by Adele Buck
Series: Center Stage #2
Also in this series: Acting Up, Acting Lessons
Publisher: Quiet Competence Press
Publication Date: April 16, 2021
Source: the author
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
All the world's a stage until your heart is on the line.
All Alicia Johnson has ever wanted is to be able to slip into someone else's life, clothing, and makeup to become a murderess, a socialite, a mother, or a nurse for an episode or a season. And she's good at it.
Being an actress comes with a healthy dose of financial insecurity and a willingness to live out of two jammed suitcases, ready to go wherever the next director wants her. Up until now, it's been worth it for the creative escape and the thrill of applause.
All Colin St. Cyr has ever wanted is to win, going all-in to get Congress to see things his clients' way. Despite being a Brit in Washington, D.C., he is well off, well connected...and well on his way to becoming a boring bachelor forevermore after a heinous breakup.
Especially as he's just made an arse of himself with the first woman who has knocked him sideways in years. It won't matter how much money he donates to the theater; Alicia Johnson is still going to look at him like a goddess looks at a flea.
The only thing he can do is use his highly attuned persuasive skills to talk her into giving him a second chance.
The stage is set, but by the final act, is it a love story between the provocative actress and the cultured power-player or will it end in tragedy?
Content warnings: View Spoiler »religious abuse (fundamental Christianity), family estrangement, death of a parent (before the book starts), slutshaming, cheating (of side character on main character, before book starts) « Hide Spoiler
I absolutely adored Adele Buck’s first book so I was very eager to see where the next book in the series would take us. This one doesn’t focus as much on the behind the scenes bits of acting, but it does have a delightfully steamy opposites-attract couple!
Alicia is finishing up a run in Romeo & Juliet at the Folger’s in D.C. and contemplating her next steps. But what’s not on her plan is getting insulted by Colin, a STEAM lobbyist, at one of the theater’s benefit nights. Colin didn’t mean to put his foot in his mouth with his comment about actors being liars, but there’s something about Alicia that sets him off-balance. The fact that he can’t get her out of his mind days later doesn’t help, either, and the same is true for Alicia. But their two worlds are very different, and it’s going to take a lot of lessons in how to act as a couple for them to stop their relationship from turning into a Shakespearean tragedy.
“I don’t believe in soul mates,” she said.
“Nor do I. But I do believe in the kind of compatibility that can make two people want to work through their differences.”
“And you think we have the potential for that?”
“I do. The question is, do you?”
I absolutely adored Alicia. She’s fiercely independent – for a good reason – but that also means that she’s an actress slowly approaching her expiration date who has neither a permanent base nor many friends. She does make friends with some of the women from her latest production, though, as they say, they practically have to force their friendship on herTo be honest, the only person she regularly communicates with, besides her agent, is her frenemy Susan (villain of the last book), and that’s more because she likes seeing how much she can annoy her. Colin’s her complete opposite. He has multiple degrees to her GED and a swanky D.C. pad to her “garden” sublet. But he also frequently jams his foot in along with that silver spoon in his mouth. He’s not aware of his own biases, from calling all actors liars to how some of his compliments to Alicia can come off as condescending.
Alicia is prickly, to put it mildly, and generally unwilling to let thoughtless comments slide. While I appreciated having a heroine who stood up for herself, it did lead to a very see-saw sort of relationship. It felt like Alicia was always one wrong comment from walking away from their relationship. And that’s partially true, though it’s more like she was trying to force Colin away. She’s convinced that they’re too different and their relationship will only lead to heartbreak. What saved that dynamic for me is that neither of them do walk away – Alicia and Colin talk it out, and eventually it’s sometimes even Colin who has to call her out on her assumptions. They are always honest with each other, though. It does make for some magnificent chemistry, too, and the love scenes were well done and steamy.
“Are you saying you want to take care of me?”
“I’m saying I think we could take care of each other.”
The pacing worked very well for the book, and the side characters, though there weren’t that many, felt real as well. I actually really want Colin’s friend Brandon and his fiancée Mari’s story as well! My only quibble is that it felt like Alicia had much more character development than Colin. While he’s got his own thing he’s working through, it felt smaller – and was much more recent – than Alicia’s problem. His other issue – of putting his foot in his mouth – was handled excellently.
Overall, I enjoyed this second Center Stage book just as much as the first, and the teaser at the end has me even more excited for Freddie and James’ (second chance!!!!) romance.