Artistic License

by Elle Pierson (Lucy Parker)

“Well, you will make mistakes. And people will get hurt. Unfortunately, that’s life. But that doesn’t automatically negate all the good stuff. And it doesn’t mean that you should make some sort of pre-emptive strike against taking the risk in the first place.” Sophy let out a sigh, examining the toes of her shoes as they scuffed in the gravel. “You’re a wise woman, Ma,” she said lightly after a moment. “I think so,” agreed Marion serenely. “Did you get that last bit from Oprah?” “A magazine at the hair salon.”

**4 1/2 stars.** For what it is, a light harlequin-style romance this was excellent. This was Lucy Parker’s first book, and it was self-published under what I assume is her real name. I’m used to her glittery sophisticated London-based books revolving around the theatre and other rarefied venues. Her ability to drop the reader right in the middle of her world has been part of her appeal for me. This one is set in New Zealand, and I was impressed that this setting seemed as authentic as her London milieu. I was surprised but not surprised to find she is a native New-Zealander, when all this time, based on her books, I thought she was a native Londoner.

This is an unapologetic romance with a bit of mystery thrown in to keep things moving. Sophy is very shy to the point that she suffers from debilitating social anxiety. With people she knows she is smart, funny, and cute. With people she doesn’t, she “shrinks in both size and personality” like a “spooked turtle.” An artist, she meets the very large, muscular, and very dangerous-looking Mick, a security specialist, while he is in charge at an art exhibit.

And look at them, for Christ’s sake. It was as if someone had mixed up the casting calls for a flowery chick flick and Terminator 5. He felt three times larger and at least twice as ugly as he actually was just standing near her. The chances of her reciprocating anything other than wary reluctance seemed to hover around zero.

When she finds herself in the middle of a domestic terrorist incident, Mick rushes to her aid when she is knocked down and has an asthma attack. Despite his reserve with women due to his looks (not attractive) and her shyness, it’s basically love at first sight.

This started off slow. At one point, I was going to temporarily put it down to start a book I was anxious to read. I gave it 20 more minutes and it came through for me. We learn that Mick does not like his family and that he comes from a very wealthy and privileged background. Interesting. Then Sophy starts getting anonymous gifts from someone who knows her tastes. It starts to get creepy. Hmmm. I loved Sophy’s family, whom we spend a day with. The Lucy Parker wit and sparkling banter seemed to get better and better as the book went on. Some of the humor is based on her talent for including apt cultural references. There were several engrossing scenes including Sophy meeting Mick’s heinous family. I liked that Sophy’s and Mick’s characters were true and consistent throughout. I enjoyed their warm and tender relationship. He was protective but respected her and didn’t try to “fix” her. I dreaded the point where Mick or Sophy’s hang-ups would endanger their relationship but the bump in the road was understandable based on their firmly established characters and was nipped in the bud quickly. The secondary characters were engaging. And it had a great ending. Really couldn’t ask for more from a light romance and it’s just what I was in the mood for.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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