romance review: Built to Last by Erin Hahn
Overview: Shelby left Hollywood in the midst of a bad break-up as a disgraced child star. Cameron left to go to college and later to travel the world with National Geographic, running far away from their past. It's TV that brings the former co-stars back together again too, this time in Michigan for a reality show. Shelby has made a new life for herself refurbishing furniture and working with her dad's construction company, and she pitches a pilot renovation show to cover his future retirement. When the show needs a little more chemistry, it's obviously Cameron that has to fill those shoes. Given a second chance at romance and returning to their roots, this is an incredibly sweet renovation love story. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 I really love how all of the characters in this book are allowed to be shown in their full dimensions. From flashbacks to when they were younger to long conversations with friends and family, we get to see who Cameron and Shelby were when they met as teens, who they became as young adults, and who they've evolved into in their late twenties with some time to grow up. It makes their love story even sweeter. Even the secondary characters are drawn into this narrative of growth. Shelby's friend Lorelai also dropped out of the spotlight and takes her own long journey to loving music once again, and Cameron and Shelby also spend time reassessing and mending family ties. Every character gets its chance to breathe as a lovely, fully realized person which only enriches the world.
Plot: 4 Like I said, the theme of growth is truly the most endearing, sweet, wholesome part of the book. It definitely is a full blown adult romance that doesn't shy away from sexiness and quick remarks, but it's heart and sweetness that's at the very core of this romance. And, perhaps because Erin comes from the YA world, there's an enduring story about growing up and finding yourself past the conventional turning point of being eighteen buried in here. There's a sense of comfort that even if you pick the wrong direction from fear or inexperience, life gives you plenty of chances to be honest with yourself and navigate in a new direction, and for that, I really love this story.
Rest assured, there's plenty of grown up child star drama, reality TV show shenanigans, house renovation details, and romance to be had here. The plot is quick, and the journey is entirely worth it even when you already know the ending. I do have to say (and I don't think this counts as a spoiler but maybe) that I love that this book doesn't have a third act moment where the lovebirds get pulled apart for no reason right before the very end. There's no infuriatingly unwarranted miscommunication or meddling, and the time is used, instead, to deepen their story and connection to make the ending even sweeter.
Writing: 4 This is an effortless, fun read, and the writing matches that tone perfectly. The dialogue is quick and the plot hijinks are enjoyable. The character development is standout, and the book manages to succeed on multiple levels at once. I've loved Erin's writing since her very first YA release, and her magic keeps working even as she crosses into books for adults. It's very cool to get to grow up with the authors you love. There is just so much heart here, and I feel so warm and hopeful having just set the book down. Highly recommend if you need a moment of remembering the good parts life has to offer.
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