Built to Last is sweet and charming read that reminded me of a couple of books I’ve read this year and mashed them into a single volume. You have the child star who’s gotten involved in life outside of their gig acting (a la Birds of California), you have the reunion that takes place for a public event, and you have the two co-stars who find themselves in love. I’ve read the premise before, but the execution is what matters, and this one is definitely worth the read.
The amazingly named Shelby Springfield (is Hahn a Simpsons fan?) is still trying to overcome her past as a child star. She was a costar on the Disney/Nickelodeon style The World According to Jackson, where she played Makayla, the sweetheart of the titular character. Shelby and her co-star, Lyle Jessup, dated in real life, and when they went through a horrible breakup as they exited their teens, the world shifted. Shelby tried to break out of the box to become a singer, and instead had a big old public meltdown, and Lyle made creative grist out of their breakup (see: You Chose Wrong, his Grammy-winning hit about her leaving him). Her mother – a pushy stage mother who actually wrote a tell-all book about her – is a nightmare she’s mainly shut out of her life. Now she’s trying to pick up the pieces as a furniture rehabilitator, and is living with her dad while doing so.
Cameron Riggs, who played Jackson’s best friend on the show, has long since carried a torch for Shelby. He’s always hated her mother (his equally negative relationship with his dad is no prize either), and tried to defend her against the world’s slings and arrows. Cameron became a globetrotting documentary filmmaker, but he’s always come home whenever Shelby needs him.
This time, he’s called home for a different reason. Lyle has a proposal for them – a reality home renovation show called HomeMade. Though Shelby is reluctant to step back into the spotlight and Cameron is reluctant to settle down, Lyle coaxes them into appearing on the show. The problem, naturally, will be keeping things professional – which is hard to do when Cameron and Shelby are tempted to give their attraction another try and the ever-scheming Lyle dedicates himself to causing drama. But a shot at redemption for Shelby and a shot at love for Cameron are waiting around the bend.
Built to Last is realistic about the pain that child stars go through. Cameron, in particular, is a likable cinnamon-roll who loves Shelby no matter what but is reluctant to take the relationship further. Shelby, too, is a likable person who’s survived a hellish childhood (her mother is a true nightmare). Hahn gets everything right about tabloid culture, and provides a lot of fun. Lyle – a Justin Timberlake-clone, complete with his very own modelized wife – is a perfect foil for them both.
The romance here provides a nice, spicy slow burn, and it’s a comfortable pace that gives Cameron and Shelby – who are worth liking and loving time to grow on readers. I liked Shelby’s relationship with her father, Cameron’s struggle in overcoming his relationship with his own dad, and Shelby’s reunion with her dream of becoming a singer.
Built to Last is fun and romantic, and a good way to spend an early fall afternoon.
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