Isn't She Lovely by Lauren Layne
Reading Level: New Adult
Release Date: October 28, 2013
Pages: 243 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
When Stephanie Kendrick, a 20-year-old college senior, signed up for a summer screenwriting course with a famous screenwriter at NYU, she didn't anticipate being saddled with a partner for the project that will provide the entire source of her grade for the class, a screenplay based on the myth of Pygmalion.
Ethan Price, Stephanie's assigned partner, is a senior at NYU like her, but he couldn't be more different from her in his background and life choices. Where Stephanie is a film major with a middle-class upbringing whose approach to fashion is classic, tortured-artist Goth, Ethan is a business major from an ultra-rich family who looks like a GQ cover model. The two of them trade barbs from the moment they meet, colliding in the corridor outside their screenwriting classroom on the first day of summer school. Stephanie dreads working with Ethan, whom she regards as a feckless frat boy who will torpedo her grade point average, and she is shocked when, seemingly out of the blue, Ethan begs her to act as his real, live Pygmalion. He needs a fake girlfriend for multiple upcoming family events to convince his parents that he is never going to get back together with his cheating ex-girlfriend--a rich, polished beauty from Ethan's social circle. Stephanie initially resists the appalling notion of forsaking her own avant-garde identity to become Ethan's personal, dress-up Barbie doll in sweater sets and pearls, until it occurs to her that the masquerade will provide invaluable hands-on research to increase the authenticity of their mutual screenplay.
I was thrilled to discover this novel because I am a huge fan of romantic comedy, something that is almost non-existent in the relatively new romance subgenre, New Adult, which so far tends almost exclusively toward very dark drama. Even more delightful is the fact that the humor in this story extensively derives from the clever repartee between Stephanie and Ethan, as well as the ever-green romance plot of a fake romantic relationship, which is one of my comic favorites. Delightfully, the witty banter extends throughout the novel, a humorous feat that is extremely difficult for authors of romantic comedy to sustain.
I also greatly enjoyed reading a NA novel with a hero who has not a single piercing or tattoo on his body, and whose romantic history includes only one lover within a long-term relationship rather than an endless string of one-night stands emblematic of the cliche "man whore." Ethan in specific is a fabulous hero. He can be overconfident to the point of being egotistical, but he is also quick witted, attentively observant, and compassionate.
Stephanie is also a terrific heroine. She has strong goals and motivation, and she has a significant growth arc within the story. Her angst in the dark periods of the book is never whiny, and her relationship choices, in her family and romantic past, make sense given her history and personality.
There is plenty of sexual tension between the two attractive protagonists, but the sexual scenes are never graphic or crude and, again unlike the vast majority of NA novels in the marketplace so far, this novel does not consist of an endless string of erotic sex scenes. The emphasis is on the hero and heroine's mental and emotional connection, with a gradual movement from semi-enemies to friends occurring before any sexual acts are initiated.
In short, this is an absolute treasure of a romance novel, and fans of romance in general and romantic comedy in particular will be utterly delighted.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5