Birds of California
Grade : B+

Birds of California is one of the better post-#MeToo showbiz-kids –grow-up-in-Hollywood novels.  Warm and inviting,with engaging characters who are enjoyable, it gets slightly dinged for pacing issues.

Fiona St. James was once the child star on the family dramedy The Birds of California, which combined the joys of ornithology with various issues surrounding growing up.  The show only lasted for four seasons, but Fiona is still an object of curiosity and sometimes has to battle back Twitter rumors that she’s died, especially as she took to the party scene when she was still a minor and went through a very public meltdown along the way. Her penchant for acting out and rebellion resulted in – among other things - her riding naked on the back of a lizard, leading to a media frenzy.  She doesn’t want to talk about it.  She’s in her late twenties now and is happily living her life out of the spotlight, working at her father’s print shop.  When her agent tries to get in touch with her, she ignores the call.

Sam Fox portrayed her brother on the show, and he’s eked out quite the life for himself, both in the Hollywood limelight and in several TV shows since then, becoming a minor heartthrob.  But after all of those highs, lows arrive. His last series was just cancelled, and his party lifestyle has resulted in an empty bank account.  His previous job went badly enough that his agent won’t take his calls. He’s currently jobless and prospectless, which causes him to agree to show up on a Birds of California reboot series.  The producers won’t agree to back a pilot for the show without Fiona, and since Fiona’s acting career has boiled down to taking community theater work, getting her to sign on will be quite a feat.

While Sam tries to convince Fiona to show up for the show, Fiona learns that the naturally comic Sam has secretly hidden dramatic ambitions that no sitcom role could scratch, and he learns that Fiona had a terrible reason for leaving Hollywood behind – and for breaking down.  But can Fiona trust Sam’s motives for getting the show together, and can Sam avoid letting the creature known as Hollywood swallow him up for good?

Birds of California is a good contemporary romance with a solid core and relatable/believable characters.  I loved Fiona a lot, although it takes a while for Sam to get over his oily behavior (there is a Big Downbeat moment where he has to reevaluate his behavior and realize what he’s lost in her).  The romance is a traditional enemies-to-friends-to-lovers slow-burn that’s engaging and involving, funny and touching, in equal amounts.  The way Fiona’s mental health crisis is handled worked for me, and I liked these completely flawed and messy and yet human people.

But the pacing toward the end of the book is definitely where it trips up, because everything happens at once.  This is one of those books that needed more time and pages to percolate its denouements, both of which drag the grade down.  But Birds of California is still a worthy if flawed piece of work.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes
Grade : B+
Book Type: Women's Fiction

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : April 29, 2022

Publication Date: 04/2022

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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