By Ekta R. Garg
October 30, 2019
Release date: October 22, 2019
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
A young woman’s heart is broken after she reveals a secret. Years later, she comes face to face with the same man who betrayed her, and she must decide whether she’ll give him another chance. Author duo team Christina Lauren tackles the complications of first love coming back around in the dragged-out novel Twice in a Blue Moon.
At 18, Tate Jones can’t believe she’s in London. It’s a long ways away from Guerneville, California, the small town where she lives with her mother and Nana. In the U.K., Tate’s getting a taste of what life will be like when she goes to college. Well, if Nana goes with her when she leaves for school. But Tate won’t let her grandmother dispel the magic of visiting a new place. She’ll follow the schedule Nana set up and drink in every minute of the two weeks they’ve planned to spend on their vacation.
The magic becomes electric when Tate meets Sam Brandis and his grandpa, Luther. Sam is 21 and already in college; he’s handsome and funny and kind, and there’s no doubt he feels a connection to Tate too. Within days, the two become inseparable.
Tate finds herself falling hard and fast in love with Sam, and he tells her the same thing. He feels something for her that he hasn’t felt for anyone else. Tate gives Sam her heart, her love, and her deepest secret: her last name isn’t Jones, it’s Butler. She’s the daughter of the famous Hollywood actor, Ian Butler. When she was eight years old, her mother moved Tate from L.A. to Guerneville to get away from the PR machine. She and Tate changed their last names and went underground.
Tate has never shared the truth about her identity with anyone. People in Guerneville think she’s just plain old Tate Jones, and the media have no idea where Tate Butler lives. That information would be golden to anyone, and it becomes especially true for Sam who leaks it.
Years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress herself, walks onto the set of a film that everyone says could be the turning point of her career. Tate’s excited about the prospect, as much for the challenge the role provides as for the fact that it’s the first time she’ll be working on a movie with her father. Maybe, she thinks, the surface-level relationship she and Ian have had all these years will sink deeper and become more than just a publicity stunt.
Then she discovers that the scriptwriter is Sam, and the clock rolls back 14 years. As Tate grapples with her feelings and the movie role, she’ll have to face the reality of how he betrayed her and whether she can forgive it. Either way, Tate knows one thing for sure: she won’t be forgetting Sam any time soon.
Author team Christina Lauren build a believable story of first love during the time Tate and Sam spend in London. Readers who have had their hearts broken by someone will find themselves reminiscing about their own experiences. Tate’s wide-eyed acceptance of Sam and her indecision about whether to trust him ring true to life.
The problem comes after the London portion of the book, which takes up more than a third of the novel. The years that pass between Sam’s betrayal and when he and Tate meet again get tossed to the wind. Tate goes from an innocent 18-year-old to an actress in her mid-thirties adept at handling the paparazzi and the ancillary inconveniences of celebrity life. Readers don’t get the benefit of watching her struggle in her craft as an actor or through the subsequent relationships after Sam.
As a result, Tate’s success doesn’t feel earned; neither does Sam’s return nor his reason for exposing her true identity to the media. Both get mentioned in passing as if readers don’t need to bother with those facts. The events in the present day feel overtly orchestrated. Tate at 18 and Sam at 21 feel more genuine, more relatable, more real than their grownup selves.
Because the book is in the romance genre, readers will already know before they open the cover what the ending will be. The point of romance novels is how the characters get to that “happily ever after.” In this case, Tate and Sam seem to be treading water and not really fighting any great storm back to one another.
I recommend readers Bypass Twice in a Blue Moon.