Book Review

Act Like It by Lucy Parker

The Squee Cannon is set to ALL CAPS MULTI-LAYERED AWESOMESAUCE. Earplugs may be advised.

I mentioned this book during our most recent Whatcha Reading? post, and I talked about it during a podcast interview, so I figured I should talk about it here in the “Reviews” section because YOU GUYS I LIKED THIS BOOK SO MUCH I READ IT TWICE.

As in, I finished it, had the Queen Mother of all Good Book Sighs, backed up and started reading it again.

I NEVER DO THAT. EVER. My TBR could potentially crush me into tiny bits if it were physical instead of digital. I don’t instantly re-read anything. This, I read twice back to back without even considering looking at another book. I REALLY LIKED IT A LOT in case that isn’t clear.

Lainie Graham is a stage actress in London, currently under contract for a historical drama at a somewhat decrepit theatre. Her most recent ex plays her on-stage love interest, and she’s pretty banged up emotionally because he dumped her by taking up with someone else and allowing the gossip pages to tell Lainie about that development. Now she has to kiss him several times a day on stage and pretend to fall in love with him over and over. Because of the horrible, no good, dastardly way in which she was dumped, there’s an enormous emo-wave of public sympathy framing her public persona. She’s beloved and pitied.

The villain in the stage performance is played by Richard Troy, who is a Very Well Known Actor of Great Reputation Artistically and Dubious Reputation Personally because he has a temper, he’s very talented and he knows it, and he’s grumpy and pretty misanthropic generally. Those same gossip pages have printed many folio’s worth of words on everything he does, so he’s the temperamental, artistically gifted, feared-but-admired theatre celebrity.

Because the play isn’t doing so well at the box office, the folks in charge decide that a faux romance between Lainie and Richard would help ticket sales, in part because one photograph of them leaving a recent event at the same time, and thus published as if they were “leaving together,” generated a lot of interest in the play immediately after the photo’s publication.

Lainie and Richard think this is a terrible idea. Richard barely acknowledges Lainie, and she’s pretty sure he’s the biggest asshole on either side of the Thames, but the folks in charge make a very convincing argument as to why they should play along. Richard has ambitions to lead one of the more austere and prestigious royal drama societies, and cleaning up his tempermental jerkwad reputation by “dating” Lainie would help. Some of her golden girl/sympathy/good will would rub off on him with each new photo.  As for Lainie, she supports a children’s cancer charity that’s very close to her heart called Shining Lights, and she ruthlessly negotiates that the show profits for every Saturday for a month will be donated to the organization. If she plays along, her charity will get a major donation – and public awareness about her as an actress will increase from being seen with Richard for awhile. Her star gets a boost, his gets a bit of polish, and they both benefit, as does the show they’re in.

There are a TON of things I loved about this story. First, as I mentioned earlier this month, the language is part of the setting and gives the story a unique complexity in the world building. There were words I don’t usually encounter in fiction that I understood in context, such as “stroppy,” “sarky git,” or “naff,” and I LOVED that. For me as a reader, the language that the characters and the very-omniscient narrator used helped make everything else more real and more vivid. It was an essential part of the world building of two actors in London theatre, and it was delicious. Plus, each character had a distinctive style of speaking, and their dialogue was so very much in-character that any tags identifying who said what weren’t always needed.

I also liked the characters individually. Part of what worked with this plot set up was that Lainie didn’t have much to lose, and a lot to gain, so she really didn’t give a shit whether Richard liked her, or whether she needed to act a certain way to attain his approval. She didn’t care either way – so she was herself. She took exactly zero crap from him, and called him out on his more obnoxious behavior, which in turn caused him to reconsider how he treated people, and, more importantly, how his actions were being interpreted – something he hadn’t really bothered to think about before.

I also love that Lainie is a very talented actress, and she knows it. When her self-confidence takes a hit by being dumped in such a humiliating manner, she owns it, and she’s trying to patch herself back up again because it’s her responsibility. But she’s also aware that, personality differences aside, Richard is also extremely talented, and steals the stage from her ex and the other actors just by showing up an inch past the proscenium. Lainie is confident in herself and in who she is as a person and as an actor, but when Richard gives her an off-hand compliment couched in derision for a project she’s considering, she’s shocked and very pleased. Lainie has gotten where she is without a great deal of support or assistance from others, so to have someone whose talent she admires compliment her means a great deal.

Richard, on the other hand, is very wealthy and lives in the bubble of the very wealthy who don’t need other people very much. He’s got the requisite horrible parents (now dead) and piles of money he doesn’t need with incredible sports cars to match, and his wealth plus his talent make him incredible condescending. That same wealth and talent also mean that, until Lainie, no one has dared call him out when he’s being a dick. She does, and he’s knocked on his ass by it several times – which I enjoyed.

So does Lainie:

Lainie could have offered to bluff an excuse while Richard stayed home to enjoy whatever he usually did on a Saturday morning. She assumed it involved excellent espresso and some heavy self-Googling.

Clearly, she was not a nice person. Because she had rarely enjoyed any sight more than that of Richard Troy at a village fete, wedged between two of the more terrifying representatives of the local Women’s Institute. He looked as if he’d accidentally fallen through a portal into the third circle of hell.

The humor in this book is constant, too. It builds and becomes more intricate, involving jokes about plays, Shakespeare, and gossip culture, until by the end the reader is part of the inside jokes of their relationship. It’s lovely.

Another aspect I loved was the way in which social media, gossip, and celebrity culture affect Lainie and Richard. Because of his wealth and the social and political standing of his parents, he’s always been subjected to attention. Lainie was not, and at one point he judges her for being aware of what gossip blogs say about her, and for hunting down specific reactions to their performance. Lainie points out how, unlike him, she doesn’t know where her next acting contract will come from, and she’s not independently wealthy, and so always being watched is a benefit and a curse of being a minor stage celebrity. She knows she might be photographed at any time, but she also knows she has to use that attention carefully to advance her career. So while Richard will walk straight into the theatre without talking to anyone waiting outside, Lainie always pauses for pictures, signs autographs, and talks to the fans who stand around hoping for a glimpse of them. Lainie’s intelligence and awareness of herself were two of my favorite things about her.

I also love that she’s not rail-thin and physically “perfect.” She’s pretty, and has long red hair and has features that work for her as an actress, but she’s also very top heavy with a large bust, and her struggle to find celebrity-appearance clothing that fits her shows up continually in the story.

And if you’re a reader who likes a gruff, grumpy, socially awkward and curmudgeonly hero who is redeemed by the heroine and forced to reconsider his behavior, you’ll very much like Richard. I did. Parker does a very good job of balancing why he is the way he is with room to reconsider his actions and change them authentically. Richard has to pretend to publicly care about Lainie, and has to act as if he’s interested in her. So by pretending and doing things he wouldn’t normally do, like holding her hand when she’s nervous before an appearance on television, he learns how to act when he really does care about her feelings, and surprises himself with the realization that where she’s concerned, he isn’t really acting at all.

Did I mention the funny? I laughed so hard I was asked by everyone in my family what was wrong with me. Here’s a sample:

Lainie picked up the cat for a cuddle, tucking its head under her chin, and he saw it properly for the first time.

“What the fuck is wrong with its face?”

She looked offended on the cat’s behalf, but seriously. A cross between Walter Matthau and a sundried tomato.

Lifting the cat slightly away from her, Lainie looked from its grumpy face to Richard. And then back again. She walked over and held it up next to him. “Hmmm.”

“Don’t say it.”

“Hashtag twinsies.”

Richard is also to a delightful extent made up of my favorite trope: I don’t want to like you. I don’t want to like you. I don’t want to find you remotely interesting. I like my life the way it is, and I don’t want to like you and I can’t stop thinking about your hair, DAMMIT.  There’s a good amount of Richard grousing about the inconvenience of having feelings, and then mocking himself for it, and I enjoyed that more than I should have, especially when Lainie was involved to bug him about it, too.

There were times when the plot was a hair too dramatic, when things happened to Lainie that seemed a bit over the top, or when things come crashing down in a way that seemed a bit too unreal, given how very lifelike and believable the characters were. Part of the conflict comes from the tension between them and mistakes they make, and part of it comes from Richard’s constant mis-judgment of Lainie’s past relationship with their co-star, the one who dumped her so publicly. Some tension comes from her family, and from the pressure of being watched, and that made a lot of sense. But the black moment is built up in rapid layers, so it escalates to levels that I think some readers may find hard to believe. I personally was on board for most of it, even though I knew that some of the forces acting against them both were a little ridiculous. The epilogue is so incredibly sweet, though, that for me, the over-build was worth it.

But in my notes and in the passages I highlighted as I read, I keep coming back to how much the language of the story is as important as the characters and the plot and the emotional growth. I loved that Lainie didn’t have any reason to pretend or act with Richard, and was determined to be herself and tell him when he was being awful. I loved this unique spin on celebrity romance, where Richard is very well known as an esteemed actor, while Lainie’s career is newer, and so they both interact with celebrity social media culture in different ways. I loved that both characters had no shits to give for very different reasons, and in the course of being themselves under artificial circumstances, they discover wonderful compatibility hidden beneath false pretenses. This story made me tremendously happy. I liked this book so much, I read it twice.

Like I said, that never happens.

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Act Like It by Lucy Parker

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  1. Kati says:

    Sold. Just one-clicked.

  2. Heather S says:

    Kindle Deal books today include “A Desperate Fortune” and “The Splendour Falls” by Susanna Kearsley and a 3-book historical holiday boxed set by Grace Burrowes – $1.99 each. 🙂

  3. Kat T. says:

    I was sold when you mentioned that you had to re-read immediately after the first read. I am so going to read this too!

  4. ChrisK says:

    Today is my day off and it is cold and grey. This sounds like the perfect book to curl up with this afternoon.

  5. Jazzlet says:

    There were words I don’t usually encounter in fiction that I understood in context, such as “stroppy,” “sarky git,” or “naff,”

    All good British slang 😉

    Sounds fun.

  6. DonnaMarie says:

    My ears were twitching. I kept asking myself, why are my ears twitching? And here it is.

  7. erinf1 says:

    dammit… this was recently on sale and I passed it up. I’m not a big fan of the actors/rich and famous and all of their “problems” trope. But… after reading this, I’m willing to give it a try. Have you tried The Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton? That was very cute and funny and the heroine was older and less successful than the hero. This was the only actor based romance that I’ve finished and enjoyed.

  8. SB Sarah says:


    I’m not a fan of the “poor me and my wealthy problems” characters either. With this story, whenever Richard steps out of line or is ignorantly snobby about something, Lainie calls him on it, and he learns to think about how what he says is being interpreted – and I found his increasing awareness very realistic. Thank you for the Clayton rec- adding to the “go find this book” list!

  9. Crystal says:

    Well, dammit. I resisted the one-click on the first read. I was toast on the second.

  10. Novel says:

    Sold! Just one-clicked that bad boy.

  11. SB Sarah says:

    I hope y’all really really like it as much as I did! Seriously, this book made me so happy. I’m still grinning like a doofus when I think about it.

  12. Karen Lauterwasser says:

    You convinced me. I love a book whose language gives me a sense of place, and I am always up for testing my knowledge of British slang/swears for completeness (mostly gained from reading murder mysteries – those police officers!).

  13. ChrisK says:

    I just finished reading it and its ADORABLE. I loved it <33333.

  14. SB Sarah says:

    @ChrisK: YES!!! Thank you for sharing that! *happy dance*

  15. Karen says:

    Thanks for the review. Sounds like my kind of catnip!

  16. SandyCo says:

    I’m convinced, too. 🙂 Can’t wait to read it!

  17. cayenne says:

    This sounded like not my thing at all, but Sarah’s review was so awesome I had to give it a shot. So I bought it this morning, am about 1/3 in, and loving it – thank you!!

    Btw, am I the only one seeing Richard Armitage as Richard Troy? The accent isn’t right, but the physical description’s similar. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with visions of Richard Armitage EVER.

  18. chacha1 says:

    I am already picturing Jack Davenport as Richard. I loves me a good theatre story. Away to Amazon I go … !

  19. justinebieber says:

    Ahhh +1 on the one-click team!

  20. garlicknitter says:

    I’m currently re-reading Sylvester by Georgette Heyer, and it sounds like almost the same characters and style of interaction. I think I might read this next.

  21. Shem says:

    Count me in as another who thoroughly enjoyed this (but this trope is my catnip so!)…I don’t know who I was imagining as Richard (I was getting a vibe certainly but couldn’t pinpoint it.) I saw Armitage mentioned in this post and went “yes!” and then Jack Davenport was mentioned and I went “Yesssssss”. So I think maybe it’s their love child 🙂

    Garlicknitter – the author mentions Austen and Heyer as her introduction to romantic fiction.

  22. Tam says:

    I loved this, and I don’t usually like contemporary romances with snotty heroes – I clicked and read it yesterday while in bed with a bad cold. (It is the PERFECT bad cold read.) Reminded me a bit of Jilly Cooper’s early romances, but in a good way.

  23. ohhellsyeah says:

    I’ve been in a bit of reading slump lately, but this review definitely sold me. Here’s to (hopefully) bumping the slump!

  24. Ilana says:

    Immediately bought it and read it in one shot (and I was planning an early night!). LOVED it.

    Reminded me, at times, of some of Fiona Walker’s stuff, like Kiss Chase.

    And with the curly hair, I was thinking Cumberbatch.

  25. PegasusZ says:

    I don’t usually read stories on actors but your review really made me want to give it a go. Once I started though I couldn’t keep Richard Armitage out of my head. No way. I’ve been in love with that guy for a decade at least, the name Richard reminds me of him but here the description seemed to point to him too. I bet anything Lucy Parker is a part of the RA fandom – if she isn’t she should join after writing this dude in her book.
    I loved this book! Both characters were loveable in their own way. Lainie was so original and adorable and Richard was something else. I’ve read a few books in my life but I have to say Richard’s way of speaking was a nice surprise? Maybe that’s because I haven’t read a book where the lead went to Eton but even the simple “Why can’t you sit still in your seat?” Was said in his own unique way, haha. Loved his nickname for her and how hilarious they were together. You were right, this was a great laugh-out-loud book, up to the very end 🙂
    THANK YOU!!!!!

  26. SB Sarah says:


    YES!!!! You are so, so welcome. I’m so happy you enjoyed it as much as I did!

    Everyone who has come back to say how much they liked this book – thank you so much. Totally made my week! Honestly, sharing good book recommendations is the BEST feeling. 🙂

  27. cin says:

    Bought it yesterday after reading your review. Read it last night. Totally and completely loved it.
    Reread my favorite parts today, which served to wreak havoc on my billable hours for the day. And I couldn’t be happier. Thank you!
    Is this really a new author? Has she written/published anything else?

  28. Pamala says:

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. Thanks for bringing attention to it, Sarah, because it’s wonderful from the first word all the way to the last. There were so many places where I made good book noise or laughed out loud that I might as well just choose “select all” and then click copy to paste my fave bits 🙂 Though if I had to choose, I’d say my most favorite scenes were at the television studio and the interview with the awful Tara woman and when Richard attended the children’s birthday party with Lainie and managed her family so well. I sympathized with the naked, half-shorn, one-legged Barbie because I believe my own Barbies might’ve suffered similar fates before someone wised up and stopped buying them for me, lol. I really loved the very real progression of their feelings for one another and they both had wonderfully unique personalities. And the language! So so good.

    At any rate, it’s a glorious book and I can’t wait to read whatever else Lucy Parker writes.

  29. SB Sarah says:


    Yes, this is her debut book, I believe – unless she’s published under another name? I am so, so pleased you enjoyed it as much as I did – and that I’m not alone in re-reading favorite parts immediately upon finishing!


    I’m so happy! I loved the subtle changes that happened between Richard and Lainie during that tv interview, too. It was both funny and meaningful and so enjoyable to read.

    Seriously, all the comments from people who read the book and loved it are making my week!

  30. Algae says:

    I’ve been in a serious book rut for about a month now, but the “read it twice” made me curious, so I picked it up.

    Loved it. Such a cute story. It’s not perfect, but the characters are great and it’s such a fun read. Thanks for the recommendation. I really hope this is the story to break my rut.

  31. Novel says:

    Update: I gobbled it down the same day I bought it and LOVED IT. Thanks for the rec!

  32. SB Sarah says:

    @Novel: YES! I’m so happy you liked it, too! That is so great.

  33. Leslie says:

    Thanks for bringing this terrific author to my attention–I loved the book! It is so well written, with charming, well-developed characters and great, often funny, dialog. What a pleasure to read!

  34. SB Sarah says:


    Thank you for sharing that! I’m so happy it made you so happy as well. WOOHOO!

  35. Pam Bustamante says:

    LOVED this book. Usually a Regency/historical romancer. This opened a new door. Great snappy writing. If anyone has more like this please let us know. And I certainly hope she is chained to a laptop somewhere writing furiously. Need more.

  36. Isha says:

    SARAH Thank You!!!

    Amazing Book! Was up till 4am reading this.

    “Ever worry it’s going to create some sort of cosmic imbalance? …
    Having both of them in one building? If you toss in most of the management, I think we may be exceeding the recommended bastard quota.

  37. SB Sarah says:


    YAY! Oh, that makes me grin like a doofus. I hope you get good sleep tonight, too! Thank you for sharing how much you liked it!

  38. Caro says:

    I have read this book in one day – well two if you count the fact that it’s 2.30amGMT and I stayed up to finish it. LOVED this book. Loved the characterisations and the way the little things between them like glances and hand holding built into more as they talked to one another as the faux relationship progressed.

    It’s such a humorous book too. There are some great asides and observations that made me laugh out loud and the closing lines had me grinning like a loon.

    I also loved that Lainey doesn’t wait for him to come round after their big misunderstanding; she goes and seeks him out making him acknowledge her presence. That was extremely refreshing.

  39. Glee says:

    Thanks so much for this recommendation. This is the first book in a long, long time that had me reading ‘just one more chapter’ til 2am.

  40. SB Sarah says:


    Elyse calls that “The Bad Decisions Book Club,” and we’re all members of it – welcome and YAY! I’m so happy you liked it, too!!

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