Desert Isle Keeper
Act Like It
I read a number of good contemporary romances in 2015, but never expected to discover one so late in the year, and by a debut author at that! But with this witty, contemporary romance set in the London theatre scene, Ms. Parker is a welcome addition to the contemporary romance.
Lainie Graham, the sweetheart of the London theatre, is in the fourth month of a stage run with two “bad boy” actors. Will Farmer, her co-star, and the man she’s paid to kiss on a daily basis on stage, recently dumped her in a very public way. And then there’s Richard Troy, the villain in the play who overshadows all of the other actors, but whose daily bad behavior puts even Will’s antics to shame.
In the opening pages Lainie alternately thinks of Richard as the theatre group’s “brooding Byron,” an “intolerable prick” and “His Majesty.” Yes, while she may be a “sweetheart” she’s by no means perfect; Lainie has a biting, sarcastic wit that she uses when needed. And while Lainie’s still bitter toward Will, she’s not heartbroken; she knew he wasn’t the great love of her life. After all, Will had morning breath, was a bit dim, and too full of himself. No, the bitterness comes from having been dumped via tabloid stories revealing Will’s involvement with another woman.
Lainie’s uncomfortable work setting worsens when the stage manager and two PR people call her into the office. They feel Richard’s off-stage antics have crossed the line from “likeable bad boy” to “nasty entitled bastard” and he’s starting to negatively affect ticket sales. They’ve decided Richard is in need of an image improvement, and what better way to do it than a “relationship” with the “sweetheart of the London stage.”
Lainie fights vociferously against the notion. Richard – if possible – is even more appalled at the thought of being paired with Will’s jilted ex-lover. However, they’re each “convinced” that the deception will be in their best interests. Lainie is promised thousands of pounds from stage receipts for her favorite childhood cancer charity. Meanwhile, Richard is reminded that if he doesn’t quickly improve his image, he doesn’t have a chance of becoming the next President of the Royal Society of the Performing Arts, a position he’s campaigning for.
I generally find “arranged relationships” unbelievable in contemporary romance. However, in this instance it makes complete sense. Fake relationships arranged solely for publicity for actors appear seemingly daily in the tabloids.
Richard and Lainie’s initial “dates” are hilarious. While they pose as the loving couple for the paparazzi at parties, smiling, holding hands, and even kissing, they’re constantly bickering and insulting each other, with each seemingly outdoing the other. And I love that it’s not instant attraction when they have their first fake kiss in public. Instead, Lainie speculates that it’s the most unexciting, sexless kiss she’s had since a schoolboy kissed her on a dare when she was seven years old.
There is so much I love about this book. Ms. Parker has a deft hand with dialogue, making it feel both current and witty. I found myself smiling while reading this, and frequently laughing out loud. Most importantly, it all felt real.
I liked that Richard and Lainie’s feelings for each other develop in a slow, believably way. I cared for Lainie from the first. Despite being on stage, Lainie feels like a real, normal person, from her large family, to taking the tube to work, to pet-setting for her neighbor’s cat, Cat Richard as she thinks of him. And no, Richard isn’t a “misunderstood” bad boy. He truly does act poorly, thinks most people are morons, and definitely has a short fuse. Despite all that, I found him funny, and gradually endearing as more was revealed about his background and motivations, and as he fell deeply in love with Lainie.
How much did I like this? The minute I finished reading it the first time – and yes, I’ve already read it twice – I went online looking for the author’s backlist. It was then that I discovered Ms. Parker is a debut author and has no backlist! Hopefully other romances will soon follow, as I can’t wait to see what Ms. Parker writes next.