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Sugar & Spice by Sarah Sanders

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This one is super short, super cute and super hot. Princess Aurora has just been formally made the Crown Princess of her c...

To the Moon and Back by Melissa Brayden

⭐⭐⭐⭐★


This is one more sparkling gem added to the already resplendent list of Melissa Brayden’s works. Brayden is an author with a very distinctive voice and style – there is humour, great dialogue, a little oddball hyperbole (which is so much fun) in conversations that spills over into the narrative, very easy-going and chill characters and great connection between the MCs. This one ticks all the above boxes.

After being a Hollywood darling for close to a decade, Carly Daniel is now a Hollywood pariah. Negative publicity, a party-girl lifestyle, diva demands and accusations of unprofessionalism have outpaced her popularity and she’s not getting any offers for a long time even when she is willing to audition for parts. The only work to come her way in a long time is a new play to be performed at The McAllister, a respected theatre in Minneapolis. Carly has never done stage and is not exactly thrilled either about the change in her preferred medium or that it is in back-of-the-beyond Minneapolis, but since that this the only real work offer she has, she takes it.

Lauren Prescott is the rockstar stage manager at McAllister. She’d once harboured a dream of being an actress but endless auditions resulted in zilch so she shifted her gaze to remain in an industry that drew her and made the best use of her organizational skill and organised nature. Lauren has found her niche and loves her job. When Carly arrives with all her Hollywood-ness and fame, Lauren is quick to take her to task and make her fall in line with the discipline required from a stage actress. The actress playing lead opposite Carly in the play has a chip on her shoulder about Carly’s screen background and fame and the resulting animosity is making the play fall flat during rehearsals. Lauren offers to read lines with Carly and the result is mindblowing. So much so that the director brings Lauren onboard as the co-lead. 

Besides the professional drama, from the word go, Lauren and Carly have a chemistry that keeps building with each interaction. The two of them find that besides the mad attraction between them, they actually like being with each other, talking to each other and spending time together. Working as co-stars only brings them closer.

When the play debuts, Carly is glossed over while Lauren is noticed by critics and more importantly, by agents seeking to represent her. After much soul-searching, Lauren decides to give her past dream of acting a shot and goes to LA with Carly. As Lauren’s star is rising, Carly’s is sinking. Carly is determinedly upbeat and supportive of Lauren but her soul crashes and burns when she loses the only part she had on the horizon to Lauren.

Carly and Lauren are adorable (read that in all caps). We loved the way their attraction and budding romance are written. Brayden has a special understanding and affinity to the world of theatre and it shows in the depth of characterisation and personality that Carly and Lauren have. The dynamic of two people in the same profession, one fading and the other rising, is not exactly unique (A Star is Born, anyone?) but brilliantly used here.

(We must confess here that we’re not quite sure just how big Carly was before the whole negative publicity thing. There are times when we felt she was quite a huge deal and then there are times when she’s referred to as a starlet. There are plenty of things to indicate that she was big shit and then there is that bit where she doesn’t have to money to pay for her house and its upkeep. Would’ve been nice to have clarity about her position.)

We really, really felt for Carly and liked her so much that we wish Brayden wouldn’t have piled quite so much crash on her. The only thing that was a little hard to swallow was the speed with which Carly collects herself, gets her priorities into place and changes into a new person with unreal ease.

We feel that Lauren and Carly are amongst the most adorable couple ever in lesfic romances. They are both well-fleshed out and very, very understandable and empathise-able.

This one is most definitely recommended.
 
⭐⭐⭐⭐★

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