Thursday, December 15, 2022

Sara Rider - Real Kind of Love

What happens when a fake relationship turns into a real kind of love?
As an audiobook narrator, Clementine Cox has no trouble mastering the voices of space aliens, elven warriors, or even demon-possessed cats. But the moment she tries her hand at an erotic romance, she’s stumped. With her deadline looming, she books a week at a secluded cabin to restore her inner muse, telling her loving-but-overbearing family it’s a romantic getaway with her not-so-existent new boyfriend to keep them from worrying. She never expects them to invite themselves along to meet the new guy. Now, she has less than twenty-four hours to find a pretend boyfriend in order to save her job and, potentially, her sanity.
Workaholic Jake Donovan isn’t interested in a real relationship. After a broken engagement, all he wants to do is focus on keeping his brewpub, the Holy Grale, afloat. But when he finds out his favorite customer is in need of a fake boyfriend, and his business partners insist he take a much overdue vacation, he has no choice but to help Clem out. All he has to do is enjoy the sunshine, play nice with her family, and keep his hands to himself for the week.
But Jake’s not prepared to like waking up next to Clem every morning as much as he does. Or to feel so welcome by her quirky family. And as the line between real and fake starts to blur, he realizes one week might never be enough.

Comment: I got interested in this book after checking some reviews and noticing the heroine was an audiobook narrator. I was quite curious about this detail and immediately imagined a healthy dose of book content or book talk...

Clementine Cox is a young woman who works as an audiobook narrator and she loves what she does. Recently, however, she has had some issues with an erotic romance and she plans on going on vacation so she can breathe and rest but her adoring family seems to see this as an invitation to come along so Clem says she will be going with her boyfriend. Instead of giving the family the hint to leave her alone, this makes them even more eager to go, so they can meet the guy. The problem is that she invented him...
Jake is one of three owners of the Holy Grale, a brewpub which is doing alright but could improve and one thing they did was to accept booking events, such as weddings. The problem now is that his ex wants to do things there so the others tell him to go on vacation so conflicts can be avoided and somehow, that is how he and Clem - a regular costumer - decide to have a fake relationship for a while. But will they actually like spending time as a couple?

I must say that such an unlikely plot can only happen in books and movies and while I can suspend belief enough to go with the flow, many other elements have to work out so that the ones that shouldn't be so easily accepted can feel they are as organic as everything else... I'm not convinced, however, the whole package truly worked out here but the story did have enough to have made me want to finish.

I think that, for me, the element that worked the least was how the story was developed, without enough depth to the characters to counterbalance the silliest things. Clem and Jake are adults and have had their share of disappointments in life, of which we learn as the story progresses, but I just didn't think they were that special or amazingly depicted that the choices they make convinced me of their budding feelings. Sure, they were pretending, but any romance reader knows this will turn real, but I just didn't get the feeling the author did this in the best way. 

Perhaps part of the writing style issues I think existed is that there's an attempt to present this as a funny/comedy story too, with the inclusion of Clem's family on the vacation. The idea was to reveal how lucky Clem is in having a supporting and loving family, providing a huge contrast to Jake's situation and to make them see how perfect they are together, how they complement themselves. Sadly for me, most of the situations with family interaction resembled more a joke scenario, a caricature of those characters' personalities and I didn't find them funny at all.

With so much page count dedicated to this silliness, I'm afraid the romance development just didn't convince me properly. The words and the scenes were there but I feel the "vibe" didn't work out and the whole thing felt rather average and a bit bland for me. If not these two characters, any others could do it, I didn't have the sense Jake and Clem were that special that I wanted to invest in their development. Of course they get closer during their pretend romance and they do talk and we see why they feel attracted to one another, I just don't think this was done in such a way that would be impossible not to see it.

I also felt a bit disappointed by the lack of book talk. Yes, there is some conversation on books and on Clem's work but between the specifics of such a job and the fact she went on holidays to deal with it, I felt it was just an excuse to make her and Jake be close and work on sexual attraction. I certainly wanted more about Clem working and maybe offer a more professional side to things instead of just a convenience to advance the romance.

As things get to the end, of course conflicts and misunderstandings arise, the main characters have epiphanies and decide to be a real couple, having to tell everyone about their initial deal. I had lost my interest by then, but it's no surprise to say all ends well and they finally admit they are perfect for each other. I think this is a good enough escapism novel, interesting details for certain but the overall execution wasn't anything new nor unique to stand out for me.
Grade: 6/10

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