by Claire Handscome
Nobody is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby is. Nobody. That’s why she’s totally going to marry him.
She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It’s all about determination.
The novel actually took a massive twist away from that plot and ended up being a romcom, which honestly took me by surprise.
I truly don’t know what I thought about this book. I didn’t dislike it, it was very entertaining at points, but at the same time I didn’t connect to anything I was reading. Libby wasn’t an especially likeable character to me, even as she won over everyone from her pining best friend to the would-be Hollywood star boyfriend. She is incredibly self-centred for the majority of the book, although when she interacts with Thom’s kids, especially sassy pre-teen Clara, she does show glimmers of loveliness.
In fact… none of the characters were likeable. I’m almost sure that was the point – Thom, the former TV star, doesn’t know what he wants or who he wants it from; nice guy Dan is such a ‘nice guy’, hanging onto every second of Libby’s time until it becomes clear she’s not interested at which point he ignores her completely; and all of Libby’s friends bitch about her when she’s not there, point blank refuse to help her with her admittedly unrealistic dream and are generally pushy and sarcastic to her at any given chance.
“It’s been nearly seven years. If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now.”
“Not necessarily. Ross and Rachel from Friends. Josh and Donna from The West Wing. Callum McKenna and Sarah Johnson from The Classroom.”
“Mate. You know what all those people have in common?”
“Average guys who score amazing women after a long time of waiting?”
“No, mate, no. Fiction! They’re not real!”
A major issue I had was one that is funnily enough addressed within the book – Dan, the editorial assistant, tells Libby, the promising young writer, that she needs to not shy away from the tense, emotional moments of her book and instead dig deeper into the juicy stuff. Handscome wrote that line, yet does the exact opposite herself! Thom’s divorce is mentioned in passing, Dan’s new relationship skips along in a paragraph and several characters’ potentially fascinating backstories are relegated to a flashback or two either side of the dramatic event that actually shapes them.
I’m being very down on this book, which I don’t intend to be, because it was an interesting read even though I had to suspend disbelief throughout most of it. It has lots of really interesting elements of a Hollywood rags-to-riches story, but they just aren’t fully realised or taken advantage of.
However, one thing I thought was excellent was the mirroring of the novel Libby writes and the events of her life; she wrote an ending she ended up inadvertently living out herself, one that everybody complains about but she refuses to change because she wants it to be like ‘real life’. And ironically, it does end up being her real life.
The fairy tale wasn’t hers after all: she is just the supporting character in someone else’s story.
Another fun parallel throughout the book are its four central narrators; Libby and Dan, best friends from uni, and Thom and Ebba, Hollywood actors and former lovers. Though not a direct line, Handscome is very clever about planting comparisons between the two would-be couples, like their shared history and the female being torn between what they see as a bigger and better option. Each voice is fairly distinctive too, especially Dan’s anxious, overthinking sentences compared to already published author Ebba’s elegant prose.
There are also some witty lines and it is refreshing to see a take on fandom that acknowledges its darker side, but does celebrate the better elements of the communities. Anyone who has ever loved a TV show to the point of burning out the DVD boxset will definitely relate.
Overall, if you like a Hollywood rom-com with a British indie film twist, this book might be perfect for you. For me, it was a bit messy, but pretty entertaining, much like every show on CW, which I can only assume is the style of TV Thom’s star vehicle The Classroom was based on – which makes things come pretty full circle.
Thank you to NetGalley and Unbound for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!