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BOOK REVIEW – Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

BOOK REVIEW – Pretty Face by Lucy ParkerPretty Face (London Celebrities #2)
by Lucy Parker
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

Why am I saying it’s lazy? Because see, in Pretty Face (that does not contain slut-shaming in any way) : Lucy Parker‘s story could have derailed a million times.

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*

BOOK REVIEW – Act Like It by Lucy Parker

BOOK REVIEW – Act Like It by Lucy ParkerAct Like It by Lucy Parker
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

This just in: romance takes center stage as West End theatre's Richard Troy steps out with none other than castmate Elaine Graham

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard's antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

3.5 stars happily rounded-up because Act Like It was loads of fun! Truth is, I was really wary when I first started it, but let’s face it, I’m always wary when I read a romance novel, because they often contain several of my biggest peeves : cheating, slut-shaming, instalove… just pick one. Albeit not perfect, Act Like It was a great surprise in these aspects and a promising debut.

Two main characters thoroughly enjoyable : meat Lainie, a nice but feisty actress and Richard, a misanthropic – but hilarious – jerk. Both actors in the same play, they’re asked to fake a relationship in order to improve Richard’s reputation, and oh my, given the outbursts he often throws in public (and his usual prick self), Lainie knows instantly that it’s not going to be easy to achieve.

“You want us to do a TV interview? About… this?” Lainie asked, horrified.
“Could you not gesture directly at me when you say that?” Richard asked.”

SPOILER ALERT : She wasn’t mistaken.

Ah, Richard…

“He brought up the page and was greeted with the image of his own scowling face. Jesus. he looked like his great-aunt Harriet. It was something about the combination of the frown and the emerging beard.”

What a piece of work. There’s no denying that he acts like a complete jerk at the beginning, but in a way that I can handle. See, I don’t like violent assholes. Darcy-ish pricks, though? They make me laugh and I love to sneer at them, both in books and in real life, because I’m a sucker for sarcasm. As long as people call them on their shit, in any case, and Lainie sure knows how to react to Richard’s offensive remarks. I loved her, and Richard’s devil-may-care attitude won me along the way. Hey, now, my favorite Molière’s play is The Misanthrope. That says it all.

A believable and gradual romance : nothing could be further from instalove than the beginning of Lainie and Richard’s relationship. Basically, Lainie thinks he’s a complete jerk, and Richard barely knows who she is (even though they work together). Are they happy when their boss ask them to fake a relationship? Ugh, no. Definitely not. They’re annoyed, pissed, and not a little reluctant. Following them, we witness their relationship changing little by little, from indifference to friendship to more.

“It was more than that. He was… God, he was bonding with her.
Feelings – warm, strong, nauseating feelings – were springing up all over the place, unfurling in his chest, his gut, his groin. Sinking in deep with their little hooks.”

But what I loved the most is the fact that despite his first objections, Richard doesn’t dismiss his feelings from the moment they appear. No exhausting back and forth, and that’s freaking rare.

Not to mention that Lucy Parker makes fun of several stereotypical sayings that we often find in romance novels :

“Tell me you want this. Me.”
It was enlightening that she could be this far gone with desire yet still capable of irritation. “Richard.” She braced herself against his stomach. “I’m prepared to stroke many things right now, but your ego is not one of them.”

HAHAHAHAHA. I freaking love this girl.

“As kisses went, it wouldn’t make her personal top ten. For one thing, there was still an edge of temper under the surface, and angry snogging didn’t really rev her engine the way it seemed to for vintage romance heroines.”

THANK YOU.

Banter : BAHAHAHAHA. Really, these two are perfect together and make for the funniest interactions.

“Cat Richard?” he asked, when they came to a halt behind a double-decker bus.
“My landlady’s ginger tom.” Lainie sounded too calm. He glanced at her. Yes, her eyes were full of laughter. “He’s called Richard. I’m feeding him while she’s away for a few days, and he has to have meals twice a day. Bowel issues.”
This was actually his life.”

The way sexism is handled : See, every time I point that a story contains sexism, people are quick to tell me that unfortunately that’s how many real people act and that it shows how realistic the story is. Well. I can’t argue with the “realistic” angle, but you know where is the difference in Act Like It? Both MC notice sexism remarks and behavior, and don’t ignore them or accept them because “that’s how life is”. THANK YOU. As for slut-shaming, Richard and Lainie point several times how inacceptable it is, and it was fucking refreshing. Beware, I’m not saying that Richard never says anything sexist, because he does (and in one occasion it’s not dealt with), but 99% of the time Lainie calls him on his shit, as well as other characters.

Grammatical errors and editing mistakes : I won’t lie, but I almost stopped reading in the beginning because of several grammatical mistakes and plain weird phrasing. Indeed some sentences just don’t make any sense, and it spoiled my read a little. Honestly, I don’t know if it gets better after the first 20% or if I was too engrossed to notice anymore, but Act Like It would have required further editing.

The sex scenes didn’t do a lot for me : Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for them, but it still lacked a little chemistry in my opinion. This said, they were realistic and not over the top, and I REALLY liked that.

Stupid drama…. But it stays really short so I’m not sure if it’s really a cons. I suppose that I became more and more intolerant of it through the years, but I have to admit that as far as romance novels go, it stays pretty sufferable.

Really enjoyable. Recommended for romance fans who are fed up of instalove.

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