Ava Wilder

Review: How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder


Title: How to Fake It in Hollywood
Author: Ava Wilder
Publication Date: 14 June 2022
Genres: Celebrity romance, fake dating, addiction

Author's links: Website / Twitter 

My rating: 5 Stars


Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen soap has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she's finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist's scheme... faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, his struggles with drinking, and his grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, he's slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it's the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn't take long before Grey and Ethan's sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?


I read this on the recommendation of a friend whose taste in romance I trust and I was not disappointed. This is exactly the kind of contemporary romance I love - character focused, angsty, serious, I would say even dark at times, with a touch of humour and the promise of love and happiness in the end.

Celebrity romances are not something I naturally gravitate too. Too often they just are too cutesy, glammed up versions of real life, exploring rich people's problems and I am not very interested in reading those stories.

This one was about rich people and their problems but was also deeply human and made it super relatable for me. Yes, we get actors (Ethan is highly successful Oscar-winner, every girl's dream man in a downward spiral of addiction and depression, Grey - child/teen actress in her 20s still trying to make it big) in a fake relationship for publicity purposes but it's from here that things start getting interesting.

They inevitably fall for each other and discover there is more to the other person than their public persona. But with Ethan things are much darker than anyone wants to admit, not even Grey.

The second half of the story explores in depth their messy emotions while trying to have a real relationship. I loved both Grey and Ethan, we see things from her perspective most of the time, but I also fell for Ethan. I felt deeply about for both of them - his fear of messing things up, his conviction he is not good enough, her desire to be enough, to be seen and loved.

Ethan read very much a sad man romance hero but he felt real to me at the same time with his anxiety and depression and grief and desperate desire to be good enough for Grey, his ex wife and children and failing again and again. His spiral into addition and depression is very raw and hit me right in the feels. this is not one of those love cures all romances. they MCs need to admit their issues to themselves and to want to get better and until get the professional help they need.

There were wonderful moments of tenderness in their relationship but also a lot of volatile emotions and him acting out. His issues with addiction were handled sensitively in my opinion.

I appreciate how real Grey and Ethan's journey towards a healthy, happy relationship felt. There were no easy solutions, each making a gesture to the other one, finding a new path that works for them both.

Another element that stood out to me was their rich background, a story with lots of texture - friends, agents, publicists. I felt really immersed in their world. We get glimpses both of the bright and dark sides of celebrity life - the loss of any privacy but also fame that makes lots of dreams possible (from financial, professional point of view).

I absolutely loved this book, such a great debut and I am excited to read more books by this author.

CW; addition, depression, alcoholism, grief, strained family relations, revenge porn (of sorts)

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Ashley Herring Blake

Review: Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail by Ashley Herring Blake


Title: Astrid Parker Doesn't Care (Bright Falls #2)
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Publication Date: 22 Nov2022
Genres: Small town f/f romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Instagram

My rating: 4 Stars


For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she's been focused on her career--her friends might say she's obsessed, but she knows she's just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn's renovation, which will be featured on a popular HGTV show, Innside America, Astrid is thrilled. Not only will the project distract her from her failed engagement and help her struggling business, but her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her a nod of approval.

However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru's granddaughter and the lead carpenter for the renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family's inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into some light sabotage to ruffle Astrid's perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other evolves into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she's expected to lead or the one that she wants?


This was lovely and fun and very, very queer.

This is a story of self-discovery and growing into your own self and coming out as queer later in life. As someone who is not queer myself, I don't feel knowledgeable enough to discuss how this was presented in the story. From an outsider's perspective, I liked seeing Ashley's journey and felt convinced in her happiness in the end of the book.

This is an opposites attract kind of kind of romance where a buttoned up, closed-off heroine meets am open and self-confident heroine. Both of them are in difficult stages in their lives, trying to hide the fact they are basically falling apart from everyone. For Astrid this means being perfect in everything - the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the most successful designer. For Jordan it means not sharing her dreams and hopes and fears with her closest people anymore and finding a new direction in life.

Just like in book 1, I felt the characterisation was really good - both Jordan and Astrid stand out as real people to me.

I liked how well-rounded the whole story and how in synch all the different elements in it were - there is lots of humour and funny dialogue, great sexual tension, supporting friends (Astrid's) and family (Jordan's).

Astrid's relationship with her mother is especially fraught. They do reach some reconciliation but there is no magic cure - it takes time and effort on both sides.

I have mixed feelings re Jordan's ex-wife. I can't help but feel she is a terrible person. She did try to help Jordan but at the same time she was completely ignoring Jordan's wishes/boundaries, speaking and acting over her on numerous issue. Her actions were the nudge Jordan needed in her career but I just can't let go of all the hurt she caused her before.

Finally there is a bit I don't feel very competent to comment on but feel it should be mentions and it's about the language regarding gender and attraction used in this book. I felt there were one too many instances of "women and non-binary people". It is most often used by Jordan to describe the people she is attracted to but sometimes it read like equating non-binary people with women and I am not a fan of that. I could be reading things wrong but a couple of instances really stood out to me. I would recommend checking reviews by queer, especially non-binary and trans, readers for their take on these instances.

Iris' book is next and there was a whole plotline with her that I found unnecessary and superfluous to this book but still I am very much looking forward to her finding her own HEA/HFN.

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