This was almost a five star read for me. I’ve been trying to catch up on my enormous backlog of reviews, and when I picked this up to give myself a refresher (it’s been almost three months since I finished it), I ended up sort of revisiting it for a couple of hours. You know, not a full re-read, but just sort of lovingly scrolling through it and re-reading favorite bits. But for some reason I still can’t quite bring myself to give it the full five stars. Maybe with time? (I have been hankering to re-read her other books, too, maybe in audio this time . . . )
I think this may actually be my favorite of Lucy Parker’s books. I’m not sure, though. It may be tied with Pretty Face, but it’s been so long since I read that book. The initital dynamic, here, though, is just catnip for me. The book revolves around a (dubiously premised) live hybrid theater/TV broadcast of a mash-up of Jane Austen’s novels, which has been turned into a murder mystery. And if that wasn’t enough TWISTS, the live audience also gets to vote on the direction the story takes throughout the broadcast. But it’s not just Austen central in that way. Our main couple is also very Austenesque in a way that drew me in immediately.
In homage to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, I’m sure, theater actress Freddy Carlton and theater critic J. Ford-Griffin have an unpleasant meeting in a pub, where their first impressions of each other don’t go off very well. She and her friends overhear him in the next booth over trashing (accurately and with much wit) Freddy’s latest theater performance, so she confronts him later. He thinks her performances are uninspired. She thinks he’s a dick.
Six months later, Freddy is set to play Lydia Bennet in The Austen Playbook, against the advice of her agent and father, whose mother was a very famous actress and playwright, and who is determined that Freddy maintain the family legacy of being a serious theater actress, when her true talents and inclinations lean towards musical theater and comedy. The Austen Playbook, which is being performed at The Henry, is a theater on Griff’s family estate, which his younger brother has rented out for a large share of the profits of the broadcast. Griff has been under enormous pressure since he came of age, trying to keep the place from going under, and saving his frivolous and impractical parents from spending the estate right out from under them. They need the cash badly. He also happens to be working on a potential biopic about the famous affair his grandfather had with Freddy’s grandmother, the playwright, which would also give the estate a much needed money infusion.
There’s actually a bunch going on plotwise. But at the center is the relationship between Freddy and Griff, which starts out so wonderfully antagonistic, but as they spend time with each other over the course of preparing for the play’s broadcast, they both find that they like one another immensely. Freddy is drawn to his grumpy but honest nature, and her bubbly but genuine personality comforts him. They support one another emotionally in making important personal decisions, and it is beautiful. And they are both drawn into a family mystery that starts solving itself while they are busy falling in love, one that could start a huge scandal and have career ending possibilities.
Somehow, Parker makes it all work. I just think she is great. If you are at all into reading romance, I would highly suggest this series. I don’t normally read contemporary romance, but I’m so glad I made an exception for these books (it helps that they are all set in the theater world of London, so the creative/entertainment/celebrity aspect of it really appeals to me).
The next book is supposed to follow Sabrina (Freddy’s sister) and her on-screen rival, Nick. I can’t wait to see how she pulls that one off. This book was very light enemies to lovers. That one is going to be trainwreck enemies to lovers. How will she do it??