I really enjoyed Sarah Skilton’s story from the Summer in the City anthology, so I was curious about this book that she co-authored with Sarvenaz Tash. It’s a delightfully tropey second-chance, friends-to-lovers romance, all set amongst a TV show in Hollywood.
“If I don’t recognize this for the reboot that it is, then I deserve to have my imaginary Writers Guild membership revoked.”
Nina and Sebastian were best friends for four years in college, bonded by their love of the hit show Castles of Rust and Bone. But in a plot twist worthy of the show, Sebastian has a secret: he’s nursed a crush on Nina from the beginning. Sebastian was afraid of confessing his crush for fear of ruining their friendship, but with college ending, he knows he needs to make a move. But in another surprise twist, their relationship ended suddenly on the night of the season finale before he had a chance to confess, and they haven’t spoken for five years – until they run into each other on the set of the reboot of their favorite show. Is this a chance to reboot their relationship as well?
“I can’t help thinking that if the show gets it right this time around, it could heal more than just my broken fandom heart.”
Nina’s a fun character. Newly arrived to LA, she’s already got a boyfriend (her airport Uber driver, no less) and a promotion (maybe?) to social media manager for the streaming company who’s rebooting the show. Seeing Sebastian feels exactly like a second chance at their friendship. Sebastian’s got a job as an assistant to the producer, which basically means driving around and doing whatever she wants him to do. Sebastian is afraid of not belonging, of losing his friends. He didn’t really have any before college, and he thinks if he stops doin things for them – cooking, buying groceries – they’ll stop being friends with him. This second chance at a friendship with Nina is too precious to waste on the off-chance they could be a couple. After all, Nina’s never dated anyone for more than four months, and Sebastian doesn’t want to lose her again. But when Nina ends up rooming with him when she can’t put up with her insane roommate (leeches and bees and the next yoni egg, oh my) any longer, keeping things platonic is harder than ever – for both of them.
“A knight always keeps his word.”
I grin. “You’re only a knight on the streets,” I quote back the next line. Sebastian’s eyes open and he turns his head.
We’re staring at each other when we say, at the exact same time, “But a freak in the sheets.”
We’re both grinning. Not a real line from the show, of course, but exactly what we turned and said to each other simultaneously seven years ago, watching that scene from the common room couch.”
Why Nina and Sebastian’s relationship fell apart is something that’s gradually revealed to the reader as the book progresses. Their friendship is deeply tied into their love of the Game-of-Thrones-like show, down to quoting random lines or finishing each other’s sentences or just debating which couple is the OTP. Someone who’s more familiar with Game of Thrones might enjoy the constant references to show trivia more amusing; I have some superficial knowledge (I read 1.5 of the books before throwing in the towel) but not enough to really get it. It did sometimes feel like the only way they could interact was through that shared interest, to the exclusion of everyone else in their lives, including the reader. On top of that, a good portion of the book is spent with them both thinking the other isn’t interested, so while there’s lots of mutual pining, there’s not a ton of on-page relationship.
But while I could’ve used more of their relationship, it’s also very funny. Nina’s roommate is a hoot, and I adored Sebastian’s sister, Millie, whose fandom appears to be shipping Nina and Sebastian, as well as Nina’s straight-speaking social media maven, Sayeh. There was enough behind-the-scenes hijinks (between cake mix, actual cakes, and more than one goat) to keep me giggling, and the characters’ reactions to each further indignity had me laughing. The plot is very predictable, though that is used in an interesting way. There’s a lot of purposeful parallels between their college life and present day life, and it was entertaining to see them try not to make the same mistakes again.
Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s cute and silly, and based on the humor and writing style, I’d give this author duo another try.
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.