Published by Random House LLC on October 28th 2013
Genres: New Adult, Romance
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The rules are clear—until they're broken. Lauren Layne puts a New Adult spin on Pygmalion, also the inspiration for Pretty Woman, and gives the classic love story its edgiest twist yet.
"Who knew that pretending you're not falling for someone would be so much more difficult than pretending that you are?"
Stephanie Kendrick gave up her whole summer to ace her NYU film school screenwriting course, so she's pissed to be stuck with a preppy, spoiled frat boy as her writing partner. Then again, with her piercings, black-rimmed eyes, and Goth wardrobe, Stephanie isn't exactly Ethan Price's type, either. He's probably got his eye on some leggy blonde with a trust fund... or does he?
As the summer scene kicks off in the Hamptons, Ethan is desperate to make his snobbish mother forget the pedigreed girl who broke his heart. While Stephanie's a stretch as a decoy, the right makeover and a pastel cardigan just might do the trick. She may not love the idea of playing Ethan's brainless Barbie girlfriend, but the free rent and luxurious digs make a tempting offer. So does the promise of a ready-made screenplay idea inspired by their charade.
But when Stephanie steps into Ethan's privileged world, the "acting" begins to feel all too real. The kissing and touching that were intended to fool the Hamptons crowd wind up manipulating "them." And Stephanie faces a question she's too afraid to ask: Is Ethan falling for the real her or for the dolled-up princess he wants to see?
This is the type of predictable and rather fluffy story that might have me rolling my eyes if it was written by a less talented author. In Lauren Layne’s extremely capable hands, however, the familiar storyline is infused with such endearing characters, snarky banter, and flowing writing that it engaged me from beginning to end.
Stephanie and Ethan are two NYU students who seem to be complete opposites. Stephanie is an angry goth film student who uses heavy black eyeliner and combat boots as a shield against pain. Ethan is a rich preppy business student who is avoiding some recent pain of his own by blowing off an internship and enrolling in a summer screenwriting course.
The two are paired on a project and immediately bump heads.
“Does the surly mood come with the goth outfit?” he asks, giving me a once-over. “Or do you have to buy it separately?”
I hold up a hand to shield my eyes. “Could you please watch where you’re pointing your teeth? The glare from your caps is hurting my eyes.”
He runs a tongue over his ridiculously white teeth, looking thoughtful. “You know, sometimes if I don’t have enough light to study by, I just smile and use the reflection from these pearly whites.”
Their assignment is to write a modern day screenplay adaptation of Pygmalion. They wind up with a cross between “My Fair Lady” and “Pretty Woman” placed in a college setting. When Ethan finds himself in need of a girlfriend to impress his snobbish parents he decides to put the concept to a real life test. While not the ideal choice, Stephanie is his only option. He bribes her into agreeing to a makeover and a few social gatherings posing as his love interest, all under the guise of research and a favor. As Ethan and Stephanie grow closer, it doesn’t take long before they begin to question what is pretend and what is real.
While the plot is formulaic, I still found the story delightful. I loved the dynamic between Ethan and Stephanie. In the midst of all the sarcasm is a tenderness as Ethan breaks down Stephanie’s angry defenses. In turn, Stephanie helps Ethan discover that outward appearances can be deceiving. There are painful truths to be faced along the way, but they are balanced with lots of humor. And the chemistry between Ethan and Stephanie is my favorite kind – a slow burn. For all its charm, however, the story occasionally drifts into rather annoying NA territory where the characters refuse to express their feelings. This causes unnecessary miscommunication and wasted opportunities. All the same, this is a fun, sweet book that I highly recommend.