Celebrity romance is one of my favorite tropes, so I was sure to scoop up Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren. This is a first love/ second chance romance as well, and it’s set in two parts: when the hero and heroine meet for the first time, and when they reconnect fourteen years later. I really enjoyed the first part of the book, but I felt like there wasn’t as much focus on the main couple’s relationship in the second half, and there definitely wasn’t enough grovel to satisfy me. Added to that, I really loathed the character of the heroine’s father, and the amount of attention he got in the book irked me.
The book opens in London where Tate Jones is celebrating graduating high school by going on a two week dream vacation with her grandma. During dinner one night, Tate and her grandmother meet two other Americans, Sam Brandis and his grandfather, Luther. They’re also on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and are staying at the same hotel. They wind up doing some sightseeing together, and at night Sam and Tate sneak out to spend time together in the hotel’s garden. Tate and Sam wind up having a two-week fling. He’s her first love, and her first lover. During this time Tate confesses to him that she’s the daughter of a movie star, Ian Butler. Ian is not a great guy (cheating, lying, all around douchery) so Tate’s mom took her and moved to a small town where no one knows who they really are.
Then Sam betrays her. One morning Tate wakes up to the paparazzi waiting for her outside the hotel. It turns out that Sam sold her story to The Guardian and now he’s nowhere to be found. She’s understandably heartbroken.
The first part of the book is intense in a couple of ways. First there’s all the emotion of Tate experiencing her first real love. Sam is charming and lovely and a great listener. There are some truly wonderful scenes where Tate and Sam spend all night in the hotel’s dark garden together; in that little bubble of intimacy, away from influences back home, it makes sense that Tate feels secure enough to tell Sam her secret. Sam also entrusts Tate with his own family drama (his dad isn’t so great either) so their confidence in each other doesn’t feel one-sided.
That’s why Sam’s betrayal felt so acutely painful to me as a reader. I remember being Tate’s age and embarking on adult life and trying to figure out who it was safe to be vulnerable around. Tate is not only heartbroken when Sam sells her story to the press, she’s left with a pain that will leave her with intimacy issues for years.
Cut to fourteen years later. After being outed as Ian Butler’s daughter, Tate decided to pursue an acting career of her own. She’s a box-office hit, and she’s due to star in a drama with her father called Milkweed. The media coverage of the movie is pretty heavy since this is the first time Tate and her father will be acting together. So who does Tate meet on set? Sam of course. It turns out he’s the screenwriter.
If you’re wondering why Sam sold Tate out:
Tate forgives Sam for this almost right away. In fact, most of their conflict is cleared up in the matter of a few conversations. Much of the action in the second act is devoted to filming the movie, and on Tate’s relationship with her dad. I felt like the romance between Tate and Sam was resolved too quickly and the plot meandered around a little.
Sam admits that he feels terrible for what he did, but he doesn’t really grovel either. It’s a tricky subject because, on the one hand, I understood his actions, but on the other that doesn’t mitigate the pain he caused Tate. I felt like Tate forgave him easily and quickly, which didn’t fit with the severity of the actual betrayal.
There’s also a lot of other things happening that detract from the focus on Sam and Tate’s relationship. For a little while Tate thinks Sam is married (he’s divorced) which could have been clarified in a two second conversation. Instead the misunderstanding comes off like a contrivance. There’s also Tate’s attraction to her co-star, which ultimately goes nowhere and seemed unnecessary.
And finally, there is Tate’s father, Ian. Way too much time was devoted to Ian. Ian is a narcissist and a world-class POS and he didn’t deserve the pages he got. He makes up stories about Tate as a child to feed to the cast and crew as if he actually bothered to be in her life at all. He’s clearly using Tate’s rising fame to help bolster his slowing career. It’s so obvious, in fact, that I had a hard time with Tate just being okay with her dad’s douchery. He’s total unapologetic about what a shitty father he was. Every time he played the doting dad in public, I wanted to punch him.
Basically Tate has two men of significance in her life who treated/treat her poorly and neither of them gets the swift kick they deserve. I think if there had been less focus on Ian and Tate’s relationship and more on Tate and Sam’s, where some of their issues were explored in more detail, the second half might have been more satisfying.
I did feel that Twice in a Blue Moon did a much better job of explaining the process of filming a movie than most celebrity romances do. There was a deep-dive into a dangerous stunt scene, and even a fair amount of explanation of how sex scenes are filmed. I enjoyed those details quite a bit.
So while I enjoyed Tate and Sam’s whirlwind London romance, I felt like I had to slog through the second half of the book except for the parts that detailed the movie-making process. I also didn’t think Sam or Ian were worthy of Tate’s attention or forgiveness, which meant, at least in the case of Sam, I was fairly “meh” on the HEA.