Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Have you ever wanted to be famous? Or maybe you'd just like to be in the orbit of someone famous. It looks like a glamorous life with all those perks and parties and people wanting to be you, doesn't it? But there is a price to celebrity and it's not an easy price to pay, especially for someone not used to the spotlight, the manipulation, the egos, and the all-consuming drive for publicity and career advancement. How can you possibly build a normal, healthy relationship in the midst of all of this? In Giovanna Fletcher's sweetly romantic novel, Billy and Me, she examines just this very situation.

Sophie May lives in the small Kent village of Rosefont Hill and works at the local tea shop. Having lost her dad at eleven, her entire world changed and she became withdrawn, quiet, and reserved. She's been content to stay at home with her mum and work at Tea-on-the-Hill with the gossipy but lovable Molly, a sort of second mother and best friend to her. This settled, quiet life suits her and has allowed her to come out of her shell a little bit. When Rosefont Hill is chosen as the location for a new film of Pride and Prejudice, Sophie meets Billy Buskin, the teen heartthrob who has been cast as Mr. Darcy. She doesn't know who he is to start and he is charmed by her very normal outlook on life. She steps out of her comfort zone and the two of them fall into a relationship quite quickly. But dating Billy brings with it a life she's never expected, with people taking pictures of her and digging into the past she's buried so deeply.

Billy is a sweet, warm, and caring boyfriend although he has lapses where he forgets just how his industry and the piranhas surrounding it come across to outsiders. He is blind to the slights Sophie faces and never considers if she'd want a life beyond just as Billy Buskin's girlfriend. As his star continues to rise, Sophie sublimates herself to him and his career, growing steadily more miserable. Their relationship was a whirlwind affair with Billy sweeping Sophie off her feet and away from her comfortable life in Kent but neither of them gave enough thought to the long term implications of their very different worlds. And those implications grow from bumps in the relationship to mountains they might not be able to climb.

This is a simple and charming bit of chick lit with the added bonus of a thorough insider's view of life in the film industry and the pressures that fame and the public eye place on relationships. Told in the first person by Sophie, the reader is privy to her feelings of exclusion and growing realization that she's shelved her dream of one day buying Molly out of her tea shop in order to be the accommodating girlfriend of a star. Billy does come across as oblivious to Sophie's need for a quiet life once he's tucked her into his busy existence but Sophie's sensitivity to things that are just a part and parcel of his job can be a tad over the top.  Many of the descriptions were very much like a screenplay directing actors what to do and how to look so less necessary here in the written medium of a novel than in something designed to be translated to screen. In terms of one of the climactic moment of the novel, well Sophie's big secret, the one she didn't want anyone to know, wasn't really surprising or even of a magnitude to create such shame so many years on. But these are little hiccups in a generally pleasing novel that lovers of chick lit will find to be a quick and delightful read about being true to yourself and being open to love and the hard work of caring deeply for another person.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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