A sweet and quirky rom-com with puppets
If I ever have to work for someone again, I want Jones Haelstrom to be my boss. Jones’ father just died and her life is upside down. Instead of flying back to L.A. promptly, as she’d planned, she’s stuck in New York, as the acting CEO of her father’s media company and acting guardian of her six-year-old brother, whose mother disappeared as soon as the funeral was over. At least it allows Jones to take a break from her own mother… Elsie Webb is trying to get Haelstrom Media to pay her what she deserves for her kids’ television show, Fangley Heights. Negotiating isn’t what she’s best at but she’s had enough of not being taken seriously. Because if there’s one thing Elsie takes seriously, it’s her show and its star, her “monster son”, child vampire Fangley. And yes, he’s a puppet.
The other thing Elsie takes seriously is fun, in delightful contrast to Jones, who has a hard time not being serious about everything. Blame her childhood, and maybe trying to deal with uneven mental health. At forty-two, Jones is doing her best not to be a burden to anyone, and to simply live her life. She doesn’t want anything to do with her father’s company, but she’s responsible and reliable. She’s also fair and when Elsie’s contract comes before her eyes, she tries to make things right.
As Elsie puts it, it’s not so much that Jones is kind than that she has the desire to be. She tries hard and that’s everything. Despite apparently not being aware of it, Elsie is effortlessly kind, at least when it comes to Jones and her little brother Bentley. Both MCs are wonderful, flawed and good and so very human. I love how Elsie hides behind her jokes and overall cute quirkiness and I loved seeing Jones finally open up and let who she really is show. There were moments when I wished the two of them would talk rather than think but then it worked out. And the miscommunication never feels artificial. It’s not a gimmick the author uses to create conflict. It’s the characters being human.
Besides the MCs, there are a few secondary characters I loved and a couple I loved to hate. Bentley, Jones’ kid brother, is adorable, Elsie’s roommate Avery is brilliant, Stu and Trey are awful and I have to agree with Elsie, I too know quite a few people I would happily donate to Goodwill. The mothers – Jones’ and Bentley’s – are half and half…
I loved Must Love Silence last year, and I’m starting this new year loving No Strings. I love how Lucy Bexley combines jokes and topics that require a delicate touch. In Must Love Silence, it was sobriety and anxiety. Here it’s Bipolar Disorder. I’ve written this I don’t know how many times, I may sometimes be easily pleased as a reader but not when it comes to making me laugh. Slapstick comedy isn’t my thing. I don’t laugh easily at jokes, which, growing up, made me a black sheep of sorts. Lucy Bexley’s blend works pretty well for me, however, and I think it’s because of that mix I mentioned above.
This book made me smile a lot, laugh enough, it made my heart all warm and gooey, put lumps in my throat one minute, dissolved them the next. And left me slightly melancholy that Jones, Elsie, Benz and Avery aren’t my friends in real life. I’m going to miss them.
No Strings is also pretty hot at times. You should absolutely read the Salty Epilogue, which you’ll get by subscribing to Bexley’s newsletter (or you can download it here, but please consider joining the author’s newsletter, which is another way to support your favourite authors).
Also, I wish Fangley Heights was a real show and I could add a Fangley puppet to my family. 4.5 stars.