Eight Weeks in Paris
The publisher’s blurb for this début romance from S.R. Lane drew me in immediately. Eight Weeks in Paris revolves around filming the big-screen adaptation of The Throne, a classic queer novel set in Paris during the Belle Époque, and it promised an enemies-to-lovers romance between the two stars – one a Hollywood bad boy, the other a model and influencer with little acting experience. It’s a great premise and I really wanted to love it. But I didn’t, for a number of reasons.
The Throne, thought lost and only re-discovered in the early 1990s, captured the imagination of movie star Nicholas Madden the moment he read it, and he’s been waiting for years for a movie to be made of it – and to star in it. Finally, his dream is coming to pass; a fantastic director has been hired and filming is about to begin, when he learns that the man cast to play the complex and pivotal role of Angelo, his character’s love interest, is a virtual newbie. To say he’s not pleased is an understatement; this project is very close to his heart and he’s furious at the thought of it being torpedoed by a complete amateur.
When Christian Lavalle – beautiful, charming, openly out-and-proud – arrives on set, Nicholas dislikes him immediately, but is told that the two of them are going to have dinner together that evening so they can get to know each other a little. Nicholas agrees very reluctantly – not that he has much choice – and is very surprised to see a certain quality in Christian that may well mean he’s not such a bad casting choice after all. He’s still not convinced Christian has the acting chops necessary to carry off such a difficult role, but he realises the man is not the “brainless, vapid airhead” he’d expected him to be.
I liked those opening scenes, and I liked the characters and the way Christian keeps overturning Nicholas’ expectations. The author sets up the animosity between them well and there’s the hint of some decent chemistry there – but somehow, I reached the end of the book and found myself wondering what I’d just read. There’s an HEA, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how Chris and Nicholas get from their initial dislike to falling in love, or even why they fall in love. The writing style is vague and, dare I say it? rather pretentious, and while I was totally on board for the idea of the two love stories – the one in the book and the one between Nicholas and Chris – running concurrently and mirroring each other – neither romance is particularly convincing, and the real life one is severely underdeveloped.
The characterisation is similarly obscure. When I started reading, I found both protagonists intriguing and looked forward to getting to know them better, but that never happened. I felt as though I was reading the book through a fog, where everything I was looking for – story, character and relationship development – was behind some sort of opaque veil and always just out of reach. It was really frustrating!
Where the book does score is in its exploration of the disadvantages of fame – how hard it is to have a private life when you’re forever in the public eye in this age of social media – and the ins and outs of filming and all the industry entails; the power plays, the on-set drama, the PR, the media, the deceptions (Nicholas is not out and his agent wants it to remain that way) and all the work that goes into film-making.
But as a romance it falls flat. Eight Weeks in Paris should have been a terrific read – a slow-burn, opposites-attract romance between two actors filming a classic queer love story in the world’s most romantic city – but unforunately, it’s none of those things.