Cover of The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert. An extreme closeup of a young Black woman's face. She's wearing sunglasses, makeup, and has long, manicured nails.

About the Book

Title: The Blackwoods
Published: 2023

Cover Story: I’m Ready for My Close-up, Mr. Demille
Drinking Buddy: Champagne
MPAA Rating: R (sexuality, substance abuse, mild language)
Talky Talk: Days of Our Lives
Bonus Factors: Hollywood, Generations
Bromance Status: Encore!

Cover Story: I’m Ready for My Close-up, Mr. Demille

A nice portrait of whom I assume is Ardith, though this picture tells us pretty much nothing about the plot. If you’d told me this was a book about a young woman getting her groove on after a bad breakup, I’d believe it.

The Deal:

Hollywood legend Blossom Blackwood has just passed away. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, many of whom are entertainers in their own right, have gathered to say goodbye to the family matriarch. Her great-granddaughters Hollis and Ardith take the loss especially hard. Ardith is an up-and-coming young television actress. She lost her own actress mother to substance abuse and tries to find solace at church, where she can just blend in. Hollis is just a regular high school student. But she’s also a Blackwood, which means her family has money. And when her classmate Orlando looks down on the rich girl…well, it hurts.

The story is told in multiple points of view: Hollis, Ardith, and Blossom, from her childhood in the 1940s to the 1980s.

Drinking Buddy: Champagne

Two pints of beer cheersing

The three Blackwood ladies are a trio to be proud of. Ardith tries to keep a squeaky clean image, but that’s not easy in Hollywood. Hollis tries to pretend that she’s just one of the crowd, but it’s not simple when your family is all over the news, as her classmate Orlando, who works as a waiter, likes to point out. And Blossom…dear Blossom…

Blossom is the daughter of another Black actress, who never progressed past ‘maid and slave’ roles in Hollywood’s early days. Blossom is determined to pick up where her mother left off, starting out in a traveling music show. But when a boy named Michael comes courting, is she really going to go on with her silly dreams of stardom? Especially when she finds herself ‘in trouble’ and Michael wants to do the right thing?

These three women are willing to make it in a shallow world on their own terms.

MPAA Rating: R (sexuality, substance abuse, mild language)

So Hollis, in order to relieve back pain, opts for breast reduction surgery. And she asks her friend Dwayne to take the ‘before’ pictures, sans top. It’s an act so intimate, so trusting, something she’d only do with someone who truly cares about her.

Then the pictures wind up online. And since she’s related to the recently-deceased Blossom Blackwood, all kinds of sleazy websites share them. How could Dwayne betray her like that?

Ardith is the only family member who attended church with Blossom. To her, church is a literal sanctuary. A place where she can forget about being a star and just worship in peace. Not to be reminded of her mother, and how she broke down and destroyed her family, her marriage, and eventually her own life. But even at church there are sightseers who want to gawk at this teen TV star. And there are bloggers who’d like nothing more than to see her fall off her little perch. Even if they have to push her.

Finally, there’s Blossom. Hollywood has always been dirty, and back in the day, it was cruel, especially to a Black woman. Just how far is she willing to go to make it?

Talky Talk: Days of Our Lives

The voices were great, though at times, the book dragged a little. Subplots like Dwayne wanting to quit the basketball team or Ardith’s friend Matty taking her clubbing kind of slowed down the pace of a long book. Blossom’s sections didn’t really peak my interest until she started succeeding in Hollywood. But I never felt bored, and I never felt the urge to skip ahead. I also truly cannot thank the author enough for concentrating on just three members of the family. I was terrified I was going to have to memorize everything about Blossom’s son and daughter-in-law, grandkids, and a third great-grandkid.

Bonus Factor: Generations

A book open with a family tree growing out of it

Blossom’s chapters take us from the 1940s to the 80s. It’s interesting to see her go from a wide-eyed country girl with dreams of stardom to one of the Hollywood elite. And it’s fun to witness the historical events along the way, such as her family living through the Watts Riots, the streaker at the 1974 Academy Awards, or Blossom being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show (most young readers won’t realize he was a real person). It was a lesson in history without feeling like a history lesson. And it was nice to see how Blossom (and her mother Flossie) paved the way for the next generations’ successes.

Bonus Factor: Hollywood

Screenshot from Entourage, with a now famous actor and his buddies walking the red carpet

I’m certain that at some point in their life, everyone considered trying to make it in Hollywood or on Broadway. Sure, for many of us it was just a pipe dream, but for people like Blossom, they followed that star. But as a Black woman, Blossom faced racism and sexism. Producers and directors who wanted to get her on the casting couch. Relationships that had to be kept secret because society (and his wife) wouldn’t understand.

At a time when Hollywood actors and writers are striking to remind us of their worth, this timely book brings home the real struggles of people in the entertainment industry.

Bromance Status: Encore!

This author has yet to disappoint.

Literary Matchmaking

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is another great read by the same author.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years #2)

Brent Hartinger’s Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is another story of an aspiring actor fighting prejudice.

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry

Things Too Huge to Fix By Saying Sorry is another multi-generational tale.

FCC Full Disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or VIP wristband.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.