It Happened One Fight is just the sort of snappy screwball romantic comedy that the romance world has been waiting for. It pays a fine tribute to the 1930s romantic comedies it’s clearly based upon, and provides the reader with one heck of a rollicking ride.
Joan Davis and Dashiell (Dash) Howard make beautiful music onscreen; it’s offscreen that’s the big problem. A fight at the Coconut Grove during an fake date between them becomes a disaster when someone tips off the paparazzi, and Joan – who is already struggling to forge an identity for herself outside of the popular movies she and Dash make together – is fit to be tied and blames him. Dash is incorrigible like that, and Joan is just as fiery.
Months later, when Joan becomes engaged to fellow actor Monty Smythe, no one knows that she’s simply and cheerfully bearding for a close friend, but Joan doesn’t mind putting friendship before love. Then she learns something terrible when gossip maven Leda Price calls her after news of her and Monty’s engagement breaks – one of Dash’s onset pranks has backfired, and the two of them are now legally married! Leda threatens to break the news of Joan’s marriage to Dash as revenge for Joan not telling her first about her engagement to Monty.
A tête-à-tête with studio heads results in a brainstorm; Dash and Joan will film their next – and last, Joan hopes – picture together, At Long Last Love, in Reno, obtain a quickie divorce while there and move on with their lives. Enter love, farce, and some pretty memorable love confession scenes.
You don’t have to be a movie buff to guess that Dash is based on Clark Gable and Joan (partially) on both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. But it’s what Lenker does with their romance that makes the story fun, and it’s hard to deny that It Happened One Fight definitely is that. I mean, our hero and heroine get into a fishing competition. He puts a skunk in her dressing room. She turns the tables. It’s really all you need in this kind of romance.
Both of our leads are imperfect. He’s a boozy womanizer, she’s so intensely career-driven that she cannot see the wood for the trees. They’re clearly made for one another. The romance is great and takes its time, and the research put into the way things worked in Reno back then comes together beautifully.
That’s not to say the book doesn’t have a few issues. The dialogue feels too wallpapery sometimes, though the character reactions feel spot on and period appropriate. And yes, there’s a way to write about 1930s/1940s Hollywood and its queer culture and separately about the falsified hell of the studio system and Lenker doesn’t quite get there. The pacing is a little messy, and Lenker having Joan smack Dash was a false note. But darn it, I found myself overlooking that in light of the crackling chemistry and quick-witted humor to be had at every turn. This is a fun ride, and It Happened One Fight will appeal to any fan of classic Hollywood.
Recent Comments …
Second many of the previous mentions (J.D. Robb, Charlie Adhara, Josh Lanyon)…in particular: Rachel Grant: Flashpoint series. My fav is…
Only a few December releases is great, as I need to catch up on my TBR. That said, All the…
Love the Chaos Station series by Burke & Jensen too. Highly recommend. Will re-read!
Perfect material for a Hallmark Christmas feature
The audiobook is how I discovered it. The copy I have (from Audible) doesn’t have text chapter names, however -…
The audiobook has great narrators, too, Kale Williams and Joel Leslie.