If former Disney darling Hilary Duff were to one day forsake the glitz of Hollywood, never to appear in another madcap rom-com or soapy CW series again, I'd still be a fan—as long as she continued to pen thoroughly engaging reads like her debut novel, "Elixir," which hits bookstore shelves today.
Co-authored by Elise Allen, "Elixir" is a supernatural tale about destiny and soulmates. Think of it as "The Time Traveler's Wife" starring a much-more-grounded version of Serena van der Woodsen. Perhaps drawing from her own experience in the limelight, Hilary's protagonist is 17-year-old Clea Raymond, a reluctant tabloid staple thanks to her parents' high-profile careers (mom is a politician, dad is a renowned surgeon). From a young age, Clea's dad nurtures her interest in photography, and by her teens, Clea is fielding dream photojournalism assignments under the pseudonym Alissa Grande (no one wants to hire a celebutante only interested in vanity projects, after all).
When Clea's father goes missing on a humanitarian trip to Brazil, and is declared dead months later, Clea begins to notice a mysterious, shadowy figure appear in the background of her photographs. The only thing that could make this enigma more interesting? The guy in the photos is H.O.T! Clea begins having some seriously steamy (not to mention vivid) dreams starring her and the mystery man, and they span the centuries. One night she's a Chicago speakeasy singer named Delia. The next, she's a Shakespearean actress named Anneline. When she confides in her hired escort/BFF Ben, he unearths a stash of her father's photos—dating back to Clea's birth—that contain the (good? bad? indifferent?) John Doe.
Offered an assignment that will take her to Brazil during Carnival, Clea jumps at the opportunity to investigate her father's disappearance, but when she stumbles upon the man from the photos (and her dreams), things take an unexpected turn, triggering a global trek to not only uncover the truth about her father but the truth about the mysterious man's purpose in her life.
Whether by design or by sheer lack of imagination on my part, I couldn't help but picture Hilary as plucky Clea while reading this engrossing novel. Though the actress is now the ripe age of 23, I wouldn't be surprised if she opted to play the movie version of our teen heroine. And there will be a movie version, because a novel this good is just begging for a big-screen adaptation. After gulping up "Elixir," I'm ready for another dose.
Will you be picking up Hilary's "Elixir"?