I’d actually have rated this slightly lower if I could have, but as is the usual in reviews 2* seems horrific, and I’m well aware that my issues are specific to me and things that I tend to dislike.
That thing being mismatched power dynamics, whether in the sense of age (much older man to a younger woman), power (boss/employee, teacher/student), etc. As you can imagine, this book–which has both the age and career issues–was always going to be an uphill battle. At the end of the day, all the banter and wit wasn’t enough to overcome my inherent ick factor. Everytime it seemed like we’d be able to move past it, some reminder would come of the drastically uneven consequences and I’d be back where I started. A truly Sisyphean task, it was, to stay with the metaphor.
The main point is one that Luc (and, to a lesser extend, Lily) mention often. In short:
He wasn’t thrilled about the increased media attention on anything except the play, but he found it a lot easier to ignore than Lily did. He did understand, to an extent, why she was struggling. If their relationship affected anyone’s career, it was likely to be hers. He was more established than she was, and there was a double standard to contend with.
And yes, acknowledgement is important. There’s never the sense that Lily is an entirely unwitting participant in this whole endeavor. She’s 26 going on 27, not 21 going on 22. But the potential downsides are so skewed that it’s very hard to relax into the plot (which, of course, boils down to sexy people do sex).
If we set that aside (which, again, is not necessarily an easy thing to do given how often the characters remind us of it), there are some other pacing/stylistic choices that kept me from re-entering Parker’s version of the West End.
– Lily’s issue with her voice ended up being a non-issue, and as such just took up plot bandwidth without payoff (i.e. her voice was easily fixed, Jocasta is clearly not going to be the star of a future book so she’s not being backdoor introduced, and it’s only Luc who has this strong, visceral reaction to it. Honestly, that she’s a miraculously amazing stage actor hiding under a soap opera star is more of an issue than the fact that she needs some vocal training to learn how to project).
– For some reason, it was pretty hard to keep track of when Luc and Lily were talking. Perhaps because they were both similarly quippy? I’d often have to backtrack and actively keep track of who said which line, which threw me off more than once given that their whole schtick is the witty banter.
– The side characters were numerous and ultimately inconsequential. Looking ahead to the other books in this series, I now see that they are eventually to be stars of their owns books so this at least is understandable
– Lastly, the Big Conflict seemed to lack bite on both ends. For one, there is no way that a UK tabloid would curtail its on-the-edge-of-slanderous coverage just because someone ranted once at the EIC. I know that now from the whole Harry/Meghan situation. Second, Lily’s “I’m confused about everything [and need space (hide spoiler)]” just ends up being more rationale for why Luc shouldn’t have started a relationship with her during rehearsals. She clearly was not in the right frame of mind to process things.
Not sure if I want to continue reading these! I liked Act Like It a lot and Headliners so-so, so perhaps Parker is more of a wait and see type author for me.