by Alexis Daria
Series: Primas of Power #1
Publication Date: September 3, 2020
Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.
First off, wow, this cover. This is the cover that all illustrated romance covers aspire to be. Plus, it fits the book perfectly, steamy and romantic and steeped in the author’s heritage. In my eyes, it’s the mark of a good author to make me care about something in a book that I know nothing about in real life. I knew Alexis Daria was capable of it; I loved her Dance Off series, which was centered around a reality dance competition. So when I saw she was writing a romance about a telenovela star and a soap opera star, well, ok, go! And my gosh, it was completely worth it.
When Jasmine finds out that her rock star boyfriend has dumped her (via tabloid no less), well, at least she’s back home in NYC with her cousins preparing for her next role. She’s spent the past few years acting in soap operas in LA, but the leading role in a new telenovela adaptation by the premier streaming service has the chance to make her a household name. Ashton, the other lead, is also staking his career on the show, as he fears he’s past his prime. After all, in his last telenovela shot in his homebase of Miami, he didn’t even make it to the finale – and he played the villain, not the leading man. This might be his last shot to break into Hollywood instead of fading into obscurity. He doesn’t have time for any distractions, even if his costar is gorgeous, talented, and kind. But despite his standoffishness, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them, and as their characters’ relationship heats up on screen, so does their own. But is their relationship doomed to end before they reach the end of the season?
“Later on, she was going to have to think about why she found his hellos and goodbyes so arousing.”
This is a book about two actors, so of course there’s lots of interesting show biz background. Plus, interspersed into the usual dual narrative are scenes from the show, written in the character’s third person, with bits of the actors’ thoughts peeking through. Despite the vast differences between the two relationships (their show characters’ relationship follows many of the divorced second chance romance tropes, while Jasmine and Ashton barely know each other) there’s a symmetry in the two relationships. Communication and trust are the biggest issues, and their characters acknowledge that their marriage failed because they stopped being there for the other person. Trust is an a humongous issue for Ashton, which makes others think he’s aloof and a bit of a diva. He only truly trusts his family, but he’s shaken by how much he wants to confide in Jasmine. But he knows he especially can’t get involved with her because she’s currently a hot gossip item due to her recent breakup and he avoids the press as much as possible in order to protect his family.
Jasmine is the poster middle child, hungry for attention and validation. She knows she has to break the chain of rebound relationships, so she and her cousins brainstorm a new set of goals for her. But, to be honest, her new character, Carmen, is basically #lifegoals – she’s successful, knows what she wants and goes for it. If only some of that can rub off on Jasmine… but instead she seems to share her attraction to Ashton. This has some ridiculously hot slowburn romance, infused with a lot of occasional touches and, gulp, on-screen kisses (choreography by an intimacy specialist, no less). But it’s their warmth with each other that really enchanted me, from Ashton’s gentle teasing about Jasmine’s Spanglish to dancing in grocery stores. And when they finally get together, oof, scorching.
“Crushes were fleeting. Family teasing was forever.”
While Jasmine’s big family can get on her nerves – especially her immediate family – her cousins are always there for her, whether that’s an encouraging text or showing up with pizza. I loved them and can’t wait for their books! Another thing I loved? This book is casually inclusive, with lots of Latinx representation on the show and a trans actor, plus someone who uses nonbinary pronouns.
Overall, an absolutely delightful new romance, full of heat and love. Highly recommended!
Content notes: View Spoiler »death of mother (of an illness, before the book starts), home invasion with weapon (before book starts), grief, anxiety, panic attack (on-page), PTSD, alcohol use, child hurt via climbing accident (broken bones), discussion of colorism in media « Hide Spoiler