Publication Date: June 14, 2022
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Alcoholism; drug use; death of a friend; grief; references to cheating (not the main couple); references to physical abuse
Don’t be fooled by the illustrated cover and fun-sounding premise, How to Fake It in Hollywood tackles some heavy topics, most prominently alcoholism and grief, but Ava Wilder managed to write a story that perfectly balances the romance with the heaviness. This book felt like something magical, real and raw, and I cannot recommend it enough.
After her long-running role on a teen soap has ended, Grey Brooks is trying to keep her career afloat. With a significant role on the line, she agrees to a scheme her publicist proposes to boost her profile – faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity to rehab his image. Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. After the death of his best friend and creative partner Sam and a high-profile divorce, he’s stepped away from the lime life. But if he ever wants to get the final project he was working on with Sam produced, he needs to clean up his image and step back into the spotlight. While Grey and Ethan’s relationship looks picture-perfect to the public, it is anything but behind the scenes. But while they may be faking their relationship for the cameras, their sizzling chemistry starts to feel more than just an act.
Not everyone wants such serious issues in their romances – and that’s okay! I like them every once in a while and I think Wilder handles these issues with such care. My heart was aching for Ethan. His alcohol abuse and grief are so closely intertwined, and since the death of his best friend, Sam, he’s closed himself off and stepped out of the spotlight. He needed Grey in his life to help him wake up. She was the perfect foil to him, with her self-deprecating humor and calling him on his BS. Grey has her own issues as she’s a bit adrift in her career and has insecurities, but I admired her drive and how genuinely empathetic she was. Both Ethan and Grey have flaws and that made the story more real to me.
As a romance, this book had so many tropes I absolutely adored. Obviously, you get fake dating, but you also get a bit of grump/sunshine, only one bed, and let’s bang it out of our systems. I guess there is also a bit of an age gap since Ethan’s about 11 years older than Grey. The chemistry and sexual tension between the two of them were electric. One of my favorite scenes was Ethan helping Grey read lines for a chemistry read audition she was going on – there are so many layers to that scene and, boy, was it hot. When these two finally decide to act on their attraction, they dive in head first and then get thrown through the wringer a bit when compromising photos appear in the press. While the relationship starts out as something purely sexual, it goes much deeper than that for both of them – but they’re just scared to admit it. I want these two to be together so much, even if they were hurt by being together. Ethan, particularly, couldn’t be ready for a real relationship with his issues, but that didn’t stop me from wanting Grey and him to work it out. And don’t worry, this book does have a happily ever after, which makes all the emotions and heavy stuff worth it!
Outside the romance, I loved the supporting characters in this novel. Grey’s best friend Kamilah, her non-binary partner Andromeda X and Ethan’s ex-wife Nora rounded out the story and they all played an important part in Ethan and Grey’s journey. They felt as real as Grey and Ethan, which I thoroughly appreciated.
As for the writing, I enjoyed Wilder’s style! Both Ethan and Grey had such distinct character voices, and the pacing of this book was spot on. I think I’ve already harped enough about how well she handled balancing the heavy topics with the romance, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. Truly, her writing made my heart ache for Ethan and Grey as there was a rawness to the emotions conveyed through the writing that made you feel their pain. That’s something seasoned authors cannot always do.
How to Fake It in Hollywood is a stunning debut novel, and I cannot wait to see what Wilder writes next! I highly recommend picking this up as you won’t be disappointed by this beautiful, achingly raw romance that delivers on the emotions and the steam!
Thank you to Random House for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own.