Aspen Moore is living proof that money doesn’t buy happiness. At twenty-three years old, the singer-actress has it all. Fame. Fortune. Her own headlining tour. And yet something—or someone—is missing. When a scandal rocks Aspen’s carefully constructed Hollywood life, she’s forced to return to her Pennsylvania hometown, where she reconnects with her first love, Roman Torres. Aspen knows they must keep their relationship strictly platonic. This game of push and pull, catch and release she plays with Roman is bad for her. She’s not staying in Fertsville, and he’s not moving to LA. But their chemistry is undeniable, and amidst rumors and drama, the bright lights of Hollywood begin to pale in comparison to the dark brown eyes she fell in love with all those years ago. Could Aspen be willing to give up everything she’s ever wanted for the best thing she’s ever had?
With an impressively mature voice and brisk, assured storytelling, Freeman immediately draws readers into a world where the glitz and glamour are slightly tarnished and the stars are simple, down to earth, and approachable. The narrative unfolds in a dual timeline, but that risk pays off with each section proving a critical building block to demonstrate the architecture of the relationships. At times, some characters’ reactions to difficult situations may come across as a bit too idealized—Roman as the perfect high school boyfriend, for example. He’s the young jock, a member of the popular crowd, and Aspen is the bullied, quiet one who suddenly finds herself the focus of Roman’s attentions, seemingly out of nowhere.
The slight lack of subtlety and nuance carries through into some of the characterization, especially of the secondary characters—Rina, Sierra, and Millie, specifically. But even though these creations have the whiff of stereotypes, they work beautifully as foils for different aspects of Aspen’s personality and experiences. Overall, the novel will speak to a new generation of romance lovers while also delighting veterans of the genre with a fresh, vibrant voice.
Takeaway: A fresh new voice celebrates second chance romance in the harsh lights of celebrity.
Comparable Titles: Christina Lauren’s Twice in a Blue Moon, Jacquelyn Middleton’s A Smile in a Whisper.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-