Total Star Rating: 3 Stars
By now, anyone who knows me and my website also knows I am a huge fan of the writing duo that is Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. I have read just about every title they’ve thrown out: The whole Beautiful Bastard series, Love and Other Words, My Favorite Half Night Stand, and The Unhoneymooners. The BB series being my favorite of course, I’ve stuck around and have continued to read whatever they’ve released.
The usual of what I expect from these two lady authors made yet another appearance in this novel: fun and witty dialogue and banter, romance with such obvious chemistry, along with lighter moments with plenty of humor to juicy and angsty confessions of feelings revealed.
What seemed different from this title compared to their other recent novels was how the main characters were created. Tate Jones wasn’t as quirky and awkward as their other heroines, which is fine for me, but still had plenty of snark. It’s also a love story about second chances after a brutal betrayal that rocks their world.
Based on what I’ve seen in other reviews, the main critique was how they couldn’t find themselves getting behind the characters as much this time around. I personally disagree; the fact that the story is structured so differently is the reason I felt like these characters stood out more. I can agree that besides the two main characters who are love interests, the rest of the cast fall pretty flat and forgettable, which is a usual case with a contemporary romance title, especially a standalone.
Overall, I liked this book for the most part but didn’t love it; it what you usually expect from the authors, but nothing too mind blowing or amazing either. I wouldn’t say this book is dramatically better than their other books, but I can say it’s still going in a good direction and I continue to be a fan, I’m glad they were able to mix it up in terms of setup and overall backstory revolving around the characters.
What It’s About:
The story begins with you meeting the main protagonist, Tate Jones, as she travels with her grandmother to London, England. A small town girl from Northern California, Tate is absolutely in awe of the city filled with so much culture, so many sights, tastes, and smells to enjoy. The vacation of a lifetime becomes even more memorable when they’re unexpectedly joined by two farmers from Vermont: grandfather Luther and his adopted grandson, Sam.
Soon, both Sam and Tate are absolutely inseparable and they develop a special bond while meeting out in the grass every night to lie down and stare at the stars. It is there they both confide things they’d never admitted before to anyone else: their hopes, dreams, fears, and even family secrets. Sam admits he thinks Luther doesn’t have long and their trip may be his way of saying goodbye, and Tate reveals she’s actually the daughter of one of the most influential faces of Hollywood, something her and her family had always feared would someday get out.
What turned from the most amazing two weeks of her life quickly turns into a nightmare, as Tate finds herself betrayed and surrounded by hundreds of flashing lights, screaming voices; mobs of photographers and reporters swarm, and her life is changed forever…
Years later in the present day, Tate has become a well known successful actress who’s about to take part in the role of a lifetime that could really launch her career to be taken seriously; she’s even working side by side with her biological father! To make matters worse, guess who turns out to be the screenwriter of the film itself? I think you know where this goes…Tate has a lot riding against her on set, a lot is riding against her, and would she dare allow herself to forgive past mistakes and rekindle the spark that went up in flames so long ago?
What I Liked:
- Book Takes Place on a Film Set! Being a former film student and an overall fan of filmmaking in general, I was able to enjoy this aspect of the story where a lot of it involved them telling a story within a story. I especially loved the decision to have them write out parts like an actual script when Tate and the others acted out scenes they’d been filming in that moment, it made it more fun and showed they they were in film-mode and it was separated from everything else going on behind the scenes. It’s also another story that goes behind the scenes of Hollywood and how the rich and famous act behind the scenes. It was unusual how Tate and her father interact and how the demeanor changes from whether or not a camera is around to record it all.
- Dreams Come True…Just Not How We Expect It! By now, a lot of us can agree when I say that life likes to really show us it’s strange sense of humor. We have aspirations and dreams, and most of the time, it never goes the way we want it to. What we think we always wanted may not actually be what we need, but the point I’m trying to make in this is Sam’s personal goal of being a writer. It’s one of the secrets he’d revealed to Tate when they were kids in London, and without giving too much away, it’s revealed that there has been some tragedy behind him in his past. In having tragedy, he’s found a way to have it be a driving force to continue pursuing his passion, and it even becomes the central theme of the script he wrote for the movie within the story. It was a more heartwarming moment to discover the personal meaning behind the script Sam wrote when it’s revealed.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The Poorly Paced Ending…So, by the time I’d gotten to the 50% mark of the book and took note of what exactly was going on in the story, I’d begun to feel a slight edge of panic and asked myself: How is this all going to tie together?… As I’d feared, the ending just left a lot up in the air and didn’t feel all that satisfying. There were issues that had not been resolved, in fact, one important issue had gotten to it’s breaking point and then you’re just left out in the cold as to how it’ll play out…Will Tate and Sam get their justice? –Of course they will, duh, it’s a romance and HEA’s are inevitable– But they seriously decide to end the book before we even witness it?…I have many questions, first one is HOW DARE YOU?
- Too Much Time Spent on the Past…This kind of goes with #1 in terms of criticizing poor pacing, but while I’d enjoyed the time in London over a decade prior to the current time in the book, after awhile, it’d felt like way too much time had been spent Tate and Sam when they were young kids falling in love. I get it, the first time someone falls in love is a pivotal moment, a right-of-passage in a way, but It felt like it’d dragged past a certain point, and could’ve been condensed in order for more events of the present to be able to shine more.
- Not Enough Romance?…There was a difference in narrative structure with this title compared to their other stories, and while there was definitely tension between Sam and Tate all those years later when they run into each other again, it still felt like there was a lacking of intensity with their unresolved feelings. Like, I didn’t really feel the heat between them until the book was completely done. The ending saves it, but it shouldn’t take until then to be able to really feel the spark between them. Maybe this was only because we only really hear from Tate’s point of view?
Another fun title contemporary romance title from Christina Lauren, it’s a novel that has pretty mixed reviews compared to other books they’ve written. Some people liked the change of pace this story presents, others did not. I’m personally on the latter, but think this story would’ve improved if they’d either shortened the first part of the story or added at least 50 more pages to the ending to make it more satisfying by tying up more loose ends with subplots.
I’m still waiting for them to strike gold and blow me away with one of their books and completely suck me in like their Beautiful Bastard Series did, but I have faith they will one day!
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell