by Lucy Parker
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Highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Act Like It Lucy Parker returns readers to the London stage with laugh-out-loud wit and plenty of drama
The play's the fling
It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.
Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…
I had written a little bit of a warning at first, stating that I would probably come across as condescending in this review and reaffirming that my aim was not to shame readers for enjoying romance novels I personally want to burn (not Pretty Face!), but then my warning *did* come across as condescending so I guess I CANNOT WIN so let’s write this review okay don’t hate me.
I need to face facts : I’ve not been able to call myself a romance reader for a long time. Those days are long gone, crushed under the weight of eight packs, sexism, instalove, slut-shaming and *secret wounds* (that will only be revealed around 70% because WHERE’S THE FUN OTHERWISE HUH). Also, I’m kind of… cynical? Sometimes? (which is funny for someone born on February 14th, but moving on). If there was a period of my life when I couldn’t stop reading them (you don’t want to know), now… Not so much.
Actually, I haven’t read a contemporary romance since –
*scrolls through shelves*
*scrolls some more*
I got one! October 26th, and, oh, MY, I had forgotten this one!
(never underestimate the bliss of oblivion. Truly. It was a gift)
I’m not even sure it counts, given that I had to DNF it due to a)extreme stupidity, b)girl hate, c)this sentence : “He smiled and I smiled. It was sort of contagious.” Wow, what a dream. *shivers* How can we possibly recover from such nonsense?
I won’t lie, I stopped reading romance novels because I just couldn’t stand them anymore – and this is the moment someone usually walks in to tell me that we choose to be angry about offensive tropes, that we just fucking choose to disconnect from the story we’re reading, that we refuse to let it go and just enjoy it, that we –
I can’t get past slut-shaming in a book, let alone a romance novel. I can’t. Not only because
✔ it’s offensive,
✔ often includes sex-shaming,
✔ polices what women should/shouldn’t wear in public,
✔ contributes to rape culture,
but because it’s lazy storytelling at its best. Yes. It IS. No author who includes slut-shaming in his romance deserves my praise. Period.
① Margo, the love interest’s ex, could have so easily been a vapid and hateful woman because of *reasons*. She is not, which means that the author had to actually create a real personality for her, complex and real – the author who uses a stereotypical and damaging portrayal does not. And do not even tell me some women act that way, because that argument doesn’t hold one second : in 90% of romance novels, the exception becomes the norm. Pl-ease. It’s Lazy Writing 101.
② When the male lead expresses sexist bullshit towards the MC, it won’t disappear from my mind later because he’s in love and we must forget and forgive he even said that (because he’s hot, because he’s a man – stereotypes work both ways – because the author couldn’t be bothered to actually deal with this issue) Nope. In Pretty Face , Luc has to actually think about it and deconstruct his biased
bullshit narrative. Not lazy, and how so much more interesting.
③ Think about this : a woman meets her new boss who is full of shit when it comes to double standards – and who’s been pretty vocal about how dumb he thinks she is because she’s hot and plays a man-eater in a stupid soap. 90% of the time, said-woman will exchange a few words with (his abs) him and literally decide that they should get married because hot damn she’s obsessed with that little ass and fall in instalove. As a result, we the readers will get no character growth, not an ounce of building up and barely any tension. What’s the point, then? Tension is everything in romance as far as I’m concerned. But fear no more – in Pretty Face , if Lily’s intrigued by Luc, there’s no such thing as instalust or instalove. The treatment of double-standards, sexist stereotypes and, hey, knowing each other will have to come before exchanging iloveyous. It changes everything.
So I’m sorry, but your romances full of girl hate and sexist jerks? It’s not that I choose to not like them.
Of course it’s predictable and somewhat unrealistic at times, but if Pretty Face made me realize something, it’s that I’m pretty lenient with clichés when they’re not offensive : indeed it contains all the scenes you could expect from a romance novel, yet it didn’t annoy me one second. Perhaps that’s because I rarely read them anymore. Or perhaps the writing and the characters were compelling (and funny!) enough for me to root for them and to enjoy these beloved scenes. Icing on the cake, you get a male lead who actually understand the concept of boundaries, who is not a player (that trope gets old) and a MC who isn’t the Ultimate Lamb Who Is Not Like Other Girls. Mind. Blown. Adds a storyline that was actually interesting (and this is coming from someone who don’t like reading about actors for some reason) and you’ll get a fun, feel-good novel that’ll put a smile on your face (and we sure need them). If I had a complaint to address, though, it would be that as far as I know, the whole cast really lacks diversity – all the characters are straight and white – for a story taking place in London, I found it unrealistic, and that’s a pity. And before people say it – it’s not that diversity is a trend, but that diversity should be a given : we’re (fortunately) not living in a full white, straight world, are we?
Little hearts provided by Vecteezy!
*arc provided by Carina Press through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*