REVIEW: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren
… a delightfully charming love story about what happens when two assistants tasked with keeping a rocky relationship from explosion start to feel sparks of their own.
Carey Duncan has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.
James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.
Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…
From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.
I liked the sound of this one: forced proximity on the road, co-workers, and trying to keep a squabbling couple together. Throw in some social media and an HGTV style home renovation show and I was hooked and excited to be given access to this arc. I did like it, it was funny and heartfelt but it also seemed to coast along just a bit and I found myself mentally planning housekeeping chores rather than glued to it.
The set up is done well, the four main characters are outlined and given plausible reasons to act as they do and stick with a – frankly – toxic situation. From the blurb, I had the impression that I’d be getting more laughs than I did. Instead, from the start there’s a lot of tension and not so much humor. There’s also a plot device of Something Having Happened (which isn’t revealed until the end of the book) which did keep me interested. What occurred (it sounded awful since the police were involved and taking statements) and who survived it? The second question isn’t out of line as Rusty and Melissa spend the book basically either glowering or yelling at each other.
Deeper issues than keeping two bickering spouses from self destructing through social media are at play here. But frankly it seemed to me that Carey had the more important ones than James did. Yes, he is trying to rebuild his credibility after having been caught in the scandal of his former employer but Carey has been treated far worse by people who should have cared for her, to the point where she’s almost crushed under it. James’s grousing came across at times as whining whereas Carey definitely needed the counseling she was going to (yay, that this is presented as a positive) in order to rebuilt her self esteem.
But this one just never did completely gel for me nor, as I mentioned earlier, did it make me miss dinner or stay up late in order to keep reading. I got tired of Melissa histrionics, Rusty’s apathy, and both James and Carey being tasked with trying to keep these adult toddlers from creating public scenes. Then there was the final conflict between James and Carey. It’s pretty well laid out including how it hits James that he’s treated Carey badly by basically adding to what had been done to her for years. At one point, she tells him that yes, this is still an issue standing in the way of their HEA and then three lines later seems to have put it behind her after he merely says the equivalent of “sorry.” Um, what?
I do think that Carey and James can work towards a long term relationship but I’m not quite sure I buy it by the end of the book. Carey’s ultimate character growth and how she begins to take charge of her life are great and I liked seeing a disabled character as a working, productive person, and accepted as she is. I just wish there’d been less focus on the drama of the terrible work environment, a bit more humoras well as time for the romance to develop and flourish. B-/C+