Annie Catrel, social media expert extraordinaire at Davidson & Croft Media and clandestine celebrity blogger, can make anyone shine in the court of public opinion. She is the Socialmedialite, anonymous creator of New York's Finest and the Internet's darling. Virtual reality is Annie's forte, but actual reality? Not so much. Ronan Fitzpatrick, aka the best hooker the world of rugby has seen in decades, despises the media - social or otherwise. The press has spun a web of lies depicting him as rugby's wild and reckless bad boy. Suspended from his team, Ronan has come to Manhattan to escape the drama. When Ronan is sent to Davidson & Croft Media to reshape his public image, he never expects to cross paths with shy but beautiful Annie, nor does he expect his fierce attraction to her. What lengths will Annie take to keep her virtual identity concealed? And what happens when Ronan discovers who she really is? Contains mature themes.
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It’s ironic that the previous book I listened to was of a similar theme to this one – a beautiful woman suffering from serious shyness - and I made a comment about how unrealistic this scenario was. However in this book, initially, it works. The h is seriously shy and introverted, with good reason. She has no friends, no social life and works from home to avoid office interaction. This is what she prefers, she is comfortable in her solitude and she has no yearning to change the way she has chosen to live. She does, however, come alive online where she is eloquent, witty and entertaining. She has formulated a successful career by mastering online social media and, in this story, is called upon to fix the damaged media image of the rugby playing H.
When H meets introvert h he is instantly in lust. Or so he thinks. But the reader easily recognises that his feelings are oh, so much more than simple lust. What follows is the attempts of an extroverted, very crude, funny (and surprisingly sensitive) Irish rugby player, to romance a woman who, while very attracted to him, avoids emotional ties, and would prefer to wallow in her introverted, anti-social comfort zone. She does, however, seriously lust after him and, against her better judgement, is drawn to him - a fact that he openly takes full advantage of. We see the struggles of the h to cope in a world of people that she has, until now, endeavored to avoid.
Unfortunately this book deteriorates as the story progresses. A small factual niggle for starters: Irish rugby players are not well-known, are not particularly well paid, and are certainly not internationally famous targets of the press. The H was not even currently on the Irish team, yet he flew first class, stayed in a New York penthouse, had brought his mum a house, owned a collection of classic cars and had his own publicity team. Maybe the writers mixed up rugby and soccer because the lifestyle of the H was definitely more fitting to a UK soccer player. Another minor niggle was his constant reference to “fighting” during a rugby match, as though it was part of the game. Rugby is incredibly rough, no doubt about it, but any player “fighting” or throwing punches, would be instantly sidelined.
Then there is the strange inclusion of the H’s mum, who’s character veered wildly between dedicated single mum to raving b**** and back again. In-between we got hints about her avid spending of her son’s money, and her cruel treatment of her daughter, but her son seems to be oblivious to her faults and easily forgives her blatant attempt to get rid of his girlfriend. Not sure if future Christmas dinners are going to be much fun. Add to this was the development of a Jekyll and Hyde personality in the H who was at times understanding, tolerant and sympathetic towards the h’s social disorder, but at other times has a total character turnaround and gives her the ‘cold shoulder’ because of her actions. At one stage he even walked out on her in anger because she told him the truth about her feelings - would he have been happier if she had lied and told him what he wanted to hear?
However my biggest irritation is with the sex in this book. The first few encounters are an erotic part of the developing romance, but then it seemed to descend into “mummy porn” territory and, to be honest, it all got a bit tedious. Suddenly the main plotline about h’s character development was sidelined in exchange for detailed pages of mildly BDSM sex. It seemed like a publisher put a big red line through Penny Reid’s fabulous writing and insisted she put in more sex to get the “FSOG” readers.
I am a real Penny Reid fan and this collaboration with LH Cosway could be so much better. I missed the ability of Ms Reid to get me so emotionally involved with her characters and I seriously got bored with all the sex (never thought I would find myself saying that!). Towards the end of the book I just lost interest, particularly when the H is hesitant to reveal his feelings towards the h, because he worried that she would panic and run, and yet, when she does exactly that, he gets upset with her! Where did that understanding H from the first half of the book go? The ending feels contrived and simplistic with decent storylines once again sacrificed for more sex fest.
This story is narrated from dual POV, with chapters alternating between the H and h with male and female narrators accordingly. Both narrators are excellent, the joint narrating worked really smoothly and it was good to get an insight into the male POV just as much as the female. I would recommend that you give this book a miss, but definitely read others by Penny Reid, as she is (usually) a brilliant writer of emotionally compelling romances.
I read this book and loved it so listening was easy; but the Irish accents by Lucy Rivers were shocking and did detract from the story somewhat. That said I still laughed out loud and was thoroughly engaged. definitely recommend.