First, block out the fact that the book in your hands was written by a well-known Hollywood actress (formerly Alison from Melrose Place and currently starring in According to Jim ). Then settle in and enjoy Outside In for what it is: a remarkably charming, whimsical story that just happens to be written by Courtney Thorne-Smith. Thirty-year-old Kate Keyes-Morgan is a beloved actress who adores her gorgeous (if slightly snaky, controlling and self-centered) husband, Hamilton, and her role on a nighttime soap opera. And her co-star, the dubiously named Sapphire Rose, is a world-class diva who makes Kate's long days on the set miserable with her outlandish demands and revolting fad diets. Then Sapphire Rose steals Kate's husband and plots to oust Kate from the show. For any other woman, this would mean war, but Kate is worn down from years of snarky tabloid coverage and her husband's put-downs. Without even putting up a fight, she leaves her California mansion and moves back in with her parents. With the help of Paige, her friend and makeup artist (only in Los Angeles!), Kate slowly begins recovering from the years of self-doubt and near starvation she's endured as a celebrity. On an outing to Starbucks Kate meets Michael, an adorable unemployed writer who spends his days tapping out short stories on his laptop. But Kate soon learns that Michael isn't who he seems, and she wonders if there's anyone in this town she can trust.
Thorne-Smith has contributed articles to several magazines in the past, but nothing that hinted that she had such a well-crafted novel in her. She has a knack for swift, funny dialogue, and although Outside In peddles familiar L.A. stereotypes (bitchy celebrity, wheeler-dealer agent and overtanned, underfed starlet) overall its approach to the scene is fresh and surprisingly meaningful. Thorne-Smith obviously has some objections to the business of show business, and she isn't afraid to take the industry to task for its superficiality. Hooray for Hollywood, indeed. Amy Scribner writes from the decidedly un-Hollywood city of Olympia, Washington.