The story goes like this: Kayla Maxwell is the rising star of a popular soap opera. She doubts herself because her abusive ex did a number on her self-esteem and because she’s inexperienced. Her character’s new storyline means that she’s going to be working closely with the show’s biggest star, Sean Barrett. They have incredibly chemistry, but for different reasons neither is interested in a romantic relationship, which doesn't prevent them from becoming close friends, a friendship that soon morphs into attraction and love. But things get in the way of their happy ending, and by things I mean his issues and her stalker. One of these things got in the way of my personal book happy ending. Can you guess which one?
Love in the Afternoon is enjoyable, interesting and charming, but some of its flaws considerably lessened my enjoyment, mostly because they were so trite and easily avoidable. The suspense subplot with the stalker was so predictable that my eyes were begging me to stop rolling them. Some authors have a weird compulsion to add these subplots to their perfectly fine contemporaries. And in this case it was extra infuriating because the premise, characters and overall story were fantastic. The book had an interesting conflict with a hero filled with unresolved daddy and trust issues, and a heroine who clearly became stronger and more confident after a terrible relationship. It was evident that at some point he was going to doubt her, and when that moment came, she tells him to go fuck himself because she was not taking any crap from anyone ever again. It was wonderful. And then the stalker ruined it all by creating a shortcut into the hero’s realization of what an idiot he was being. Emotional conflicts like the one in this book should be resolved through communication and introspection. Placing characters in jeopardy just so they can have near-death epiphanies negates the effort put into the creation of their nuanced characterizations.
Sean is a different type of hero than one would expect from the blurb. He’s supposed to be wasting his talent acting in soap operas, but the complicated relationship with his father, and the death of his mother, keep him from being something other than a TV actor. At times he read older and jaded, and at times younger and immature. I’m not sure if this was due to him being a complex character, or to poor characterization. He takes the time to get to know Kayla, and waits to form an opinion even though there were a lot of malicious gossips about her, but the big misunderstanding happens because his insecurities and distrustful nature arise. The whole time his confidence was a façade, and we get many clues about it, but instead of taking the time to develop and explore that part of his character, the stalker subplot made his actions look like flawed characterization, because there was almost little time devoted to him dealing with his issues.
Kayla is a bit of a Mary Sue. Fine, a lot of a Mary Sue, but there’s more to her than that, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about a woman who slowly but surely regains her self-confidence. And I very much enjoyed seeing her unapologetic about her success, talent and ambition, especially when Sean, who at that moment was her friend and lover, doubted her. When she says that she’s better off alone than with someone who doesn’t trust her or makes her change her professional decisions and turn down opportunities just to please him and his insecurities, I actually believe her.
The book is definitely worth reading and better than half the contemporaries being published right now. It features a mostly uncomplicated and sweet romance, and a story about two people getting to know each other, developing a friendship and falling in love. It is highly readable and enjoyable. Hopefully the next book will focus entirely on the main characters and their personal struggles. I can’t wait to read it.
*It still is on sale at at $1.99 on Kindle (not sure other retailers).
Review by Brie
Kayla Maxwell is eager to shed her slasher-flick bimbo image—and she plans to do just that in her new role on daytime's most popular soap. With a chance to showcase her dramatic range, Kayla will be able to wash away the lingering betrayal and public humiliation left by her controlling, philandering ex-boyfriend.
Sean Barrett, the son of an influential, award-winning actor, is the hottest soap star in the country. Paired on-screen with the talented and beautiful Kayla Maxwell, Sean is determined to keep her at arm's length, burned before by fame-seeking actresses who had no qualms about using him to get to his famous father.But when Kayla receives threatening letters, her past as a scream queen seems to be coming back to haunt her. Succumbing to an attraction neither one of them can deny, Sean and Kayla must face down her stalker and their own personal demons before trusting what they both feel—a love that lasts long after the cameras stop rolling.
Carina Press. December 17, 2012.