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Act Like It, Lucy Parker (A) – I’m late to this party, but like so many others I found this novel absolutely wonderful and loved every minute of it. Sort of in the tradition of an enemies-to-love story, here the main characters are less enemies than indifferent to each other, that is until they are coerced by their agents into public faux dating as a PR move to smooth over the hero’s bad-boy reputation. At the start of the novel, the two stage actors, Lainie and Richard, have a generally negative opinion of the other. The first third focuses on overcoming prejudices, and this plot is a good reminder that all is not what it seems in life. Lainie has been publicly dumped by a shallow and insincere popular actor and has earned Richard’s censure and bemusement for getting herself into such a situation. On the other hand, Richard’s surface cynicism and grumpiness creates all sorts of media nightmares for him as an actor and public figure and has convinced Lainie that he’s essentially a rich and spoiled jerk. The initial “dates” are very funny and full of miscommunication as both characters wrap themselves in gloom over their predicament while attempting to act like they are in a state of adoration. Richard really is one of the crankiest heroes in a romance novel I’ve encountered, and I love that the author does not sugar coat his general misanthropy.

Lainie is also a great heroine who has a sharp wit as well as an all-around sweetness to her. Though most of the novel is through her perspective, Richard’s falling in love is clearly revealed in a number of small gestures, words and acts that build upon each other. To his great surprise, he comes to care for her deeply as a friend and then lover and given her general wonderfulness, it is so heartening to sit back and observe his inability to stay reserved and remote. Through Lainie’s eyes we witness too the inherent goodness of Richard and why his persona is a cynical one. Richard is not exactly a tormented bad boy though and some of his social reserve and grumpiness is a personality issue. By the end of the novel, it is pretty clear that Lainie and Richard are right for each other and need each other in life. There is also a significant conflict that separates them briefly and forces Lainie to fight hard to hold onto something she has come to realize is truly special, and some of these scenes are quite emotional to read. It’s so rare to find books that are both funny and heart-wrenching.

I would add finally that the setting of London’s West End theater world is wonderfully realized here. I hope in future books that Parker continues to examine the craft of stage acting as this world is unique and fascinating.