I've mostly been reading fantasy and sci-fi these past few months, so I decided to see if it was time to switch to a romance glom. I remembered enjoying a contemporary romance excerpt involving a heroine who was an extra and a hero who was a big-name TV actor. After a bit of searching, I located the book, Starstruck.
Micah is one of the biggest stars in the show Sexy M.D. (my mental image of the show was something like Grey's Anatomy). He's been acting since he was a child and has a very jaded opinion of Hollywood. Jenna is an extra on the show, nervous and excited because it's her very first time acting in a real TV show. Had things gone as they were supposed to, she and Micah would have never spoken to one another. However, during one of the takes, Micah accidentally smacks Jenna in the face. Jenna gets sent away, and Micah, mortified, goes after her to apologize.
Micah finds himself drawn to Jenna and her bright, shiny joy for acting and Hollywood life. He visits her at her restaurant job and accompanies her home when her car acts up. It's not long before the two of them end up in bed together. Their relationship progresses fast, which was one of the first problems I had with this book.
I was looking forward to seeing their relationship build over the course of months, or at least weeks. Instead, it was insta-love on Micah's part. In less than a week, he decided he trusted and cared for Jenna enough to offer her spare keys to his house and car. I can't remember the timeline exactly, but I think they had sex within 24 hours of meeting each other. Considering that Micah was supposed to be wrestling with decades of learned distrust of Hollywood and its culture of lying and deception, everything seemed to be moving way too quickly.
Which leads me to the sex scenes. There were a couple scenes in which Micah was so hot for Jenna that he initially forgot he wasn't yet wearing a condom. Both times, he said he either needed to find something or they were going to have to stop. Micah always freaked out more than Jenna. The first time, Jenna encouraged him to keep going a little, but Micah left to get a condom from her bathroom. The second time, they were at his house and he had no condoms at all around. Jenna basically told him, “I'm on the pill, I'm healthy, I don't sleep around, let's do this.” I suppose it was assumed that Micah didn't have any STDs, since his status was never mentioned. It was all presented as a trust issue, and Micah decided he trusted Jenna enough to have sex with her without a condom.
Out of everything in the book, that one scene had the biggest negative impact on me. Had they known each other for months, it probably still would have made me uncomfortable. As it was, they'd known each other for less than a week.
After that came scenes I'd been predicting since the first time they fell into bed together. No, there was no “surprise, my birth control failed and I'm pregnant” scene (thank goodness), but there was a moment when Micah thought all his fears about Jenna not being as honest as she appeared were confirmed. The speed with which Micah went from “I trust Jenna enough to give her the keys to everything I own” to “OMG, she's just as slimy as everyone else” pissed me off. It helped, somewhat, that Micah let up after Jenna reminded him he'd been the one pursuing her, not the other way around, but the whole thing still felt awful and predictable.
The resolution wasn't terribly surprising. Still, it was kind of a let-down – I was expecting a big grovel scene, but that never happened.
I wish I had enjoyed this more. It had some good moments, and the on-set stuff was really interesting and felt accurate. I just wish that some scenes hadn't been quite so predictable and that the romance had been more, well, romantic.
My read-alikes list could be better. I was sure I'd read more "actors falling in love" books, but I had problems remembering any. I don't think any of my suggestions below fit in terms of writing style or feel, unfortunately.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Sexiest Man Alive (book) by Diana Holquist - I've read the first book in the series and was left wishing I'd read this instead. I still haven't read this book, but it's in my collection somewhere. Anyway, it stars a shy costume designer whose psychic sister says she'll tell her who her One True Love is if she gives her $2,000. It turns out the shy costume designer's One True Love is a sexy, extroverted movie star. Those who'd like another romance with a hero who's a big-name actor may want to give this a try.
- Skip Beat! (manga) by Yoshiki Nakamura; Skip Beat! (anime TV series) - Okay, so this is manga and, in tone, it's nothing like Starstruck. However, it's the absolute best, most enjoyable "actors falling in love" story I can think of. The heroine becomes an actress in an effort to crush her ex-boyfriend. Another actor, Ren, gradually falls in love with her, but it takes her ages to even notice or realize that she has feelings for him in return. I've written about the anime and several volumes of the manga.
- Notting Hill (live action movie) - A bookshop owner and a famous Hollywood actress meet and begin to fall in love, but it's not an easy, quick, fairy tale romance. I remember enjoying this movie, although Hugh Grant was, at times, almost too painfully awkward for me to watch. Those who'd like another "famous Hollywood person falling in love with someone relatively ordinary" might want to give this a try.