The Austen Playbook // A New Favourite From A Favourite Author

22 April 2019

Published: 22nd April 2019
Source: Netgalley (but also purchased)
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
My Rating:
Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I think I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but Lucy Parker is one of my absolute favourite authors. She writes these fantastic romances set around folks involved with London’s West End and just sucks me in each time. I always think surely she can’t beat the last book she wrote and each time she blows me away with another fantastic romance with characters I just adore. This time around she did all of that she might have even written a book which stolen the position of favourite in series from Act Like It for me. It is at least equal to Act Like It in my favourites list. It was that good.

This book centres around Freddy, who we met briefly in Pretty Face, as she struggles with who she is and what kind of career she wishes to pursue in the theatre. She grew up acting, she’s a former child actor who has made the difficult progression into adult roles, except she is not loving the theatre as much doing the serious theatre her dad wants her to do to uphold the Carlton name. She misses the singing and dancing across the stage so when she gets offered a role in The Austen Playbook, a live play aired on TV where the viewers vote to choose the ending, it seems ideal. It’s a fun role which gives her a break from the serious for a few weeks whilst she gets her head straight. Instead, she keeps getting distracted by Griff, a theatre critic who also happens to own the house which the play is being staged in. And did I mention her grandmother had an affair which his grandfather as well? Yeah, this pair have family history.

I was always going to love Freddy. I loved her in Pretty Face and I loved her in The Austen Playbook. She’s grown since we last saw her and she’s developed into such a cool woman who is just lost in her career and I can totally relate to that. She doesn’t want to let her family down but it’s also making her miserable trying to be a serious actor and loving up to her grandmother, who was an amazing actress and also a playwright who write some play everybody has heard of (yes, I’ve already forgotten the name of said play… I have a bad memory, leave me be!) but Freddy knows she is not her grandmother, she is her own person, but it’s making her dad listen when he is hellbent on fitting her into a set mould. So her time away in the countryside learning the mammoth script for Austen Playbook is a relaxing break… or it was until she found herself attracted to Griff, discovers there have been cast changes which lead to her hanging out with a couple of folks she really doesn’t like, and she’s unravelling the mystery of why her grandmother broke off an affair with Griff’s grandfather, and who was this mysterious great aunt of Griff’s who no one seems to remember? 

And Griff? In my head, all I could picture was Draco Malfoy for a while with all the Slytherin references made to his character (he was a Slytherin through and through, though, and I loved that). He isn’t cruel like Malfoy, though. He is actually a total sweetheart under his frowny serious fa├žade. He is doing everything he can to look out for his family, even though his parents seem hell-bent on spending they really don’t have and his brother has once more concocted a plan to help, by hosting The Austen Playbook in the broken down theatre on their property, but he really isn’t helping (so Griff thinks, anyway). He has spent his whole life trying to keep his family on track and putting out fires and so he wasn’t happy-go-lucky. But I loved him because he cares so damned much. he cares that the actors in this play are well looked after (and don’t get killed by the ancestral home falling down around their ears). He cares to look into his family history so he can get the film project he’s working on off of the ground. And for reasons he can barely understand, he cares about Freddy Carlton. He didn’t intend to but he keeps bumping into her and there is a spark. And when they start to explore the chemistry between them? Well, I was a goner and so was he. Freddy is probably the last thing he needs, but also she is exactly what he needs because he has been struggling by himself for so long but he needs her to both point out when he is being an idiot where his brother is concerned, but also to give him support when he needs it.

If you can’t already tell, I loved the romance between Freddy and Griff. From the first time, they’re together (after Freddy overheard him talking about the onstage disaster she just had where she forgot her lines) and she rescues him from a falling bottle I just knew there was amazing chemistry to be had. And damn, the more time they spend on the page together the more I am cheering on this romance. And the best part of this romance? Even when they fell out you just knew they weren’t going to be apart for long. Like, there are arguments and they do fall out, but the arguments move them forward and develop the relationship rather than tearing them apart. They both always realise they are far happier together than apart and are always turning and looking for the other. They know they are far too unhappy to not be together.

I loved that outside of the romance there was a mystery storyline (no, I’m not talking about the play which is a murder mystery and something I would totally enjoy watching) but a mystery surrounding the history between Freddy’s family and Griff’s. Their grandparents had an affair and as Griff is trying to make a film about Freddy’s grandmother he is rather eager to find out what happened for the affair to end and Freddy invites herself along to help. And damn is that whole mystery so good. I really enjoyed how that journey brought them closer together(and almost broke them apart… but that’s more Griff’s fault than anything).

Look, Lucy Parker has packed a lot into this book. Some awesome characters (damn, I didn’t even mention how awesome the secondary characters are… except Nick, we all hate Nick who is named for Nick and boy will she not let you forget it), a brilliant romance, a mystery, a little blackmail (which backfires) and betrayal! It’s not a good romance if there’s not betrayal going on… but it’s not where you expect it. Look, just read the book, it has everything and more and it’s out today so really, what are you waiting for?

If I haven’t convinced you to buy I’m not doing my job right. Have you read the latest release from Lucy Parker yet?
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