London Celebrities, Book 1
Heat Factor: It’s getting steamy, but I’m still confused about why I like you so much
Character Chemistry: Super-grump meets bouncy-Tigger sunshine
Plot: Co-stars forced to fake date to boost a play’s PR
Overall: Immediately got the sequel
At the most basic, fundamental level, Act Like It is a really successful grumpy-sunshine romance. If that’s what you’re looking for (*cough* Ingrid *cough*) then read no further.
Here’s the set-up. Richard and Lainie are in a play together in London’s West End. Richard is a supreme grouch (understatement), and has most recently been reported throwing plates at a chef in a fancy restaurant. It’s time for the PR team to step in. Their solution? Richard will fake-date Lainie, the sweetheart of the stage.
Neither is thrilled about this plan. They aren’t antagonists precisely, mainly because Richard hasn’t been bothered to even register Lainie’s presence as a human being, but they definitely don’t care for each other.
But needs must, and, of course, once they start spending time together, Lainie sees behind Richard’s very very abrasive shell, and Richard sees that Lainie has a brain and a sharp sense of humor behind her sunny disposition. In short, they come to see each other for who they really are.
So what makes this book special?
First, the persistent presence of the tabloid media is a useful plot device for ratcheting up the pressure on the relationship. Lainie and Richard’s fake relationship isn’t just for friends or families or coworkers, but rather for the paparazzi, who are (naturally) always out for blood (or at least a good story).
Second, Act Like It is a well-balanced book. Lainie and Richard are sharp and sparkling, which makes for fun reading—but they are also carrying grief, Lainie over her younger sister who died of cancer a few years previously, Richard because he is so friggin’ lonely and can’t admit it to himself. So we have a good balance of wit and angst. There’s a decent amount of plot that moves the story forward, balanced by quiet moments where our protagonists can just be together.
Third, a fake relationship where both parties are professional actors, and therefore are always wearing a mask, makes for extra “is this real or is it fake?” angst. Delicious.
And finally, Parker just does grumpy-sunshine really really well. Richard is a true misanthrope, and that grumpiness extends beyond his personal relationships—his public persona is so widely disliked that someone keys his car while he’s at a fundraiser—but Parker balances his public anger with private pain. In addition—and this is key—Richard’s shift to softness toward Lainie happens naturally over the course of their forced proximity. And when he falls, he falls hard:
She looked over at him, smiled that perfect smile, and for a moment he couldn’t fucking breathe. He’d played this, onstage and on film, countless times before age had sharpened his features and his reputation had tarnished his character, and he’d been more frequently cast as the villain than the lover. He’d had no idea.
True love, hitting Richard like a box of bricks. *sigh*
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