Get a big bowl of popcorn ready, we’ve got it all here: Old Hollywood Glamour, scorned lovers, paparazzi, found family.
Good to know
At age 26, Advika Srinivasan considers herself a failed screenwriter. To pay the bills and keep her mind off of the recent death of her twin sister, she’s taken to bartending A-list events, including the 2015 Governors Ball, the official afterparty of the Oscars. There, in a cinematic dream come true, she meets the legendary Julian Zelding—a film producer as handsome as Paul Newman and ten times as powerful—fresh off his fifth best picture win. Despite their 41-year age difference, Advika falls helplessly under his spell, and their evening flirtation ignites into a whirlwind courtship and elopement. Advika is enthralled by Julian’s charm and luxurious lifestyle, but while Julian loves to talk about his famous friends and achievements, he smoothly changes the subject whenever his previous relationships come up. Then, a month into their marriage, Julian’s first wife—the famous actress Evie Lockhart—dies, and a tabloid reports a shocking stipulation in her will. A single film reel and $1,000,000 will be bequeathed to “Julian’s latest child bride” on one condition: Advika must divorce him first.
Shaken out of her love fog and still-simmering grief over the loss of her sister—and uneasy about Julian’s sudden, inexplicable urge to start a family—Advika decides to investigate him through the eyes and experiences of his exes. From reading his first wife’s biography, to listening to his second wife’s confessional albums, to watching his third wife’s Real Housewives-esque reality show, Advika starts to realize how little she knows about her husband. Realizing she rushed into the marriage for all the wrong reasons, Advika uses the info gleaned from the lives of her husband’s exes to concoct a plan to extricate herself from Julian once and for all.
Advika and the Hollywood Wives
It Happened One Night
Advika Srinivasan couldn’t take her eyes off the Oscar. It was tottering on the edge of the bar, its golden bald head catching the light in the midst of a swirl of conversations and shouted drink orders. As she nodded at requests of “martini” directed to her face and “Scotch, neat” to her chest, Advika still found her gaze drawn to the gold statuette, disbelieving that something could seem so magnificent and mundane at the same time. Only when she was making a martini for a pink-haired woman wearing a feathery blue dress did she stop to wonder why an Academy Award was perched there for so long. By the time she poured four glasses of champagne and a tray of tequila shots, it was gone.
The awards show had ended an hour ago. Yet new waves of people kept streaming into the Governors Ball from the nearby Dolby Theatre, and as this was the first official after-party following the Oscars, the undulating, sparkling mass all seemed intent on getting drunk. Luckily for Advika, her station was out of the way of the main scrum, situated next to the unofficial smokers’ patio at the far north edge of the ballroom. She liked that this gave her an outside view of the revelry, which was spotlit in violet by an impressive array of lotus-shaped lights twirling above.
Interspersed amid the tuxedos and haute couture gowns were flashes of gold. That was where most people were clustered, around the people clutching trophies, their faces over-taken by enormous smiles. Advika envied their joy—the kind so pure and overwhelming that it’s impossible to hide, so why bother trying. She shook her gaze off the throng, willing herself to focus on her job, so that there would be another job, and another one after that.
Why I love it
Author, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
I love a story that peeks behind the scenes of showbiz, and with Advika and the Hollywood Wives, author and former entertainment journalist Kirthana Ramisetti delivers a standout. This novel dances, rather delightfully, between dark romance, satire, and mystery, and I couldn’t put it down.
Ramisetti drops you straight into the action on page one: On the night of the Oscars, our bartending heroine, 26-year-old Advika Srinivasan, hits it off with Julian Zelding, 67, a veteran film star and producer with Paul Newman’s looks, Pacific Palisades money, and a brand-new golden statue to add to his mantel. Quicker than a romcom montage, Julian starts wining and dining Advika, moving her into his oceanside estate, buying her designer gowns, and asking her to marry him and have his baby. It’s all so sudden and thrilling that Advika scarcely has time to see the red flags waving in the whirlwind—but you’ll certainly scream and point, and then root for Advika when she snaps out of her daze with a mission to discover the truth about her new husband and his famous exes.
Sounds fizzy and fun, right? It is (especially when we meet Victoria Truong, the hilarious Real Housewives-style TV star who left Julian reeling). But Advika has emotional heft and currency too, in its explorations of the aftershocks of grief, bias against women (notably women of color) in Hollywood, and more. Long past the final page, it’s Advika’s complex journey—from “nobody” to nobody’s fool—that lingers.
Member ratings (6,195)
Los Angeles , CA
At first wasn’t sure where this was going as it felt too “on the nose” but loved the way the story evolved and enjoyed how the main character explored the other wives and found her own “freedom.”
This book was a total departure from most things I’ve read this year. I didn’t want to put the book down. This is easily a surprise favorite so far this year. I just wish I thought to read it sooner!
University Place, WA
I love Advika and her journey into this strong woman who was always hiding inside herself. The mystery of the past and balancing our hopes with reality. Was such a good book & better than I thought.
Advika is a great example of how smart women can get caught up in bad relationships. I really enjoyed how this story showed not only the downfall of Advika but also how she was able to pull herself up
San Francisco, CA
Incredible twists, turns, and characters that felt real in their love for each other. Cheered for Advika the whole way through; a deft picture of love bombing and it's toxicity. Truly delightful read.