I haven’t read much dark romance. If my currently medically induced slightly unreliable (hopefully all will be well soon!) memory serves me well, this is only my third one. And only one has been particularly dark. Two, including this one, have been quite comedic. If this and the previous have been any indicator, dark rom-com might be a checkmark for me. To be fair – Mo Fanning.

About the Book

In Hollywood, every pavement star tells a story. Not all of them shine.

Wannabe actor Kyle Macdonald is down on his luck. Working as a supply teacher in an inner-city Birmingham school, he’s single again at twenty-eight, and sleeping in his childhood bedroom beneath a ‘Hard Candy’ Madonna poster.

He gets a call claiming he drunkenly married top Hollywood director Aaron Biedermeier in Vegas six years ago. Rather than panic, he sees a golden ticket to fame and the life he’s always fantasized about.

But the glamourous veneer of Los Angeles – non-stop sunshine, celebrity actors, and exclusive hotel suites – starts to crack, revealing a darker, corrupt underbelly to La-La Land. Kyle digs deeper into his so-called husband’s past, unearthing disturbing allegations of abuse and underage sex parties. With the help of Biedermeier’s fiancé, actor Noah Winters, he embarks on a cross-country race to unravel the mystery, expose the truth, and find love along the way.

My Thoughts

This is my third Mo Fanning book, and each one has gotten stronger. I haven’t read all of his books, but a fourth sits on my ever-growing TBR list. It’s definitely on my reading bucket list, so it’ll get read. Let me go knock on some wood. Luckily, I got a nice wooden desk recently at the Salvation Army for such occasions. But even still, Fanning’s books could never be accused of being formulaic. There is romance, heartbreak, and dark humor, but otherwise, they could well have been written by completely different people if you just consider the content.

He does, however, have a distinct prose all his own, that is quite delightful. He can turn a humourous phrase that can lighten a difficult moment – though in this one, the main character’s humor is that delightful kind of humor that is often ill-timed, snarky, and self-defeating. It’s charming but causes him no end of trouble. Kyle stole my heart from the moment the story opened. While I predicted the story was going to turn out bad, I couldn’t have predicted how bad or how it would all turn out if I’d had a crystal ball and a full deck of blessed tarot cards.

The title confused me for a long time, and I’m not sure if I interpreted it the way the author meant it, but in the end, art – whatever the medium – is a conversation between the artist and the interpreter. The artist means what they mean, but as with any conversation, the other person in the conversation might not take it the same way. The way I read, interpret, internalize, and enjoy a book or other piece of art is completely different from how anyone else does it. This particular one was as beautiful as the Hollywood actors who filled its pages, but also as dark as the seedy underbelly of the film industry that has been exposed and explored over the past few years and inspired multiple documentaries, films, and books like this.

The author’s foray and interpretation of this cultural event is intense, meaningful, and important. It is also timely with it being Pride month. The #MeToo movement has been so important, and it isn’t over. But it is also important to understand that other young people are being exploited and none of it is okay. These people are all sons and daughters and brothers and sisters of someone. I am so thankful to the author, Mo Fanning, and Love Books Tours for including me in this tour. I look forward to reading more by Fanning – both the book already sitting in my TBR – and whatever he pens next!

Who’s It For?

If you love a dark romance with a good dose of dark comedy, you’ll love this one. If you’ve read others of Fanning’s books you’ll love this one as well. He always serves up dark comedy in his works. Snarky characters face difficult times as best they can. Finding love in often the strangest of places, this dark, MLM rom-com with (spoiler) a HEA will delight all romance lovers’ hearts. But it does tackle quite serious topics, so as always, be sure to check the content warnings.

Content Warnings: Pedophilia, Child Abuse, Murder, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, Betrayal, Coercion, Sexual Assault/Abuse, Death by Overdose, Legal Battles

About the Author

Mo Fanning grew up near Birmingham in the UK but left for pastures new as soon as he could legally drive, spending much of his grown-up life in the Netherlands, before returning home just before lockdown took hold.

He writes about damaged people finding ways to overcome their past mistakes and seek a happier future. Although his novels are comedies, they dig into themes drawn from experience, including alcoholism, mental illness and prejudice against LGBTQ+ people.

His first novel ‘The Armchair Bride’ was nominated for Arts Council Book of the Year, and his work was turned into a short play for BBC America. After having lived in Manchester, Amsterdam, Lyon and Brighton, he’s back in the West Midlands, determined to get on top of his geraniums.

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