Love in the Afternoon, by Alison Packard

>> Wednesday, November 05, 2014

TITLE: Love in the Afternoon
AUTHOR: Alison Packard

PAGES: 364
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Starts a series

Kayla Maxwell is eager to shed her slasher-flick bimbo image—and she plans to do just that in her new role on daytime's most popular soap. With a chance to showcase her dramatic range, Kayla will be able to wash away the lingering betrayal and public humiliation left by her controlling, philandering ex-boyfriend.

Sean Barrett, the son of an influential, award-winning actor, is the hottest soap star in the country. Paired on-screen with the talented and beautiful Kayla Maxwell, Sean is determined to keep her at arm's length, burned before by fame-seeking actresses who had no qualms about using him to get to his famous father.

But when Kayla receives threatening letters, her past as a scream queen seems to be coming back to haunt her. Succumbing to an attraction neither one of them can deny, Sean and Kayla must face down her stalker and their own personal demons before trusting what they both feel—a love that lasts long after the cameras stop rolling.

When Kayla Maxwell finds out her character in the most popular daytime soap of the moment is pregnant, she assumes that means her role is about to be downgraded. It isn't; in fact, the writers are looking to pair her up with Sean Barrett's character... if the chemistry is right. It is and Kayla suddenly starts spending a lot more time with Sean, the soap's top actor. Turns out they not only have chemistry, they also like each other, so their relationship quickly turns into one of more than colleagues.

Love in the Afternoon was a quick, pleasant read, but I had too many issues with it to properly recommend it.

For starters, I found the conflict a bit contrived and romance-novely:
- He: "I once dated an actress who was only interested in me as a means to access my world-famous director father. I will therefore never date an actress ever again, even if all indications are that she's a nice, genuine person who's not a user".
- She: "I once dated an actor who tore me down constantly and made me question my acting ability. I will therefore never date an actor again, even if all indications are that he's a nice, caring man who appreciates my talent".

After the first half it felt like this conflict was done and dusted, but it reared its head in a pretty ugly way near the end, when the author felt she needed to split up our characters for a bit. The reason I say it reappeared in an ugly way is because it involves Sean acting like an idiot and accusing Kayla of all sorts of things, including (yes, he went there) of sleeping with him to advance her career and of planning to sleep with his father, too. The worst part is that this all felt completely out of character. He'd been otherwise portrayed as a pretty rational and intelligent guy who honestly liked and respected Kayla.

I also didn't think the suspense sublot was very good. It was a very half-baked and pointless stalker plot. Yawn. First: do all stories need to have a suspense subplot, and second: does the suspense subplot in every story about characters who are famous have to involve stalkers? It really didn't add anything to the story, other than a pretty bizarre ending.

I wasn't crazy about the characters, either. I mean, Kayla and Sean are both really nice people (well, except when Sean is going off on one). Kayla, particularly, is nice, cheerful, well-adjusted, has a great relationship with her family and is drop-dead gorgeous. Oh, and she knows all about cars and baseball. She has no flaws. It was pleasant to spend time with her, and I liked her well enough, but I didn't find her particularly interesting. Sean is slightly more intriguing as a character, mainly because of his estrangement from his father, but he didn't grip me, either. And just like the characters, the romance was never more than mildly pleasant. I felt there were way too many sex scenes, but that's probably just me. As I've mentioned before, I'm in a place right now where I find most romance novel love scenes tedious.

Finally, I got a bit annoyed by the abundance of sequel-baiting. I could have done with a lot less of Sean's friend Matt, a baseball player undergoing a very public meltdown. He's actually an interesting character, and Sean's frustration when he can't reach him is interesting, but his story could have been set up a lot more subtly.

It sounds like I hated this one, but I didn't. Packard has a really smooth, involving writing style, and even though this is a first book, it flowed really well. I also loved all the stuff about working in a soap opera. I don't watch soaps, and not because I don't have time, either. I actively don't like them. And yet I ate this stuff up in this book.

I think the plotting and character development issues I had might be just about this being a first book. For all its flaws, I felt Packard's writing showed enough promise that I'm planning to read another of her books.



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