Georgie York’s life was perfect – thanks to her father’s close management of her life and her career she’d avoided the usual pitfalls that befell child stars, and she was married to Lance Marks, universally acknowledged to be the world’s most handsome man alive. Okay, her father was reluctant to let her take on roles that stretched her far beyond Scooter, the plucky red-head she played on America’s favourite sitcom, her last two movies tanked and the one in post-production was almost certain to do as badly, and her plans for a child had been put off over and over by Lance. But the worst thing was Lance leaving her for actress/humanitarian Jade Gentry – they apparently fell in love while on set. At least Georgie had thought that was the worst thing, until confronted by the paparazzi with ultrasound pictures of Jade and Lance’s baby and the news that Lance said it was Georgie’s career that had stood in the way of her becoming a mother. Unable to maintain a breezy façade, Georgie broke down in public and is now desperate to regroup.
Her plan to go to Vegas with her best friends and have a very public good time, followed by a string of dates with attractive, unattached men, is ruined when first all her friends pull out of the trip leaving her alone. Bumping in to her fellow Skip and Scooter star, Bramwell Shepard was unexpected. It was his fault the series ended, when he created a sex scandal the family-values show couldn’t overcome; more than that, though, Georgie couldn’t forgive him for the casual way that, after years of worshipping him, he carelessly took her virginity then ignored her. Desperate not to be portrayed in the media as sad and alone, however, Georgie follows him to a party at the hotel they’re both staying at, and also follows him shot for shot. When she awoke in her Bellagio suite half-naked Georgie thought sleeping with Bram was her biggest mistake, but that was before he found the wedding certificate. Anxious to avoid Britney Spears-like comparisons, Georgie decides to stay married to Bram for a year before graceful separating – he agrees, on condition she pays him a monthly stipend.
Forced marriages are a staple of the romance genre, but in Phillips’ able hands this weary plot device is fresh and interesting. The characters are developed and interesting, their backstory (told primarily from Georgie’s perspective) is woven through the novel to give both texture and context, and a central secondary character is also redeemed. The plot is interesting, and though I started out thinking it was strongly inspired by Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie, I very quickly viewed the characters in their own right. This is a highly above average novel that I read at the perfect time to break me out of a long streak of disappointing books. The only issue I have with Phillips is that she can’t write as quickly as I read. - Alex