Friday 22 January 2016
#CBR8 Book 4: "Act Like It" by Lucy Parker
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rising star and current darling of London's West End, Elaine "Lainie" Graham has to pretend to be passionately in love with and kiss her ex-boyfriend Will Farmer every evening and sometimes for matinee performances. While none of her family really liked him, she was still shocked and upset when she discovered he was cheating on her - by seeing it splashed on the front page of the tabloid news media. Now she's pretty much sworn off men for a while and is none too amused when the theatre management want her to pretend to be an item with her other cast mate, Richard Troy, playboy billionaire method actor, who is in serious need of an image makeover. After a few too many negative stories, Richard's publicity team and the theatre's manager feel that the audiences and media might look more kindly upon him if they believed he was in love with Lainie. Lainie would benefit from the added publicity to aid her career, and they'd make a very generous donation to her favourite charity.
Lainie reluctantly agrees and has to start appearing in public with a man she finds arrogant, rude and insufferable. Their first kiss, staged for the cameras, is an absolute disaster. Richard is independently wealthy and became an actor mainly to piss off his father. There is no denying his great talent, but he's also condescending, elitist and quite a snob. He has a hell of a temper and while many of the stories in the press have been exaggerated, he's really not a very pleasant man, and it's quite clear that he's never really bothered to notice Lainie, despite the fact that they've been working together for some time. Lainie refuses to take him seriously. Although she respects and admires his undeniable skill as an actor, she goes through with the charade to make money for her cancer charity and isn't really expecting to enjoy herself or change her mind about Richard as a person.
Of course the modern take on the "marriage of convenience" turns into mutual attraction and romance, while very encouragingly not ending with Lainie's love for Richard turning him into a soft, fluffy bunny who never has an unkind word for anyone. I found Will, Lainie's ex a lot more insufferable than Richard and his continued attempts at trying to win Lainie back got really tiresome very quickly. I also really liked that while Richard had a pretty awful family background, this is not used to in any way excuse his personality or the way he behaves. It's just another aspect of his character. He's rude and condescending because he believes himself to be better than most people, not because his parents didn't love him enough.
Lainie is a delight and I loved her to pieces. She's not stick thin and refuses to give up eating just to fit into some sort of idealised media image of what women should look like. I liked her interactions with her family, especially her mum, and the explanation for why she's so passionate about charity work. I loved the scene at the talk show, where the host is trying to make something of the fact that Lainie may be serial dating her co-stars and is brutally cut down and called on her hypocritical line of questioning. I think it was one of the other Cannonballers who reviewed this book who said they pictured her as Christina Hendricks, which was pretty much the perfect mental image for me and how I too cast her in my head.
It was fun to see a romance set partly in the theatre, and I liked the behind the scenes look at the play they were in (a play I would probably have happily paid money to see performed, it sounded pretty cool). I liked that while the author is from New Zealand, the romance is set in London, with British terms and expressions. Almost all the contemporary romance I read is American, so I don't get the comfortable British slang I got used to when living in the UK for six years. Towards the end of the book, while I get why there had to be the big complication that drove Lainie and Richard apart for a while, I'm not sure I agree that the book needed the extra dramatic bit with the characters being put in mortal peril for them to realise their feelings for one another. It didn't detract too much from the delight of the general plot though. This book also features the heroine being sick at one point and the hero helping to nurse her back to health, a story beat I've discovered I am extremely partial to.
I can absolutely see why this book was so highly recommended over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and has already had several very positive reviews over on the Cannonball Read. This is Lucy Parker's debut novel, so sadly I won't be able to track down other books she's written. I will be keeping an eye out for her name and buying anything else she releases, because this was a really fun read and a very pleasant start to my romance reading year.