by Camille Eide
Love can’t rewrite the pages of one’s past, but it can cover a multitude of sins a page at a time.
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?
The Memoir of Johnny Devine is a dramatic story within a story of a bad boy and a good girl, both in need of reform. It’s a powerful tale of love, redemption, intrigue, and the miracle of God’s deliberate grace.
Ever interrupt your regularly scheduled reading for a book you’ve gotta try, like, right now? Yeah. I put my schedule on hold when I found this novel. And taking nothing away from the muted and intriguing silhouette approach of the newer cover, it’s the older cover with the bright marquee, the vintage typewriter, and the rose that got me in the mood for this historical fiction read.
I’ll admit that the story’s pacing and the timing of events didn’t always work for me, and sometimes the style felt more basic than what I was expecting. Also, I never fully got into the romance. Though I appreciate serious characters, a romance in particular isn’t so compelling to me if one or both parties seem down or sorry much of the time without more to balance them out. Whether it’s by way of humor or wit, or seeing how they liven right up while engrossed in their talent, purpose, or pleasure, or what have you, I just like to see a little more from romantic characters to keep their downbeats from becoming redundant.
However, the overall setting and themes kept me interested, especially the Red Scare elements. And a heroine who writes to combat racial and gender-based injustices—while wearing glasses, no less? Count me in as a fan of that.
I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.
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.
I really enjoyed this story! Johnny’s faith journey made for a heart tugging and soul stirring read! I think this is the first historical I’ve read that is set in the 1950’s, I really liked learning about some of the issues that were happening then that I wasn’t familiar with prior to reading this novel!
This is a great read and I recommend it!