Title: America’s Next Reality Star
(Reality Star #1)
Author: Laura Heffernan
Publisher: Lyrical Shine - Kensington
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
SEEKING THE SMART ONE
Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.
Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .
He touched my chin with two fingers, bringing my gaze up to meet his. Damn those green eyes. I searched them for answers, wishing I knew whether he was putting on an act for the audience. Even with the lights off, the cameras stationed in the yard would capture us. The producers filmed everything, day and night. Everyone in America would know if we kissed. For a moment, I struggled to remember why that was bad.
“I guess it’s not your fault, since I got the question right,” I said begrudgingly, shifting slightly backward.
“If that is the best I can get, I’ll take it. But I’m going to work on complete forgiveness. I’ll pay you double interest on our bet—six cents.”
“Well, then,” I laughed. “Maybe I’ll have to reconsider once I get my money. I’d hate to have to send Birdie to break your kneecaps.”
The image of five-foot-tall Birdie coming after Justin with a baseball bat cracked him up. I laughed, too, crossing my legs and settling more comfortably in the lounger. My knee practically touched Justin’s leg. He didn’t move.
We sat quietly for a few minutes. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding. Even not wanting to get caught kissing on national television with a near-stranger, I found something about Justin irresistible. Possibly his smile. Or his dimples. His brains. The ease of talking to him. His personality. The fact that he was practically perfect for me in every way.
That line of thinking wasn’t helping. I needed to change the subject before I started calling him Mary Poppins.
“It’s a beautiful night.” I gestured at the sky.
“Yes, it is,” Justin said, his eyes never leaving my face. Did he lean forward slightly? Only inches separated our lips.
The warmth definitely wasn’t the beer. I licked my lips nervously and leaned in, closing the gap. If he moved the tiniest bit…
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Heffernan
Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.
3 “Who doesn't like reality TV” Stars
ARC via NetGalley.
Thank you, Kensington!
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Okay, you guys, I love reality TV. It’s out there now. No taking it back. Reality TV shows are super fun.
When it comes to them, I think people tend to think the trashier the better, right? I mean, some will still watch the “better produced”, serious ones, but after a while it tends to get kind of boring because people don’t really turn on the TV to watch boring people to do boring stuff. People want the crazy, trashy shows so they can escape reality.
I can relate to that idea, too. I’m not above watching Big Brother or America’s Next Top Model. In fact, Tyra Banks and I go way back… I watched every season of that show, so I won’t be the one judging you for watching the Kardashians, even though I never did.
But, yeah, I like the serious ones, too. By serious, I mean better versions of ANTM, like Australia’s Next Top Model. Or American Idol. Project Runway. Top Chef. This last one makes me hungry, but I love watching it.
But that’s not the kind of reality show featured in this book. America’s Next Reality Star brings to life a show that is a bit more serious than those. Sure the house and the drama reminded me of things you’d see on Big Brother, but the activities and idea behind the show was a lot more interesting.
And that was what caught—and kept—my attention in this story. The reality TV premise was interesting and different enough to make this book stand out. It’ll appeal to pretty much everyone who’s watched TV for the last decade, and it’ll make you want to see what’s behind the camera. We all know reality TV tends to be as fabricated as “normal” show, but we don’t have many opportunities to see the whole process. This books allows us to peek behind the curtains and cameras and get to know a little about how one goes from working a normal job to becoming a TV star. I’m not saying it’s a hundred percent accurate, but it reads reasonable enough.
Jen Reid is the one to guide us through that. She’s a young woman who’s going through a tough financial time, and is about to watch life pretty much blow up in her face. The opportunity to change that comes in the form of a reality show that’s seeking smart people to perform intellectual and physical tasks while locked up in a glass house. The name of the show is The Fishbowl, because of its glass walls. Walls the characters keep walking into. Side note: If I were in the house, I would’ve probably gone to the hospital after the first few days.
We follow Jen through auditions, the entire casting process and, obviously, her journey as a reality TV contestant. There are a lot of insane tasks, but they’re actually pretty interesting. It’s nothing like I’ve seen on TV, and I think I’d want to watch a show like that if a network decided to produce and broadcast it. For me, that was the best part of the book by far. It was interesting and unique, and it delivered on what it promised: a story about a different kind of reality TV show.
The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because I went into it thinking it was a contemporary romance, but that’s not how I’d describe this book. It’s probably more Women’s Fiction than anything else. Trying to make it about the romance will leave readers disappointed, in my opinion.
For instance, I couldn’t connect the romance at all, and that made me lose my connection with Jen because the book tried to focus too much on the romance in the second half. I liked Jen enough in the beginning, but once the romance took over the book and her life, she lost me. I realize that sounds insane coming from me, the romance addict, but the reason I almost wish this book had no romance subplot was because I couldn’t feel it at all. I didn’t feel the chemistry, despite Jen mentioning it repeatedly, and I didn’t root for them to end up together. In fact, I think the romance hurt Jen’s character. She became obsessed with Justin, someone she barely talked to or spent any quality time with, for no apparent reason. It irked me that she made some many wrong decisions that impacted her chance to win the show for a guy she barely knew. I still don’t think they got to know each other all that well, despite being in the same house for weeks. I can count on my fingers the amount of scenes they spent talking or doing anything that can be remotely considered as romantic. I think Justin spent more time with Ariana (the villain) than with Jen, so some of the choices—especially that ending—didn’t make any sense to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Justin. He was a smart dude and he came across as really mature for his age, which kind of made Jen look worse, because she had a lot of immature attitudes in the second half of the book. I just didn’t think the two of them had any chemistry.
Jen’s immaturity was mainly related to Ariana, the wanna-be actress with a hot body, gorgeous face and no brains. I guess Ariana is a representation of what is wrong with America these days—she was a fan favorite despite being a complete bitch. She was a liar and she liked to get under people’s skin, but she was playing to win and she manipulated the voters with all the drama she managed to create. The main source of that drama was her relationship with Jen and Justin. She wanted Justin and she made sure Jen saw that. The problem is, Jen could’ve focused on the game or taken the mature road and dealt with it as a grown-up. Anything other than desperately trying to expose Ariana would’ve been a smarter path.
Ariana’s personality is a bit cartoonish, but with Trump winning the election, I can’t really get mad at the writer for writing her that way. Plus, I’ve seen enough shows to know some people really put on a character and refuse to let go no matter how horrible and ridiculous they look.
Last but not least, I have to say I was super happy to find a Brazilian character in the story. He was one of my favorite characters. Not only because he was Brazilian, but because he was fun and level-headed. I really, really liked him. Another one of my favorites was the contestant that was obsessed with Twitter. #canrelate
So, if you go into America’s Next Reality Star with the right expectation—hoping to read a book about reality TV shows and the people who try out for it, I think you’ll have a good experience. I wouldn’t go into it betting a big love story, though, because I’m afraid you won’t find it.
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