Tag Archives: London Celebrities series

London Celebrities Series: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

YAY! Lucy Parker is back with another wry, gratifying, and witty romance featuring a difficult man and a delightful woman.

Freddy Carlton is theatre royalty, descended from generations of performers and the granddaughter of the playwright of a seminal masterpiece called The Velvet Room. Poised to move into the highest ranks of Serious Acting, she’d rather do work that brings joy to herself and others. We met her as a late teen in Pretty Face and she is now a full adult, though only 23. With her father strong-arming her career from youthful roles towards mature glory, a showdown is coming.

J. Ford-Griffin (Griff) is a theatre historian, critic for one of the serious London papers, and family gatekeeper for a cluster of privileged eccentrics. Acerbic and observant, the reader first meets him as Freddy overhears his incisive and insightful review of her latest stage turn. She can enjoy his wit, even as she is discomfited by his seemingly innate understanding of her ambivalence towards the state of her career. Her exuberance makes him equally uncomfortable, but he gets used to it.

Conveniently, Freddy gets cast in a Jane Austen murder mystery/choose your own adventure play to be performed at the family manor Griff is trying to save from ruin. The live broadcast will provide income for the estate and the weeks of rehearsal mean Freddy and Griff will get lots of chances to find themselves thrown together.  Running alongside this marriage of convenience is a subplot involving a passionate affair between Griff and Freddy’s grandparents. Family secrets and discoveries play a large role in bringing the leads together and complicating the hell out of their relationship to threaten their public and private lives.

Particularly good at both prickly banter and showing the soft underbellies of her characters, Parker provides sparkling acrimony and intimate recognition between Freddy and Griff.  One moment I really enjoyed was Freddy telling Griff not to be so high-handed when speaking to her. Arch verbal repartee is all well and good, but  a real relationship requires sincere interaction.

The live televised theatre production and family histories provide a ready supply of potential sturm and drang  throughout The Austen Playbook. As Freddy and Griff become a couple, they move themselves into the eye of the storm and an entertaining relationship.  I sometimes find it hard to believe that a man this high in the instep could be quite so demonstrative in his affections, but that’s the wish fulfillment part of the genre.

London Celebrities Series:
Act Like It – SO GOOD!
Pretty Face – EVEN BETTER!
Making Up – Good, I’ll get to a review, I have re-read it
The Austen Playbook – see above

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author and Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful, or on my  streamlined recommendations list.

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London Celebrities Series: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker is TWO for TWO! Buy this one!

Pretty Face follows the contemporary romance that I hope you’ve already read, Act Like It, in Parker’s London Celebrities series and she continues to mix clever writing and emotional sincerity to gain engaging, recommendable results. Herewith the only note I took while reading, “wonderfully sarcastic”; although, I highlighted several passages, such as, “It’s a lost art, condescension. Most workplaces are so PC these days that you just don’t get patronized in quite the same way.” and “The house looked like an interplanetary prison.”

Set in London’s theatre sub-culture, Pretty Face is the marriage of convenience story of a lauded and difficult director, Luc Savage, and a classical actor trapped in the body, and specifically the sex kitten voice, of a successful soap opera performer. Convinced to let Lily Lamprey audition to play Elizabeth I in the production of a new play at a theatre he owns and has renovated, Luc learns that despite her vocal challenges which are, of course, addressable, Lily is a very good actor who wants to live up to her potential and have a more serious career.

[starter pistol fires]

Luc and Lily are both caught off guard by their instant connection and the sense of rightness in it what they each feel. He’s older, 40, and recently out of a long-term relationship he has realised he wasn’t really all that invested in. She’s 26 and trying to get her future on the right track. A romantic entanglement (gossip) might help the box office, but the press is already setting her up for failure and sleeping with her boss is not going to help her reputation. It doesn’t matter. They belong together. Of course, they do.

As Lily, Luc, and the rest of the theatre company work towards opening night, things go awry on and off stage providing professional and personal challenges, and sometimes both. It’s a deftly written, witty ride and Parker combines bright, prickly people with a sincere romanticism that works really well. The reality in romances might be heightened but when the emotions are grounded, it brings these novels to the level I think most readers hope for.

Enjoyable isn’t really the right word for Parker’s portrayal of the relentless sexism that Lily puts up with in her life as a goddess often assumed to have the brain of a beetroot, but the way she endures the constant onslaught was a fantastic character detail. Women are accustomed to being patronized, Lily is used to rising above the constant disrespect that is amplified by being a public/tabloid figure with a beautiful, voluptuous appearance.

Please buy this book and help make sure Lucy Parker gets to keep writing.

Wait.

WAIT!

I lied.

I did make one other note while reading: “Jesus!” when I read the description of the hero, “Luc Savage looked like Gregory Peck, circa some dapper time between Roman Holiday and To Kill a Mockingbird. There was more bulk in the shoulders, silver in the hair and darkness in the soul; otherwise, the resemblance was uncanny.” These are all very good things.

I spoke English for a living for several years, as an adult ESL teacher, and watched Roman Holiday with a few of my classes. Once or twice, or every time, my students may have heard a “Good lord,” from my place at the back of the classroom while watching. I’m not made of stone.

giphy

 

London Celebrities Series:
Act Like It – SO GOOD!
Pretty Face – EVEN BETTER! see above
Making Up – Good, I’ll get to a review, I have re-read it
The Austen Playbook – Great

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author and Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful, or on my  streamlined recommendations list to which I will be adding Pretty Face soon after clicking “Publish”.

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London Celebrities Series: Act Like It by Lucy Parker

READ THIS BOOK.

257505461When an obnoxious stage actor needs a boost to his reputation which will both encourage business and improve his public standing, his costar is selected as just the right woman to be able to put up with him for the media’s gratification while secretly being rewarded with money for her charity at the same time.

There are several ways an author can reform an asshat, but a partner who gives as good as he/she gets is the most fun, as is a reverse Taming of the Shrew. Starring together in a West End play in contemporary London, the hero and heroine are both talented and successful. He is higher up the ladder than she, but as a theatre purist whose aspirations of influence in the arts are in conflict with his complete and utter inability to suffer fools gladly, he is in a spot of bother. Richard is rich, insanely talented, gorgeous and, as the saying goes, difficult. Lainie is droll, sharp, and sincere. They spar their way to a genuine, romantic relationship without sacrificing the arch by-play that makes them so enjoyable to begin with.

I will not be the only one reviewing this first book from Lucy Parker, nor will I be the only person encouraging you to buy it. With this novel, Parker has arrived on my “fingers crossed for huge potential” list. Her writing is fresh and sublimely funny and her talent for wry asides and wonderful banter will take her far. Admittedly, Act Like It does fall back on a couple of tropes to get the job done, but with prose this witty who cares?

Having said all I need to, I’m just going to regale my ones of readers with some select quotations. (Speaking of which, Richard quotes my favourite line of all time, in fact it’s the tagline for my blog, to Lainie. I screamed like a Beatles fan at Shea Stadium.)

You make Mr. Darcy look like the poster child for low self-esteem.

I wouldn’t have to lose my temper if people weren’t such morons.

Lynette looked as though a few silent prayers for patience were taking place behind her bland expression.

…he was quite gracious with her niece Emily, although clearly uncomfortable with – well, humans, really.

London Celebrities Series:
Act Like It – SO GOOD! see above
Pretty Face – EVEN BETTER!
Making Up – Good, I’ll get to a review, I have re-read it
The Austen Playbook – Great

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful, or my  streamlined recommendations list.