tone of the entire film. But I first saw Brühl in the film Goodbye Lenin! A black comedy about the fall of the Berlin Wall. He’s definitely got charm enough to convincingly play the somewhat over-confident Jack.
In terms of the newest addition to the Starlight Diner fold: Bonnie Brooks, I think Anna Kendrick has everything this role demands. Into the Woods and Pitch Perfect showcased her impressive singing voice and in Up in the Air, though it was a bit part, she perfectly portrayed the unease and uncertainty of ambitious young upstart Natalie Keener.
Finding an actor who can embody the conundrum that is lawyer-turned-reporter Jimmy Boyle, is no easy task but I’d be hoping Dan Stevens would at least give the script a look. Between his brooding performance in The Guest as the mysteriously edgy David Collins and his softer, gentlemanly offering in Summer in February (not to mention his time on Downton Abbey) he’d be the perfect fit for the tempestuous Jimmy.
Due to the fact she is widely known for her roles in nineties teen movies, thus linking with the nineties setting of the Starlight Diner books, I’d love to see Gabrielle Union cast as Mona. Judd Hirsch’s dry delivery would make him the perfect Bernie and Frank Langella would be an adorable Walt (see Robot & Frank for empirical evidence).
My Review of Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner
On the run from trouble, Bonnie might find that the Starlight Diner leads her out of the frying pan and into the fire.
A confession: I thought, based on the cover design, that Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner would be a frothy chick-lit that was an easy read but without any real merit or substance. I completely mis-judged the book and found it to be so much better than I had anticipated.
Helen Cox has written a great mystery with a lovely romantic element. I thought the fast paced plot was highly entertaining and thoroughly plausible. I enjoyed returning to New York through its pages and could easily see this story as a film as the descriptions are quite visual without being overbearing. I thought Helen Cox created setting very effectively, especially through the food and music she weaves into the narrative and her style is quick -witted and sassy. The naturalistic dialogue also contributes to a very authentic read. I thought there was a genuine American-ness to the story.
I enjoyed meeting the characters and not having read the first of these books Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner did not affect my pleasure at all. Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner can easily be read as a stand alone book. The characters seemed vivid and real and both Bonnie and Jimmy have a depth to them that I wasn’t expecting. I liked the way the author explored how family and past impacted on how characters respond in the present and I’d certainly like to read more about them in the future.
Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner is an effortless read because it is well written, not because it lacks substance as I originally feared. There are themes of belonging and family that many of us will recognise and empathise with as readers so that as well as enjoying a highly entertaining read, we have something to think about too. I highly recommend Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner as a smashing read.
About Helen Cox
Helen Cox is a book-devouring, photo-taking, film-obsessed novelist. If forced to choose one, Helen’s Mastermind specialism would be Grease 2. To this day, she still adheres to the Pink Lady pledge and when somebody asks her if she is a god she says ‘yes.’
After completing her MA in creative writing at the University of York St. John Helen found work writing for a range of magazines, websites and blogs as well as writing news and features for TV and radio. She has written three non-fiction books and founded independent film publication: New Empress Magazine. She currently lives in York and writes novels.