I don’t think Christina Lauren is my brand of romance. This is my fourth attempt at their books, and I chose this one on NetGalley for the plot – it does sound super cute, but in practice, falls flat.
Carey is an assistant to incredible home design team (and husband and wife) Melly and Rusty Tripp. They’re beloved by many, and wildly successful, but what most people don’t know is that their relationship is falling apart. With the help of the other assistant (who’s supposed to be their engineer), James, she just has to keep them from ripping each other part for one week, during their book tour for a guide on marriage, of course.
In such close quarters, James begins to notice a lot of the things Carey has been trying to hide about herself: her dystonia, the fact that she’s been doing all of Melly’s designs for a decade, that fact that her relationship with Melly is emotionally abusive… he sees it all, and begins to love the person that shines through her tough situation. But the two are both stuck in this job, for different reasons, with this god-awful couple. Working love in around that proves more difficult than they expected.
Like I said, plot sounds heckin’ cute. The Tripps give off a sort of Gaines’ vibe, obviously, but their marriage is clearly way more of a disaster. I liked the complexity of Carey’s character and her situation with Melly, but James fell flat in comparison. I couldn’t picture either of them (Carey or James) in my mind as real people, but funny enough, the Tripps were clear as day. I think there was something deeper here, or an opportunity to make the plot more intricate and well-connected, that was very clearly lost. I think many romance authors miss that opportunity, but the best romcoms I’ve read in recent years are those that can focus in on that. It makes their characters more real to the readers.
The plot was also kind of dull. There was no real arch or build-up, likely because the conflict relied on you understanding the deeper, inner workings of these characters and why what they did was so untrustworthy, but because it lacked that, the story arch was more of a mild bump in an otherwise straight line. It made reading through it slow and grueling, and I kept avoiding picking it up, which is very unlike me.
These are my biggest complaints. Having read the acknowledgements, it sounds like the Christina Lauren duo knew they were a problem, but somehow this book will be reaching bookstore shelves by March 24 anyway.
I received a copy of The Honey-Don’t List from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.