A great story mixing comedy and human struggles
I’ve wanted to read this book since it was released and had amazing reviews but somehow I suspected it would be even better to get it in audio. Humorous books normally are. Now the wait is over and I’m happy that it reached my expectations.
Elsie Webb is the star of a children’s TV show called Fangley Heights. Well, her puppet Fangley is but she’s the show creator and the network executives don’t appreciate that. Not until heiress Jones Haelstrom takes charge of the company, albeit temporarily, and starts negotiating a new contract. But the negotiations develop into something different, more like mutual attraction. A no-strings arrangement should be enough to keep their relationship casual but as feelings get in the way, things start to get complicated.
The no-strings trope is unique as it’s romance in reverse order, first sex then proper dating and love. It’s funny to see how the characters deny their feelings to each other and themselves. Add the interaction of a workplace romance between boss and employee and it’s a great recipe for disaster or, because it’s a romance after all, for a happily ever after. Elsie and Jones couldn’t be more different (opposites-attract is another trope that comes to mind) but they have great chemistry together and it’s easy to see that they are meant for each other, testament to how well these characters are written.
Lucy Bexley has a very distinct writing style in which she combines elements of slapstick comedy with very real human struggles. It’s really hard to pull a ridiculous one-liner joke next to a deeply emotional moment in an organic way but Ms. Bexley makes it look easy. Maybe because humour tends to lower the readers’ guards, those emotional moments act as a proverbial bucket of cold water for the unexpected depth of the feelings they provoke. This book has a few moments like that which are balanced back again thanks to a good dose of humour.
They say that children and pets usually steal a show but they should add puppets to the list. A child vampire puppet who tries to fit in among other kids is a great metaphor to promote tolerance and diversity. I wish the show really existed. Elsie, the mastermind behind the puppet, is absolutely hilarious but, at the same time, can be compassionate and caring, the best example of comic relief. Exactly what Jones needs in that moment of her life.
The audiobook version is narrated by Abby Craden. Comedy isn’t her specialty, though I’ve liked her doing comedy in the Cushing-Nevada Chronicles by Georgette Kaplan. I was surprised that Tantor Audio didn’t choose Lori Prince, I think she would have been a better fit for her comedic timing. Having said that, Abby Craden did a very good job and the audiobook is very entertaining to listen to. 4.5 stars.
Length: 9 hours, 32 minutes