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Cheap Diamonds    by Norris Church Mailer order for
Cheap Diamonds
by Norris Church Mailer
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Aspiring artist Cherry Marshall craves more out of life than the dull future her parents have planned for her. Born and raised in Sweet Valley, Arkansas, Cherry desperately wants to appear in the pages of Vogue. With stars in her eyes, she heads for New York City, where her hopes are quickly dashed. She's told she's too tall, too blonde, too pale - everything she shouldn't be to blend in with the rest of the 1970s top models. But Cherry is determined to live her dream, and it's not long until she finds herself rising through the modeling ranks.

But the differences between her and the other big-city girls run more than skin-deep. Their glamorous, shallow lifestyles conflict with the small-town values her parents instilled in her, and Cherry begins to wonder whether she's in over her head. As she delves deeper into a world of fame and prestige, she finds herself drawn into a strange arena where morality isn't black and white, and the distinction between right and wrong becomes more and more difficult to establish. Just how much does Cherry have to give up to live her dream, and why didn't anyone tell her the price would be so high?

Cheap Diamonds is the second novel in a planned trilogy. The first book, Windchill Summer, painted a striking picture of the events that have led Cherry to where she is today. Set during the Vietnam War, the book offered a touching introduction to a sympathetic character. In contrast, Cheap Diamonds rips Cherry out of her Arkansas setting and propels her right into the middle of New York City during the roaring seventies. It's a world completely unlike anything she knows. Here, 'men have boyfriends', women have more than one boyfriend, and 'paintings of soup cans pass for art.'

The first thing that struck me while reading Cheap Diamonds was how utterly authentic it sounded. It was clear from the first page that Mailer knows the dramatic high-fashion world intimately. In fact, Mailer (wife of novelist Norman Mailer) used to be a model herself. Like Cherry, she's also a painter who was born in Arkansas but moved to New York to follow her dream. Cheap Diamonds, with its eccentric characters, vivid details and fun plot, reads a little like a tell-all autobiography. Mailer insists 'Cherry's story is certainly not mine', but it's difficult to ignore the parallels between the author's life and her character's background.

A fun, quirky read, Cheap Diamonds is an entertaining page turner perfect for a summer's day at the beach. Fans of insider intrigue will be delighted with this exclusive peek at a glamorous world.

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