by Adele Buck
Series: Center Stage #3
Also in this series: Acting Up, Method Acting
Publisher: Quiet Confidence Press
Publication Date: August 6, 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:
Parting may be such sweet sorrow, but second chances are so much sweeter.
An intense summer fling with handsome, protective actor James Martin opened up self-effacing Frederica Alves’ horizons. Then their potential for love met a swift end when he followed his dreams and left New York for Hollywood.
Two years later, James is back, his talent now matched by his rising fame, and that spark is still there. But the shy Freddie he knew has become a confident woman and their passionate reconnection speedily turns into equally passionate conflict.
That Freddie was still single was both unexpected and welcome after two years apart. But as James learns how much she’s grown into herself, he realizes he’d walked away from the best thing that ever happened to him.
Trouble is, one thing has stayed the same: Freddie hates cameras and attention and they’re about to face a lot of both. Can a publicity-shy woman and a celebrity learn how to reach for the stars together, or will everything come crashing to earth?
I’ve been curious about Freddie and James ever since Cath’s book (Acting Up), but there’s good reasons why this wasn’t the immediate sequel. This is a delightful second chance romance and well worth the wait. While I think you could read this as a standalone, it’s much more fun to have at least read the first book in the series.
Two years ago, Freddie and James met on the set of a play while Freddie was an assistant stage manager and James, a screen actor, was trying out stage acting. While they hit it off, after the production was over, Freddie was unwilling to follow him back to the west coast. Now James is back in NYC for a new superhero TV show and their chemistry is still off the charts. But while Freddie’s changed a lot, James isn’t so sure he has, and his new-found fame is set to drive a wedge between him and Freddie. Taking things slow seems like the best bet, but even that may not be enough to save their burgeoning relationship.
“I had forgotten how pigheaded you can be when you try,” James said, his face hardening into a mask of disapproval.
Freddie yanked her skirt on and shoved her feet in her shoes. “Yeah? Well, I’d forgotten how sanctimonious you can be. I’m not even sure you’re trying very hard. It seems to come naturally.”
From the moment Freddie and James reunite, their chemistry leaps off the page. But what’s less certain is whether they can make a relationship work between them. After Cath’s mentorship, her career is definitely on an upward trajectory, but not so much that she can refuse a good job offer, even if it means working again with (gulp) Susan, who’s a diva landmine at best and was personally ugly to Freddie the last time they worked together. But that was two years ago, and she’s come into her own since then, no longer the shy woman she used to be, and she needs to show everyone that she’s capable of standing on her own two feet, personally and professionally. She’s not sure that James, however, has got that memo. He’s seven years older than her and while she was grateful when he stood up for her against Susan back then, now she’s perfectly capable of defending herself. Freddie especially hates being treated like a kid, and has a huge chip on her shoulder if she thinks someone is treating her differently because she’s young. But James has to battle with a fierce need to protect her, not to mention all his insecurities over his own acting career, something he hasn’t felt comfortable burdening Freddie with. It’s ultimately a story about learning to communicate, and about figuring out how to compromise and make a relationship work.
“Adults have this thing called talking. You might want to give that a try.”
But the big issue in their relationship is communication, and it was at turns frustrating and rewarding to see them figure out how their relationship could work. Freddie’s quick to write James off when he doesn’t respond exactly as she thinks he should, and James certainly could be more open with her. Freddie and James initially fell in love when he wasn’t very famous, and his new stardom doesn’t sit well with the camera-shy Freddie. Luckily James has an older coworker who can give him advice… but actually heeding that advice is something else entirely! It’s not smooth sailing, and they both make mistakes. It’s definitely a two-steps-forward, one-step-back sort of relationship, but I loved how committed they were to each other, and eventually, to making their relationship work.
There’s lots of other things to love besides the main characters. Of course there’s the return of the dreaded Susan, but Freddie also still hangs out with (and seeks advice from) Cath and Paul, so it was lovely to see them again. There’s also an absolutely delightful shout-out to Ms. Bev which I appreciated; let’s just say James went up several levels in hotness when he told Freddie why he had some of her books!
Overall, this was another delightful entry in the series, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next!