(London Celebrities #5)
by Lucy Parker
“Sabrina considered herself a morning person. However, she also considered that mornings began at 10: 00 a.m. When she hobbled into the WMUL studio at 5:00a.m…she immediately put her arm across her bleary eyes. Oh, Jesus. She’d forgotten how the breakfast set was dressed. Bright, Chirpy shades of neon buttercup everywhere. It was like someone had exploded the yellow Teletubby, and the contrast between the walls inside and the pitch-black sky outside was physically painful. Maybe the withered ratings couldn’t entirely be blamed on a succession of unpopular presenters. Viewers were probably trying to preserve their corneas.”
Lucy Parker writes a fun book. Even the book I thought was “just OK” was fun. The first book I read (The Austen Playbook) was delightful and the precursor to this one. Headliners is somewhere in the middle of the two. In The Austen Playbook, we meet its heroine’s sister, Sabrina, an ambitious, tempestuous, no-nonsense TV broadcaster, who has an on-again, off-again relationship with an egotistical actor who is cheating on her. She also has an intense rivalry with a fellow broadcaster, Nick Davenport, who, at the end of the former book, exposed her father’s perfidious involvement in a plagiarism scandal involving his Grandmother, an illustrious actor and playwright. The hit to her famous family’s reputation has unfairly stalled Sabrina’s career. At the beginning of Headliners, Nick has disastrously insulted the head of the network publicly and his once soaring career trajectory has plummeted. The two sworn enemies are forced to work together to rescue a struggling morning show. If the ratings are not way up by Christmas Eve, both of their careers are toast.
So the stage is well and truly set for an enemies to lovers romance, which seems to be a specialty of Ms. Parker. While the two start off by circling each other like boxers in a ring, they are forced to team up to solve the (not very mysterious) mystery of who is trying to sabotage their show and why. A computer Chucky-like doll goes haywire and attacks Sabrina’s chest live on air (hilarious), Ingredients are substituted in a cooking segment and renowned Chef Marco is infuriated when the live sampling results in his signature dish being spit out in disgust. (also very funny). Meanwhile, the two are inching their way to mutual respect, physical attraction, friendship, and true love; and the pranks on set go from inconvenient mischievousness to physical harm.
As in her other two books, I liked the maturity of the romance. There was no constant drooling and panting ad-nauseum over Nick’s physical attributes and their effect on our heroine’s libido. The sex was certainly more spicy than average when they finally go all-in on their relationship, but there was nothing adolescent about it. The two communicate with each other and they trust each other. There is no stupid “big misunderstanding” that temporarily drives them apart. The plot doesn’t need that silliness to maintain interest. Instead, we have sophisticated amusing banter and witty observations. One of my favorite bits was the weatherman who can only converse in weather-related terms “He left under quite a cloud…My mind is getting a bit foggy these days…such a lovely sunny smile…His tic is contagious and the puns start to pile up…”Yes, she’s on cloud nine with the new show-Blimey.” “ It’s funny stuff.
We also have the wicked witch of a villain of the previous book getting her so satisfactory comeuppance, the reappearances of the lovable Freddy, Sabrina’s sister and her formidable husband, her difficult father, Nick’s unusual family and their story, and a few more little side trips. Ms. Parker makes an effort to give all of her many characters detailed character traits or backstories which make them come to life in especially amusing, endearing, or nasty ways. Nick’s ex-wife and good friend describing his date for the evening as “Whispering Willow…a walking ASMR video” drolly pegs both Tia, his ex-wife, and his date.
For me though, the main appeal of this and the other books I have read so far by this author is the immersion in the glittering lives of the privileged and famous of London and environs. It is a whole other world and is very entertaining. It did bog down in the middle for some reason (too many side trips?) and it took me forever to finish it. Not sure it was really the book’s fault but for that reason, it is 4 stars for me, not 5.
March 18, 2022