This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Escape
Released on June 1, 2013
Not being a huge fan of reality TV in no way prevented me from being intrigued by the idea of a story set against that backdrop. And why? Because the ‘actors’/characters were writers of course. I found the whole experience, right from the first page, like getting an insider’s guide into writers and a romance all wrapped up into one delicious treat.
The story begins when the last contestant, the heroine, Felicity James, steps out of her cab in NYC to join her fellow contestants and enter the Writer’s Cave for the potential seven week duration of the contest. All the personalities start to unfold fairly quickly including that of the hero, Victor Guzman. They each represent various fiction genres in their writing and have their reasons for winning including Felicity because she has quit her job and tossed all her eggs into this opportunity to launch her writing career. Right away there is a tension between Felicity who writes romance and the erotica writer, Tiffany. Felicity also has a strong though different reaction to the abrasive yet sexy, Victor who as a True Crime writer looks down on both of them promising that he’s not out to make friends, but to win.
Victor has to keep telling himself that over and over because Felicity is a huge distraction. He already knows he can write well enough to do it for a living, but he needs this win for the money so he can get his mother round the clock care since she suffers from Alzheimer’s. He can’t afford to go soft over a fellow contestant, but that is exactly what he does. All of the writers are strongly motivated, but he can see the friendly and compassionate Felicity will probably be his greatest challenge and now he doesn’t know if he has what it takes to push past her for the win.
Felicity gets a rude awakening several times during the show that she’s too soft and trusting. They’ve all told her that they’re going for it including Victor, but she lets her silly heart get in the way and he stomps on it. Still… They have something between them and he’s not completely the jerk he pretends to be. She just knows it. Meanwhile, people are being eliminated and the challenges are just that. Each challenge is a practical side to getting a book published and sold. At the very least, she is getting a crash course education in what it takes to be a professional writer and just how far people will go to win. When the stakes are high, Felicity doesn’t know just how much more she can take nor why her mind continually returns to the off limits handsome Victor Guzman.
The plot was tight and I loved how it was focused from the beginning. There’s a contest, but it’s not just about writing. I loved the interplay between the characters and not just the protagonists.
The background world of the reality show was well done like baby bear’s stuff in the Goldilock’s story- just right. It was there and interesting, but it didn’t dominate.
The challenges were fascinating to me. Some might feel that these time periods when the characters were competing took up a chunk of the story and slowed it down, but for me I found it almost as appealing as the romance element. I love the world of books and I’ve always been fascinated by what goes into moving a manuscript to a lovely glossy book on a shelf that grabs my attention. Let’s just say it’s a lot and I have a higher respect for published authors whether they self-published or went through a publisher. And by the end of the contest, I was acting like a true fan of a reality game show because I was into the challenges, the results and how I felt about the contestants.
While I found a level of delight in the action side of the story when they were competing, I was more enthralled with the romantic relationship building between Felicity and Victor. The story is told third person and switched back and forth between perspectives. There wasn’t a ton of character development with them, but there was enough in my opinion for me to feel that I knew them. I sympathized, liked them and I could see them grow as individuals and as a couple. Felicity was sweet with her very real belief in happily ever after romance though she did have her set opinions and tenacity. Victor had an outward appearance of toughness and confidence, but he was vulnerable to his need to be a knight in shining armor to his mother and to the woman who had grabbed his attention. I loved them together and I started worrying early on what was going to happen when they really had to go up against each other in the competition. Naturally, things didn’t get physically sizzling between them because they were staying in practically a dorm situation with cameras everywhere, but still the author managed to convince me that the sparks were indeed flying back and forth between these two and that Victor was scorching hot.
The epilogue was the perfect ending blending a realistic happy for now with the promise of what was to come afterward.
For all you Contemporary Romance lovers who prefer a slightly spiced romance with less angst and a likeable, compelling couple, this one may be for you.
My thanks to Harlequin Australia and to Net Galley for providing the book for review purposes.