Scarlet Martin lives in a hotel in New York City. This sounds glamorous, but in reality is not since the hotel in question, the Hopewell, is a rundown building owned by her family. It’s run by her large family, including her parents, her wanna-be-actor/physical-comedian brother Spencer, elegant older sister Lola, and bratty younger sister Marlene. It’s a tradition in the family that at fifteen, each family member “adopts” a suite, taking extra effort to make everything go smoothly for the guest in that set of rooms. Only days after Scarlett’s birthday, where she is given the keys to the Empire Suite, a new and eccentric guest arrives, turning Scarlett’s world upside down.
As if this wasn’t enough, Scarlett is desperately trying to help older brother Spencer save his play. Their parents have given him an ultimatum: actually get a job on Broadway, or be forced to go to culinary arts school. Spencer and Scarlett will do anything to keep their parents from finding out that his show is about to be canceled. And if that means that Scarlett gets to help her brother’s handsome and charming co-star, so much the better.
The relationships between all of the characters were spot on. Author Marueen Johnson has always been good at getting interplay between siblings correct, and here she outshines herself. The complicated and far-reaching effects of Marlene’s status as a cancer-survivor ring true. The tensions between Spencer and Lola, while never fully explained (this is the first in a series) was also well done.
The plot reads a bit like an old-fashioned Judy Garland musical, of the “we’ll save the play!” variety. What saves it from triteness is the depth of the characters. Although not all of the actions of the major characters are entirely believable, the suspension of disbelief is not too great. The overall novel is incredibly amusing. It is the first of three planned novels, and I am sure that legions of fans will be rabidly awaiting the release of the sequels.