Wednesday, November 15, 2017

TBR Challenge: Lauren Layne - Isn't She Lovely?

Stephanie Kendrick gave up her whole summer to ace her NYU film school screenwriting course, so she's pissed to be stuck with a preppy, spoiled frat boy as her writing partner. Then again, with her piercings, black-rimmed eyes, and Goth wardrobe, Stephanie isn't exactly Ethan Price's type, either. He's probably got his eye on some leggy blonde with a trust fund... or does he?
As the summer scene kicks off in the Hamptons, Ethan is desperate to make his snobbish mother forget the pedigreed girl who broke his heart. While Stephanie's a stretch as a decoy, the right makeover and a pastel cardigan just might do the trick. She may not love the idea of playing Ethan's brainless Barbie girlfriend, but the free rent and luxurious digs make a tempting offer. So does the promise of a ready-made screenplay idea inspired by their charade.
But when Stephanie steps into Ethan's privileged world, the "acting" begins to feel all too real. The kissing and touching that were intended to fool the Hamptons crowd wind up manipulating "them." And Stephanie faces a question she's too afraid to ask: Is Ethan falling for the real her or for the dolled-up princess he wants to see?

Comment: This book was recommended to me as a sweet romance, therefore I thought it would be an appropriate choice for the challenge this month, since it's Recommended Read time. I think I'll always be wary of new adult stories because so often they are just an excuse for erotica with younger characters or it's YA undercover but you know, there's always the hope this will be the one to change my mind. I'm glad this one ended up being a good story.

This is said to be a sort of version on the Pygmalion trope and I happen to like it so  was hopeful about the way the author would treat it here. We have two college students having a summer course on film edition and such and they need to work in pairs. Although our couple meets rather awkwardly right before first class, they are  - surprise! - placed together to work on a two team project. The assignment, however, gets personal contours when their personal lives are mixed but while their work develops and their pseudo film/social experience goes on, they start to realize they can overlook appearances and be happy just as they are...or not?

This is indeed a sweet story. I was worried this would focus too much on dramatics and sex and not the story but I was positively surprised by how the author treated the plot. I liked it how Stephanie and Ethan, our protagonists, had more in them than met the eye. It was also nice to have alternate POVs so that it didn't seem that the focus was mostly in one and not in them as a team, so in this regard I think the author's choice was a good one.
It seems there are two more stories - this is a prequel - but by the blurb alone I don't feel as invested in trying those as I wanted to read this one.

The plot isn't too complicated and even the not so believable scenes have a depth I was not expecting to find here. It's not difficult to guess what happens but I was still very lad by the gradual way the main characters fell in love. There was no insta knowledge or sex but their feelings seemed to develop at a credible pace and this has helped me to like seeing them together. 
As you can imagine, both have some hidden feelings to deal with and this experience is a good escape for them. I must confess I find it difficult to weight in which one had it the heaviest because although I can understand Stephanie's reaction to something in her past, I can't help but imagine some of her attitudes were a little childish but well, how can I really judge... as for Ethan, he seemed a bit more consistent (in terms of personality) but maybe it was in his reaction to something also difficult to overcome.

What I both think clever and disappointing is how this information was treated. We don't get to see the resolution black in white for Ethan's issues but maybe that's a symbol of reality. At the same time it was sort of anti climatic. 
When it comes to Stephanie, her problems do seem to have a lot of it meant for us to grasp Ethan played a part in making her realize she needed to live for now or was it is just an overload of sugar to make it more romantic? 

The end was cute and if this was a movie, that end would be a very good one, if not a little bit too cheesy. But my overall impression is a positive one. I liked how the story developed for the most part and how we (the readers) weren't screamed at with all the conclusions we needed; we could simply get them at our own pace. As always, there was some focus on things I wouldn't say were necessary but that can be overlooked if one concentrates on the positive aspects and there are several in this story to make it appealing.
I don't think I've changed my opinion on NA books but this one can certainly remain as one I'd use to defend the genre if I had to.
Grade: 8/10

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