REVIEW: HOLLYWOOD ON TAP (OR A MODERN SCENARIO IN WHICH I CANNOT SUSPEND DISBELIEF)

I think contemporary romance is just not my thing, y’all.

I joined NetGalley recently and decided to change up my ARC requests a bit. I thought I’d try a modern romance, specifically the second book in Avery Flynn’s Sweet Salvation Brewery series, Hollywood on Tap. It has all the trappings of a potentially wonderful romance. Buttoned-up, Type-A Natalie Sweet and her sisters have recently inherited a brewery in their small mid-western hometown and she’s tasked with making it financially solvent. Her biggest problem is brewmaster Sean O’Dell and his resistance to her suggested business changes. Sean’s made a life for himself in Salvation and hidden his past as a hot Hollywood actor, but the growing attraction he feels for Natalie threatens to reveal his secrets.

Take one good-looking quiet dude in baseball cap, one buttoned-up librarian-type, add beer, romance, sex…Hot right? Not so much for me.

As a mostly historical romance reader, I’m totally willing to suspend disbelief at some of the crazy situations authors dream up for their characters–secret babies! a father the heroine never knew! a duke takes a serving maid as his wife! Most of it is context. It’s an unfamiliar time period with very alien habits, social norms and expectations, so I don’t need Hemingway-style realism in my historical romance. The same goes for fantasy romance–Yes, I believe that that winged antelope guy is totally going to pine after the blue-haired girl who is the reincarnated version of his former childhood crush (bonus if you caught that last reference). But for modern romance I just cannot get over the eye-rolling hurdle of contrived modern day situations.

In Hollywood on Tap, Natalie is an efficiency expert, which, ok, maybe they exist outside of Renee Zellweger movies, but she’s also a triplet, a super HOT triplet. That kind of takes the believability down a few notches for me. (Important note: I was not a Sweet Valley High fan girl, so take my anti-multiple storyline with that in mind). Sean is of course, a Hollywood superstar in hiding, which also raises the unbelievability rating of this story sky-high. I understand wanting to fantasize about these crazy contrived situations–I love a great story about a Duke, after all–but I just can’t seem to make it work for me in a modern context.

The romance itself felt a bit rushed. One minute they’re fighting attraction to one another, then after a sexual encounter suddenly feel as though they are in love. I understand attraction and lust moving quickly, but there wasn’t the steady emotional build needed to make it a believable love story. I’ve read historical romance where the H/h get married after knowing each other for approximately 2 weeks, but somehow, the author has made their love seem real. Or perhaps it’s just another issue of context/suspension of disbelief.

One of my lingering issues with this book was way the author kept trying to remind readers that this book was a series. Repeatedly included throughout the text were comments about the Sweet family history and how they were perceived in the town of Salvation. It just felt a bit heavy-handed and repetitive. I would have much preferred getting a sense of the Sweet family through the main characters’ interactions with the townspeople, instead of through the omniscient narrators’ comments. It’s just a pet peeve of mine. Show me. Don’t tell me.

Other readers on GoodReads loved the first book in the series and this one as well. I’m just not one of those readers. I found the characterization lacking, which just made for an ultimately unbelievable romance. It was light-hearted and fun in its own way, just lacking in the kind of substantive world and scene building needed for me to want to believe in a novel.

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