First, a note: read this in as few sittings as possible. Lucy Parker’s writing is best in long drinks, not short sips. I should NOT have read this before bed over a series of nights, but I just didn’t want to read Grunt by Mary Roach, nor can I do audio before I sleep.
Next: If you are a contemporary romance reader, or someone who wants to flirt with reading the genre run out right now and get your hands on this, its predecessor Act Like It, or Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game.
Now, for this actual book that I’m supposed to be reviewing. I have a fondness for the way in which Lucy Parker builds her world, it’s quick, and quiet, and with a deft hand she plunks you in the middle of an environment without paragraphs upon paragraphs of exposition. Her word choice and well-chosen details build out the world and its people so that you know what you are reading and where they are, without being bogged down. Parker allows your imagination room to play and fill in the details for yourself.
Moreover, the details she does provide are delicious. In the case of our male lead: “Luc Savage looked like Gregory Peck, circa some dapper time between Roman Holiday and To Kill a Mockingbird. There was more bulk in the shoulders, silver in the hair and darkness in the soul; otherwise, the resemblance was uncanny.”
The story is rather straightforward, Luc is one of the London theatre’s best directors and he is reopening his family’s theatre after much familial difficulty with a new play, 1553, which is a character study of Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Lady Jane Grey. He needs an Elizabeth and after much struggle in filling the role he agrees – under pressure – to see Lily Lamprey. The problem with Lily is that she has spent the past several years playing a bubbly, porn voiced, sex kitten on a period drama. Her reputation is not good, and Luc has serious concerns about her vocal strength. Lily nails the audition and is cast, but from the moment go each is trying to ignore sparks between them.
The budding romance between these two characters should have made me shake my head no. On paper, it is not great. There is a 14-year age gap, he is her boss and employer, he just got out of an eight-year relationship, and she has massive trust issues. Yet… it works precisely because the characters name all the issues, which should keep them apart and spend a more than usual time for romance books apart from each other because of them.
Even though this is a rather slim volume, Parker still manages to work in some great cultural commentary into her book. Sexism, like in Career of Evil, is the underlying plot. Parker portrays for the reader the unrelenting sexism that Lily puts up with based on her looks and her previous role. She is all too often presumed to be an airhead and merely an object for others to look upon. The way she, and Luc once he gets his head on straight, withstands the constant wave of our culture’s casual sexism is a the kind of character detail which I am growing to expect from Parker.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.
4 stars, do read.