For as long as she can remember Linda has wanted not just to be an actress, but to be famous. And for as long as she can remember it’s a dream her father has dismissed out of hand, insisting the acting “profession” was barely a step above working as a prostitute.
When Linda’s big break finally came, the one that could enable her to move to New York and really make a go of things, her father absolutely forbid it. Not willing to let go of her dream, Linda left home. It was a decision which devastated her mother, who killed herself – and explicitly laid the blame at her husband’s feet – shortly thereafter. Driven now not only by a desire to succeed, Linda’s fire is perpetually stoked by her hatred and resentment of her father.
Then the part of a lifetime comes into Linda’s life…with Broadway legend Chantelle Riviera cast to play it. Once again stuck in the role of understudy, Linda is determined to find a way to finally have her turn in the spotlight. And though it’s not openly discussed, everyone in the production seems to realize Linda actually has a better handle on the part, but Chantelle’s the name. The draw. What Linda needs is for Chantelle to become so unreliable – so unhinged – the director and producer will have no alternative but to replace her. And Linda knows just how to make that happen.
As he did in his debut novel, The White Room, author John Tomaino has written a story that delves deeply into the darkest nooks and crannies of human psychology. Linda’s drive to succeed, fueled by her need for the approval and praise she never received from her father, takes on a sinister edge as she begins to worm her way into Chantelle’s life both professionally and personally. Determination turns into obsession and, ultimately, something even darker. As the cat and mouse game Linda’s playing quickly spirals downward, Chantelle finds herself faced not with an assault on her person, but on something even more precious. Her identity; her very sense of self.
Stardoom is a novel propelled by a growing sense of dread, and Tomaino does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension with every turn of the page. I have to admit though that the ending didn’t quite work for me. What bothered me a bit was not where it ultimately finished, which was fine, but the precise event used to bring about the endgame. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling things, and perhaps it’s my personal background as an attorney which hindered my ability to just “go with” the way it unfolded. Having said that, the ultimate payoff is exactly where the story was destined to end, and Tomaino leaves things on a decidedly creepy, but pitch-perfect note. Indeed, Stardoom is a disturbing case study of the extremes to which people will go driven by their desire for fame…as well as their fear of losing it.
Stardoom is available from Karabeth Publishing.