Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-269034-0
Contemporary Romance, 2017
Tori Alvarez, a fitness trainer, learns that she is not as special to her boyfriend, a bodybuiler-turned-politician, as she thought when he announces on a radio show that he is not seeing anyone – a radio show that he asked her to tune in, to boot. To commiserate, she decides to take a few days off for some R&R in Aruba.
Carter Stone, a heartthrob in Hollywood, needs to lay low and cool down after punching a doctor that sold pictures of his method acting to the paparazzi. You see, he has done the Christian Bale thing – slimmed down to an alarming degree and grew a scruffy beard for his debut big screen starring role, and now the photos of his physical transformation are out there. The studio is thrilled, as this gives the upcoming movie more hype, but to our hero, it’s the principle of the whole thing, you know. At any rate, he’s off to Aruba, where he’s certain that his still rather skinny and scruffy appearance will keep people from recognizing him.
Of course, they meet on the plane, and they are supposed to hit it off. Alas, our heroine soon learns that Carter Williamson (that’s actually his real name) is an actor, and flies off the handle. Back in the US, he needs a physical trainer to help him get back his hot, muscular physique, however, so guess whom he decides to give a tweet to.
I peek around the jerk in front of me, the guy who buried his face in the phone when the couple asked for help, and that’s when I see it: the finest ass I’ve ever seen. For a few seconds, I don’t know what to focus on: face, ass, face, ass. Who am I kidding? My gaze falls on her backside. Yes, Mom, you’ve taught me better, but you are not standing where I’m standing as I look at the bounty that’s before me.
I have to hand it to the author: she manages to make a potentially creepy scene come off as humorous, refreshingly believably male, and even sweet.
There’s much to love about Mia Sosa’s Avon Impulse debut: the humor, the presence of secondary matters that are actually fun and funny instead of being one-dimensional “Look at me! Look out for my book, coming soon!” sequel baits (although some of them are sequel baits, make no mistake – obvious ones too), the bouncy and lively narrative, and a lovely sense of place and description. The story takes place at a jaunty pace, and all in all, the whole thing is a really entertaining read.
Yes, the whole Hollywood thing is on the unbelievable side. Why is everyone crazy about Carter when he hasn’t even had a starring role yet? Also, his management team is unbelievably small for someone of his level of fame, and security is shockingly lackadaisical. Then again, there is nothing here that stands out as terribly unrealistic, so as far as romance novel-style depictions of life in Hollywood go, this one isn’t too awful.
So, you may be wondering, why only three oogies for Acting on Impulse? Carter is an adorable hero who is believable as, well, a guy – there are many romance heroes that are pretty obviously embody a woman’s ideal of what a man should say and do, but this guy feels like a genuine bloke in many ways without having to swagger or come off like a caricature of some alpha male. I like him. However, he is stuck in a thankless role of being Tori’s boyfriend.
Yes, Tori is the weakest link here. This is because the entire story is structured around conflicts that stem from our heroine’s reaction to various situations, and girlfriend here often comes off as shrill, abrasive, judgmental, and prone to overreaction throughout the bulk of the story. Normally I would say something about the unfortunate implication of Tori being more mellow only after she’s gotten laid, but I can’t even do that here because there is one final conflict that sees Tori quickly going into boiling kettle mode in the blink of an eye. Much of the drama here can be avoided if she would take some time to reflect instead of immediately going all “EEEEEEE YOU HAVE FAILED ME EEEEEEE!” on the poor man.
It won’t be so bad if our heroine’s overreaction is justified, but most of the time, she’s just being dramatic for the sake of drama. For example, she knows Carter for only a few days, but she is furious that he never once tells her that he is a celebrity. Why should he? He barely knows her, and he wants to lay low from the limelight. Not to mention, being a famous and hot actor comes with having deranged fans and stalkers, so I don’t blame Carter for announcing his real identity to a woman he’s only met for a few days. But no, Tori actually declares that Carter’s omission is a bigger sin than her ex telling the whole world that he is single. Is the author even aware of how silly Tori comes off most of the time?
Hmm, now that I think of it, Tori ditches her now ex-boyfriend without even confronting him, when it is possible that he has a plausible excuse to deny that he’s seeing anyone (for her privacy, to focus attention on his campaign, etc). Fortunately, the ex turns out to be a scumbag, or else Tori’s overreaction would have placed her in the more unsympathetic role of a woman who cheated on her man because she overreacted like she always does.
Because of our heroine being the way she is, I have a tough time buying how Carter will find her charming and adorable. It’s difficult to discern any chemistry between them when she’s in a prickly hedgehog mode most of the time. There is a humorous scene which sees Carter and her on Twitter exchanging some cute, sarcastic back-and-forth quips at one another as the rest of the world watch in bated excitement… only for me to later learn that her associate had been replying to Carter using her Twitter handle. The author couldn’t even let Tori relax and show a lighter side of her even once. Maybe there is a market out there for tales of surly hedgehogs being romanced by nice guys with big bank accounts, but alas, I’m not a fit for that particular demographic.
Would I recommend this one? Well, I’m leaning towards “Yes!” because there is much to like here. The joys of Acting on Impulse also come with the Hedgehog of Mordor, however, so there’s that.