And it’s all going swimmingly until she catches the eye of a man at her local coffee shop. Julian Fairchild has been noticing her for a while and he’s fascinated. Little does he know, the woman he thinks he’s obsessed with is a fake.
It’s not long before the jig is up, and Julian discovers Ellen’s true identity. However, he has a proposition. If she really wants to pretend, he can introduce her to a world where she can be anyone she wants. Ellen is intrigued by the prospect, and, blind to the nature of Julian’s profession as a male escort, closes her eyes and lets him lead the way.
Can Ellen keep her feelings in check while discovering a new world of thrills and excitement? And will Julian let it show that he isn’t entertaining Ellen purely out of the goodness of his heart?
Comment: I've decided to read this book after having enjoyed reading another one, which can be seen as the first in this duology of stories featuring two best friends. In the first story we followed Rose and now it's time for her best friend Julian, a very intriguing secondary character in that book who now has time to shine.
Julian is a man who went through difficult moments in his life but with the help of his friend Rose and a strong willpower to be a better person, he has overcome addiction and (mostly) his sense of unworthiness and is now an escort who can be picky enough to chose his clients and how far he goes with them in their relationship. He still has some issues but he feels in control and that, along with his friendship with Rose and some other few chosen people, keeps him balanced.
Ellen, on the other hand, barely has friends because she has severe anxiety in large groups and feels and works better on her own. One day she is transformed in a drag contest and she likes how her persona "Elodie" makes her feel and how confident she is to do something as simple as making a friend at a bar. That friend becomes a fixed feature in her weekly routines ans she dazzles her with adventures and romantic involvements which, are, of course, fake. She knows she's lying but she can't imagine her friend's face if sh were to discover the truth.
The problem is that Julian has heard their conversation and finds Elodie fascinating enough to come up with a ruse to present himself. Neither would guess that would be just the beginning...
In general terms, I think this story felt like being at a lower level in relation to the first one but it was still captivating enough to make me want to keep reading. I liked the steady pace of the novel, it wasn't too slow nor too quick that it wouldn't be bearable although I'd say some events were a little over the top and not something I liked reading about that much.
This is a alternated narrative in which we have both protagonists presenting their side of the story. I've said before that in romances, I prefer when the story is told in 3rd person because it's not always a given the characters are that fascinating to grab my attention and often their voice seems unappealing. In this book, as in the previous one, I found them both good enough narrators to keep em interested in reading about their thoughts and since we have both voices and not just the heroine's (as happens often), it made reading this a lot more pleasant.
The setting is London, Julian is an escort and Ellen is a writer who sometimes goes out as "Elodie" which is a way for her to feel confident. The way they meet can seem rather unlikely but I mean, how many couples actually meet in bars or over weird situations? The way thy kept seeing each other was a slightly more difficult situation to believe as likely but all in the name of fiction... they become friends, especially after Julian discovers the truth of Ellen's identity.
I think the relationship progressed in a steady pace and with cute scenes in between, except two or three I rolled my eyes at. A lacking confidence Ellen, even in a moment of craziness, asking Julian for his services really turned me off as did the scenes involving sexual fetishes of other characters at a certain moment. I didn't like them and although I don't consider myself a prude - I've read many explicit sex scenes in countless books so it was not that either - I think their being there were distasteful. They were basically used to explain Julian's easiness in some situations but... I disliked them.
This doesn't mean there isn't personal and emotional growth in each protagonist and in both as a couple. This happens and validates their romance is strong and they will last but part of me feels the obvious was overshadowed by some more fantastic scenes, not always that important.
In the end, this was a positive story for me, I liked many little details and the bigger scheme of things. I had fun reading and I enjoyed the book. I still think it was one level beneath the other one but I consider my time was not wasted with this one.
I'll definitely read other books by the author one day.