The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly: A Novel
When a runway model in 1940s Hollywood makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves, she triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.
After winning a prestigious fashion design contest in 1948, Aster Kelly flees the world of modeling in New York and arrives in Beverly Hills to claim her prize: a design apprenticeship with Fernando Tivoli. But Fernando has no such job available. He’s busily preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime—proving to Galaxy Studios that he is the perfect couturier for their A-list stars. The moment he meets Aster, though, he knows she’s the missing ingredient he needs and asks her to be his stand-in model for Lauren Bacall. Aster is dismayed to once again have her creative potential sidelined, but when Fernando promises to mentor her if he wins the contract, she agrees.
Aster and Fernando quickly become romantically entangled with Hollywood insiders—Aster with the head of Galaxy Studios, Fernando with their biggest up-and-coming star, Christopher Page—and Aster and Fernando’s friendship becomes essential as they navigate a glamorous and complicated existence where what’s real must often be hidden, and no one is quite who they seem. As Aster’s ambitions grow and she faces a crisis, and Fernando’s future is threatened by the judgmental Hollywood machine, Aster makes a decision that changes the trajectory of their lives forever.
Twenty-five years later, despite knowing little of her mother’s time in Hollywood and being raised well outside the reaches of fame, Aster’s daughter Lissy is poised to become a Broadway star. But when the musical gets off to a rocky start, Lissy makes a rash decision of her own in an attempt to save the show. And when long-buried secrets blindside them both, mother and daughter are forced to question everything they thought they knew.
The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly is a story about the bonds of chosen family, the cost of fame and the enduring strength of love that will keep you guessing until the last page.
Praise for The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly: A Novel
“Fall for the glamour but stay for the secrets. With her ability to craft inspiring American figures with timeless issues, Sherbrooke immerses readers. The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly highlights how the power of hidden love, in all aspects, can shape the trajectory of so many lives.”
— Amy Shane, Independent Voice
“This is a story about the long tendrils of the past, and a look at all the shapes that love can take—soul mates, friends, mothers and daughters, and an artist’s passion for creating. What a ride!”
— Gin Phillips, author of Fierce Kingdom and Family Law
"With a setting that ranges from late-‘40s Hollywood, its glamour, machinations, and dark secrets, to a gritty mid-‘70s New York City full of Broadway hopefuls, The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly is an immersive, tender story about the long journey back to our true selves, and to finding real love. In creating Aster Kelly, Katherine Sherbrooke has given us a singular and unforgettable character."
— Sarah McCraw Crow, author of The Wrong Kind of Woman
"Sherbrooke writes both the fashion and entertainment worlds with such authority, it’s hard to decide whether to applaud this book more for its deft use of setting or for the plot twists that had me gobbling up pages in record time...THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY also delivers when it comes to the characters of Aster and Lissy, a mother and daughter entangled in a web of lies stemming only from the best of intentions. Immersive setting, original story, and true emotion, this book is a triple threat."
— Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, Author of Eden and The Nine
"Elegantly told and heart-wrenching, The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly delights from first page to last. Come for the Old Hollywood glamour; stay for the love letter to Broadway; leave with characters so real you’ll forget they live in the pages of a book. One thing is certain—Katherine Sherbrooke sure knows how to tell a story."
— Lisa Duffy, author of My Kind of People
"Katherine Sherbrooke’s The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly takes us from the haute couture runways of 1940s Hollywood and its galaxy of stars, to the quaint island of Martha’s Vineyard, to the Broadway footlights of New York City in the 1970s. Richly detailed and sumptuously costumed, readers will love the behind the scenes look at the struggles and triumphs, lives and loves of entertainers on both coasts in two different eras."
— Juliette Faye, USA Today bestselling author of Shelter Me and City of Flickering Light
"Infinitely readable, atmospheric and emotionally charged, The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly follows Aster, an ambitious young woman in old Hollywood who is following a dream she can't quite catch. But it's her journey to find enduring love that makes the pages fly. From the glamorous runways of Hollywood to the glittery shores of a summer island, Aster Kelly won’t disappoint with its ability to surprise and delight the reader with its twists and turns. Book club fiction at its best.”
— Brooke Lea Foster, author of On Gin Lane
"Drama and secrets saturate Hollywood—on and off the screen. In The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly, Sherbrooke deftly weaves an intimate look at forbidden love, heartbreak, and life-changing secrets, into a journey through decades of braided worlds of fashion and entertainment from New York to California."
— Randy Susan Meyers, Bestselling author, Waisted
"A staunch activist in the fight for women’s rights who got her start among New England’s abolitionists, [Lucy Stone] has been overshadowed in the historical record by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony…Katherine A. Sherbrooke’s Leaving Coy’s Hillaims to revive interest in Stone by dramatizing her dogged attempts to support herself and her causes on the lecture circuit — and her equally dogged attempts to reconcile her professional career with motherhood and a “marriage of equals."
— New York Times Book Review; Summer Reading 2021