Lucky Stars

Lucky Stars

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by Jane Heller

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Stacey Reiser left Cleveland for Hollywood to pursue an acting career—and to escape her lovable but meddlesome mother, Helen. But her plan backfires when the widowed Helen sells her house and follows Stacey to tinsel town, invades every aspect of her daughter’s world and drives her crazy. As in eye twitch crazy. Insomnia crazy. Acid reflux crazy. “If only Mom would


Stacey Reiser left Cleveland for Hollywood to pursue an acting career—and to escape her lovable but meddlesome mother, Helen. But her plan backfires when the widowed Helen sells her house and follows Stacey to tinsel town, invades every aspect of her daughter’s world and drives her crazy. As in eye twitch crazy. Insomnia crazy. Acid reflux crazy. “If only Mom would get a life,” Stacey wishes after her mother has called for the zillionth time that day to nag her about her clothes, her hair, her lack of a wedding ring. “If only she’d get a life and stay out of mine.”

How could Stacey ever imagine that Helen would get a life – the very life Stacey craves? Just as Stacey's career takes a dive, a twist of fate lands Helen in a television commercial that catapults her to stardom. Now it’s Helen who’s the media darling and Stacey who’s the meddler. And while Stacey is hoping for a commitment from her boyfriend, it’s Helen who snares the catch of the century. Or does she? Helen’s new beau isn’t what he seems, and it’s up to Stacey to expose his shady past before it's too late. But it’ll take the acting job of a lifetime to do it, not to mention a whole lot of heart. Lucky Stars is a novel that’s as keenly observed as it is entertaining, and it will have mothers and daughters laughing out loud and nodding in recognition.

About the Author:
JANE HELLER promoted dozens of bestselling authors before becoming one herself. She is the author of Cha Cha Cha, The Club, Infernal Affairs, Princess Charming, Crystal Clear, Sis Boom Bah, Name Dropping, Female Intelligence and The Secret Ingredient. She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is at work on her next book. Visit her website at:

Editorial Reviews

As much Sex and the City as I Love Lucy...saucy heroine and screwball plot add up to a romp.
Dallas Morning News
The supremely talented Ms. Heller delivers snappy wit, lush romance, and plenty of surprises…just the thing to spark a romantic adventure of your own.
Women's Own on The Secret Ingredients
Riotous…hilarious, but also ruefully dead-on in depicting the dangers of not appreciating one's mate—warts and all.
Booklist on Female Intelligence
[Heller’s] observations about men are dead-on and hilarious.
Library Journal on Female Intelligence
A breeze to read, full of laughs and solidly built upon an intricate, suspenseful plot.
Boston Globe
Jane Heller is feisty, funny, and fully in control…a great story.
As much Sex and the City as I Love Lucy...saucy heroine and screwball plot add up to a romp.
Newark Star-Ledger
Kristin Kloberdanz
Heller's tenth novel concerns thirty-four-year-old Stacey Reiser, a struggling actress whose domineering widowed mother, Helen, follows her to Los Angeles in an attempt to control her life. Much to Stacey's chagrin, Helen finds more success in Hollywood than Stacey ever did. She also captures the one other thing eluding her hapless daughter: a charming producer boyfriend eager for commitment. Stacey becomes suspicious of her mother's new beau and begins a clumsy investigation into his mysterious past. While Heller has a cheerful way of making far-fetched scenes seem plausible, her enthusiasm can't rescue the predictable plot.
Publishers Weekly
This frolic by Heller (Female Intelligence) may be the spiritual descendant of Freaky Friday, but she delivers her story in fresh language, with singular energy. Stacey Reiser comes to Hollywood to become an actress. It also doesn't hurt that L.A. is far both from her native Cleveland and from Helen Reiser, a feisty, 66-year-old know-it-all widow who's marvelous as a walk-on in your life but impossible as a mother. But Helen ups and moves to L.A., too, the better to nag 34-year-old Stacey about her split ends and unmarried state. Through a cascade of events that begins with a bone in a can of tuna and one of Helen's legendary complaint letters to the corporate office, Helen ends up where Stacey always wanted to be: the rich and famous star of a commercial and the darling of the talk-show circuit. She even has a dashing suitor, Victor Chellis, with a fully staffed estate in Beverly Hills. Naturally, Helen's whirlwind ascendancy takes place just as Stacey's career tanks. Reviewing her performance opposite Jim Carrey in Pet Peeve, almighty movie critic Jack Rawlins tells his TV audience that Stacey has the "subtlety of a sledgehammer." Stacey rapidly becomes the old Helen, nagging Mom about her wardrobe and the dubious Victor. Only Stacey's acting talent and a nail-biting car chase can restore mother and daughter to their proper roles. It's spirited, effortless entertainment with a winning premise and plenty of references to Hollywood stars and the latest TV shows. Agent, Ellen Levine. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale from the author of, among eight others, The Secret Ingredient (2002). Budding actress Stacey Reiser wishes her mother would get a life already. She phones constantly to nag and whine, and doesn't seem to have anything to think about but her darling daughter-who just moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles, partly to advance her career and partly to retreat from Mom. Helen calls whenever she feels the urge, and it's not as if Stacey can just turn off her trusty Nokia. What if her agent was trying to reach her? Not that Hollywood's begging for her services ever since film critic Jack Rawlins gave her a devastatingly bad review for her small role in a Jim Carrey comedy. Stacey's demeaning salesclerk job at Cornucopia, a posh housewares boutique, will just have to pay the bills for now. Then-oh, no!-her mother decides to visit sunny California. Wonder of wonders, mom's incessant complaining pays off when she vociferously objects to a bone in a can of Fin tuna and is offered a spot as the company's spokeswoman. She's suddenly sought after for character roles when the commercial airs nationwide. Everyone from Woody Allen to the producers of Sex and the City wants the feisty old lady-but Helen takes it all in stride. Until she meets Victor, a con man who woos older women by telling sob stories about his wealthy wife's mysterious demise. Stacey is appalled, though Helen is charmed. Since her mother won't believe that Victor is up to no good, Stacey must uncover the truth as she contends with an unexpected admirer of her own: critic Jack Rawlins, who's immediately smitten when he meets her in person (and apologizes for being so nasty). Helen keeps pitching Finin a tin as Stacey frets over her career and engages in rather obvious role reversal. How come her mother never picks up the phone when Stacey calls? As fish stories go, this one flounders. Film rights to Lakeshore Entertainment
From the Publisher
"Wildly inventive...Heller's prose is quite funny and always engaging...Stars shines."—People

"Fresh language, with singular energy...spirited, effortless entertainment."—Publishers Weekly

"A first class dramatic comedy...Jane Heller is a talented writer." -Midwest Book Review

"Jane Heller's winning novel is one no grown-up daughter should miss." -Woman's Own

"Funny, fast-moving."-Boston Globe

"Brims with romance, intrigue, and loads of laughter."-Romantic Times

"Light reading at its finest." -Booklist

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Jane Heller

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Jane Heller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312288484

Chapter One

I loved my mother, really I did, but there were times when she drove me nuts. And I don't mean nuts, as in: she aggravated me. I mean nuts, as in: she made the tiny vein in my left eyelid twitch. I mean nuts, as in: she gave me hives. I mean nuts, as in: she had the power to cause my period to be irregular.

No, Helen Reiser wasn't a force of nature, just a nagging mother, an overprotective mother, a pain-in-the-butt mother. She meant well, but she just couldn't face the fact that her "baby" had grown up.

She called me a million times a day, offered her advice whether it was solicited or not, had no compunction about saying, "Your hair's too long" and "Don't forget to take an umbrella" and, on those rare occasions when I was actually dating someone, "He's not right for you." She was the opposite of a shrinking violet. She was like a weed that grows and grows and grows until it chokes the entire garden.

She was only five feet two, but she was built like a linebacker-a short but sturdy woman with square shoulders and thick ankles and ramrod-straight posture-and she had this nasal, adenoidal voice that was so unmistakably hers that it got under my skin, haunted me in my sleep, brought me to my knees, especially in combination with the narrowing of the eyes and the arching of the brows.

"Come on, Mom. I'm not a child anymore," I'd pipe up whenever she'd boss me around, "and I don't appreciate your constant interference."

"Oh, so you'd rather I didn't care?" was her typical comeback. "You know, Stacey, there are plenty of mothers who don't care about their children."

"Yes, but caring is a lot different than criticizing," I'd point out.

"Who's criticizing?" she'd say. "You're being too sensitive."

Huh? She would literally stop speaking to people who didn't fall all over her in the supermarket, but I was too sensitive?

"I'm just an honest person," she'd add. "And you should thank your lucky stars that I am honest, because not everyone is, dear."

Like that was a news bulletin. I was a thirty-four-year-old actress on a quest for fame and fortune in Hollywood, a place where honesty is hardly ever an option. The minute you get here you start lying spontaneously, as if there's something toxic in the drinking water. You lie about your age (you shave off ten years minimum). You lie about your heritage (you claim to be one-quarter Cherokee, or whatever is the heritage du jour). You lie about needing to supplement your income with a real job (you explain that you're only waiting tables in a biker bar so you can research a character). And then there's the lying that comes at you from the other side (you go to an audition and they tell you you're wonderful and you never, ever hear from them again).

Of course, my mother wasn't thrilled about my choice of a profession, any more than she approved of my boyfriends or the fact that I had yet to get married. When she wasn't hitting me with: "God forbid you should give me a grandchild," she'd hit me with: "Why can't you do something practical for a living, like Alice Platkin's daughter?" Alice Platkin's daughter was an accountant who, unbeknownst to Mrs. Platkin, was also a psychic with her own 900 number.

But whenever I did land a part, however small, she was right there cheering for me. Cheering for me and then reminding me to drink my milk.

She loved me and I loved her and I understood that one of the reasons she was in my face was because she was lonely. She was a sixty-six-year-old widow living in the same house in Cleveland where she raised me. She didn't have a job. She didn't play bridge. She didn't even belong to a book group. While she did have a few close friends, they were her emotional twins in the sense that they, too, lavished all their attention on their children. Whenever they'd get together, it wasn't a gathering of pals sharing confidences, but a contest between competitors one-upping each other about their offspring. (One competitor: "My Sarah is marrying a proctologist." Another competitor: "So? My Emily is a proctologist.") As her only child, I was her focal point, her keenest interest, the center of her universe. In other words, in this era of navel gazing, it was my navel she was always gazing at.

Maybe you have a mother like mine-the kind who's there for you but makes you feel like an infant as well as an ingrate. Maybe you've experienced the love/hate, the push/pull, the yearning for approval/the yearning for independence. Maybe you, too, are the good daughter who harbors a secret wish that your mother would leave you the hell alone. But even you couldn't have predicted the bizarre turn my relationship with my mother would take. You see, all I asked was that she get a life. I never dreamed that the life she'd get would be the one I wanted.

But I'm jumping way ahead of myself. Let me go back to the period before the situation with my mother became the stuff of Greek tragedy (okay, French farce). Let me begin with the day my mother decided that calling me on the phone and leaving messages on my answering machine and reaching me on my pager didn't meet her requirements for mother-daughter closeness, the day that she came up with the brilliant idea of selling the house in Cleveland, moving to L.A., and becoming my neighbor ...

I was sitting in the outer office of the casting director, trying to stay calm while I waited for my turn to read. Auditions are a nerve-wracking experience, but it's important to harness your fear, make it work for you. That's what they tell you in acting class-to use your emotions. Yeah, well, I used my emotions that day, but not in the way they meant.

This was my second callback for a network television movie (aka movie of the week, or MOW) about a death row inmate, who had twenty-four hours to prove her innocence before meeting her maker. I was there to read yet again for the part of Angie, the strong, brave, utterly unflappable sister of the death row inmate, who was to be played by Melina Kanakaredes. The part wasn't huge, but it was a juicy part, a showy part, the kind of part that gets actresses noticed. I was ecstatic that I had made the first cut and would now be reading for the casting director a second time.

Also sitting in the outer office were seven other hopefuls, six of whom could have been my clones. They were my approximate height and weight (five feet six and 115 pounds) and had my identical look (wavy dark brown hair, fair complexion, pretty face although not breathtaking), and they sported my girl-next-door wardrobe (khakis and a buttoned-down shirt). The seventh hopeful was an actress who bore no resemblance to me or the others-a vixen type whom I'd seen at lots of auditions. How could you miss her? She had boobs that were so high and mighty they could have starred in their own MOW. Plus she was notorious for playing preaudition head games with other actresses, her intent being to sabotage our readings and win herself the parts by default. For instance, she'd say, loud enough for all of us to hear her, "Someone told me they've already cast this thing, which means there's no point in hanging around." Or: "Rumor has it that the director is a prick to work with." Or sometimes she'd just try to rattle us by doing vocal warm-ups, taking deep breaths and, on each exhale, making exaggerated and obnoxious vowel sounds, like "ahhhh" and "eeeee" and "ooooo."

I forced myself to ignore her and instead pumped myself up, remembering that I had as good a shot at getting the part as she did. Better, because I was on a roll at that point in my career, on the verge of genuine success.

I had come to L.A. six years before, full of cockeyed optimism, believing that all my drama teachers back in Cleveland had meant it when they'd said I had talent. During the first few years here, I hadn't gotten anybody's attention and then-bingo!-I'd landed a TV commercial for Irish Spring. The part called for the character to wash in the shower, and I was the only actress at the audition who mimed sticking the bar of soap in her armpit. Big deal, right? Your armpit is one of the places where the soap goes when you're washing yourself in the shower, isn't it? Well, the director thought I made "a really edgy choice" and practically gave me the job on the spot. That commercial led to a commercial for Taco Bell, which led to a stint on Days of Our Lives, which led to guest-starring roles on Boston Public and Ally McBeal Before I knew it, I was shooting a pilot here, a pilot there. Before I knew it, I was no longer waiting tables at the biker bar. Before I knew it, I was moving out of the Burbank fleabag I was sharing with three other women and moving into my own apartment in Studio City. Before I knew it, I had a part in a feature film. It was a comedy called Pet Peeve, in which Jim Carrey played a veterinarian and I played his receptionist. I was only in two scenes with Carrey and I didn't have a lot of lines, but hey, it was a feature film, for God's sake! It was going to make a fortune on opening weekend! I was on the brink of being considered hot, which is, hands down, the best thing that a person in Hollywood can be considered!

But in the meantime, while I waited for the release of Pet Peeve, I continued to go on auditions, like the one that day for the MOW about the death row inmate. I was sitting there in that outer office, contemplating the motivation of the character, trying to channel the strong, brave, utterly unflappable Angie, when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the number of the caller, hoping it was my agent's. That's why you take your cell phone everywhere, even to auditions-in case it's your agent. But, no, it was just my mother checking in.

I'll let my voice mail talk to her, I thought, stuffing the phone back into my purse. No way she's going to distract me before I go into this reading.

A few minutes later the phone rang again. As before, the caller's number was my mother's.

I'm busy, I growled silently. May I please just get this job and then call you back, Mom?

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. Guess who.

I waited, tried to put myself back in the mind-set of Angie, the sister of the death row inmate, but my mother's voice kept creeping into my head. Maybe it's urgent, I allowed myself to think. Maybe she's sick or in trouble or needs me. Maybe I shouldn't blow her off this time, because if I do and something is really wrong, I'll never forgive myself. God, the guilt.

Against my better judgment, I played back the messages.

The first one said, "Stacey, it's your mother. I have news."

The second one said, "Hi, Stacey. I'm not sure if the first message got through. There was terrible static on the line. You should switch wireless carriers, dear. Verizon is a lot better than AT&T, in my opinion, so listen to your mother."

The third one said, "So where is my little Meryl Streep today? And did she remember to take a sweater with her? The Weather Channel said it was chilly there. Not as chilly as Cleveland, naturally, but you won't have to worry about me freezing to death anymore. That's what I'm calling about, Stacey. I have a big surprise for you. I've sold the house and I'm coming to live in L.A. with you. No, not with you. I would never impose like that. I meant I'll be living nearby, in my own place but close enough to stop by and see you every day. I'll be able to make sure you're eating enough and taking care of yourself and keeping your apartment clean. And I'll be able to see who your friends are-including your men friends-and you'll be able to tell me everything that's on your mind, face to face. It'll be just the way it should be between a mother and daughter. No more of this long-distance nonsense. Whenever you turn around, there I'll be. Now, don't thank me. I'm sure you're very grateful that I'm uprooting myself for your health and well-being, but that's the way I want it and I won't hear a word of protest. So listen to your mother and don't try to talk me out of this. Understood? Fine. Speak to you later."

I was stunned, a big, hard knot forming in the pit of my stomach. Stunned! My mother was coming? For good?

It'll never work, I thought. We'll kill each other first.

I had a tough enough time when she'd visit me for a week. At the end of her trip, I'd put her on the plane and immediately head for the nearest bar. It would usually take two, maybe even three, margaritas before my pulse returned to normal. So if a week with her made me looney tunes, what would forever do to me? How would I survive?

So much for the part of Angle in the MOW. I began to dwell on the notion, the specter, of my mother taking up residence in L.A. and invading my space. I began to picture her dropping by my apartment, toting casseroles consisting of food groups I hadn't eaten in years, rearranging the contents of my kitchen cabinets, stripping my bed in order to make better hospital corners. I began to imagine a typical conversation between us, during which she would criticize some aspect of my life and I would ask her not to and she would say why not and I would explain that it was upsetting and she would tell me I was overreacting and I would argue that she was the one who needed to change and she would act hurt and disappointed and I would end up apologizing.

"Stacey Reiser?"

I heard someone calling my name, way back in the outer reaches of my consciousness, but I was still obsessing about my mother's news and couldn't quite focus.

"Stacey Reiser? Hello!"

I snapped back to reality. It was the assistant to the casting director who was calling my name. Apparently, it was my turn to read for the part of the strong, brave, utterly unflappable Angie.

I went into the casting director's office and took my place opposite her and, after the obligatory pleasantries and a moment to collect myself, I launched into the part of Angie.

"Of course I believe in my sister's innocence," I began. "I've always believed in her, even during the trial, even with the awful things people have said about her, even after the guilty verdict. It's all been a mistake and I hope and pray she'll be granted a stay of execution." I paused, waited for the casting director to feed me the next line. "You bet I'm standing by her. And yeah, I'm strong. In our family we don't knuckle under when times get rough. We learned that from our mother."

On the word "mother" I felt a catch in my throat. Well, a sort of a gulp. A bubble. A glob of phlegm. I coughed, said, "Excuse me."

"Would you like some water, Stacey?" asked the casting director.

"No, thanks. I'm fine," I said, the lump growing, taking on a life of its own.

"Why don't you pick up with 'we learned that from our mother,'" she instructed me.

"Oh. Sure."


Excerpted from LUCKY STARS by Jane Heller Copyright © 2003 by Jane Heller
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Jane Heller promoted dozens of bestselling authors before becoming one herself. She is the author of Cha Cha Cha, The Club, Infernal Affairs, Princess Charming, Crystal Clear, Sis Boom Bah, Name Dropping, Female Intelligence and The Secret Ingredient. She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is at work on her next book. Visit her website at:

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Lucky Stars 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
She loves her mother but budding actress Stacey Reiser really wishes that she would get a life. Stacy is tired of her mother¿s frequent phone calls, unsolicited advice and suggestions on how to hold on to a man. Even though there is not a man in her life at present, she is getting roles in movies and televisions shows instead of commercials. When Helen Reiser sells her home in Cleveland and moves close to her daughter in L.A. Stacey goes into shock. Stacey becomes persona no grata in movieland when Jack Rawlings of Good Morning Hollywood trashes her part in a movie. Through a quirky set of circumstances Helen becomes the star in a series of tuna fish commercials, which leads to her to becoming a Hollywood icon. Stacey is happy for her mother even though she has to take a sales job to pay the bills. She becomes very concerned when her mother falls for a man with a shady reputation. Stacey, with the help of Jack (the pair are now an item), try to dig up some evidence against him because her mother won¿t have her daughter dissing her boyfriend. LUCKY STARS is a first class dramatic comedy starring two strong-willed women who are experiencing role reversal. Readers will find themselves chuckling out loud at some of the conversations these two women exchange. The romance between the actress and the film critic adds another layer of complexity to the plot, as does Stacey¿s antipathy of her mother¿s beau. Jane Heller is a talented writer whose latest work crosses genre lines with this lush witty melodrama. Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's a shame this release was actually published!!! I've read Hellers other books and always found myself laughing out loud and throughly enjoying each page. (At times I'd read straight through in one night.) This time however I kept reading all the way through, hoping that it would get better. Alas the wit was dry, barely funny, a not too difficult to figure out storyline and very little in the way of romance as some of her other books had. Shame. Hopefully Heller's writing skills haven't left her entirely and her next book will be far more enjoyable.