by Janet Lambert
I am reading all of the Penny Parrish books in order and have just finished Up Goes the Curtain. I have chosen this particular one, which is 4th in the series, to review because in many ways it is an unusual book. Spoilers ahead, if a book like this can have spoilers. It introduces a new possible love interest in Josh MacDonald, the stage manager in the play that Penny has gotten a part in. He does not follow the usual stereotypes of fine upstanding young men that our girl’s series heroines, including Penny, usually become involved with. He is grouchy, not conventionally handsome or tall, sarcastic, unsympathetic, and (mercy!) makes fun of Penny when she screeches to a halt in the middle of a crowded backstage to pay due respect to the playing of the National Anthem. He is a wounded soul with an unconventional childhood and was put on some kind of psychological leave from the Army, which he entered as a private. (According to him he blew his top when the big bad Army wouldn’t send him to the front, but gave him the job of directing propaganda and recruiting plays. Yes, really. “ I was so mad to be doing for fifty bucks a month what I’d been paid a thousand for, my nerves blew up. They flew in all directions like a busted light bulb.”) No true-blue WestPoint cadet here. And this is why I totally love him for Penny. He reminds me of the John Garfield character in the old movie favorite, Four Daughters. Or when Rory fell for Jess in the Gilmore Girls. No doubt in the end he will prove himself “worthy” of our heroine, but, boy, what an entrance. He was especially refreshing after the sickeningly blissful marriage of beautiful angelic Carrol and handsome noble David.
In addition to this very intriguing and, for girls-series, cliché-busting romance, we have Penny going all Judy Bolton/Nancy Drew and catching a spy at Fort Knox, Carrol going to the hospital to “get” their baby (this part is a scream), and Michael, her likable childhood sweetheart going missing in action. There are some behind-the-scenes looks at the professional theatre, which are quite captivating and probably fairly realistic considering Janet Lambert was an actress. Penny’s struggles with a scene-stealing colleague, Miltern Wilde (gay?) are entertaining. We also have Penny and Carrol striking up a friendship with a New York waitress and rescuing her from her slum and moving her bag and baggage to their Park Avenue penthouse. Lucky, Lucky girl. It all ends rather abruptly with no news of Michael and Penny carrying on bravely by preparing for her next performance. Can’t wait to start Practically Perfect.
June 5, 2015