on December 5, 2017
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Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.
Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.
Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?
This is my favorite Christina Lauren book to date. This talented writing duo is back to give us a look into a marriage of convenience between a wonderfully romantic Irish musician Calvin and a heart-of-gold writer Holland.
These characters meet in an unlikely place as Calvin plays the guitar in a subway station and she is his “not creepy in any way” stalker drawn to him by his good looks and musical talent.
As their lives intersect because of extenuating circumstances and they enter this marriage of convenience to keep Calvin in the country, what starts off as a business arrangement becomes something so much more.
In any marriage of convenience, you always have the thoughts and questions of “Could this be more?” or “Does he/she feel the same as I do?”… the insecurities, the getting to know each other, the passion, the friendship, the anxiety, the hurt, and ultimately the love took center stage and I fell in complete and utter love with this couple.
Their bantering, the texting, the slow build to that something more had me glued to my kindle. I smiled, I laughed, I cried because the emotions consumed me and I didn’t want it to end.
What I loved most about these characters was Holland’s character growth and finding herself and Calvin always staying true to his feelings—never wavering and never changing despite his growing fame. Together they just made my heart melt ❤️ With every marriage comes mistakes and boy do these two make them… but the talking and the making up all made it so worthwhile.
This writing duo can certainly write seamlessly and have given readers an epic romance that will remind you of why you love to read… the characters, the music so unforgettable… so beautiful… so perfect… that you will close this book with a smile on your face and joy in your heart for a story so completely amazing!
P.S I do wish there was an epilogue because I wasn’t quite ready to let them go!
Lulu was absolutely overselling it. Hole in the Hall is a . . . bar? That’s really the nicest thing I can say about it.
The subway station lets out just across the street from a nondescript brick building and Lulu giddily dances down the sidewalk. The neighborhood is a mixture of business and residential, but at least half the surrounding buildings look vacant. Opposite the bar is an empty Korean restaurant, with shuttered windows and a sign hanging crookedly near the doorway. Next door is a converted house with neon letters that spell House of Hookah; the once-bright tubes are now dark and dusty against the tin roof. It’s not exactly a mystery why Hole in the Hall would need to seduce potential new clientele with Groupon deals.
Lulu turns to perform her dance backward, luring me across the shiny wet street. “This is promising, at least,” she says brightly as we join a small crowd of people lined up near the door.
The opening notes of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” can be heard through the brick walls, and each time the door opens the music rushes out, as if escaping. I have to admit it feels good to get dressed and leave my worries to languish in the apartment for a few hours. Leggings and a dressy top weren’t too much work, and Lulu and her two good arms helped me blow-dry my long hair. For the first time in a couple of days, I don’t look and feel like a troll doll. This night might not be so bad after all.
When it’s finally our turn to enter, Lulu brandishes her two-for-one coupon like a badge and shimmies through the line.
Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty no-frills inside. The walls are lined with old video games, and carved-up tables stand in clusters surrounding the bar. The decor is a questionable mix of Harley-Davidson, taxidermy, and Old West paraphernalia. A stripper pole stands proudly on a platform at one end, and a stage at the other. The lighting is dim and dusty, and combined with a makeshift fog machine, it makes the band members little more than backlit gures moving around onstage.
Settling at a table, Lulu flags down a waitress and we order drinks that materialize almost disturbingly quickly, like they were poured hours ago and left to grow stale behind the bar.
Lulu studies her cocktail, charmingly titled Adios Motherfucker. With a tiny why-the-fuck-not shrug, she takes a swallow, wincing as it goes down. “Tastes like 7Up.”
She takes another sip and her straw blooms with fluorescent blue alcohol. “Actually, it tastes like sparkling water.”
“See, that’s the house-made moonshine killing your taste buds.”
She ignores this and turns her brown eyes on me. “Is the cast a giant pain in the ass? I’ve never broken a bone.” She grins. “Well . . . none of my own, ifyouknowwhatImean.”
I laugh, looking down at my purple cast peeking out of the black sling. “It could be worse. The camera’s a bit unruly and I can’t fold shirts very well yet, but I mean . . . I could be dead?”
She nods at this, taking another sip of her drink—which is already half-gone.
“I mean,” I say, “let’s be honest, I only need one hand to take people’s money during intermission, so it’s not that bad.”
“I hear you’re great one-handed.” She slaps a beat on the table and makes a rim-shot noise.
“The best.” I wink. “What about you, any auditions?”
Lulu shakes her head with a little pout and then does a shoulder shimmy to the beat of the music. She might waitress to make ends meet, but she’s dreamed of being an actress since she was old enough to know it was a possibility. We met in grad school, where she was studying theater and I was writing. She’s told me on several occasions that she should become my muse, and I can write script after script for her. This should tell you a lot about our dynamic, which—despite this Jersey sidequest—is generally more entertaining than tedious.
She’s been in a few low-budget commercials (she played an accident-prone chicken in an insurance commercial, and I have several gifs of this performance I like to occasionally text her out of the blue), attended almost every acting class offered in New York, and (as a favor to me) was given a small part in one of Robert’s shows. It didn’t last long—because, as Robert put it, “Lulu is good at playing Lulu and only Lulu”—but as long as she draws breath, she will believe that her big break is just around the corner.
“No auditions this week.” She watches the stage while taking another neon pull from her drink. I gingerly sip my watered-down Diet Coke. “Crowds haven’t died down since the holidays, so we’re all taking on extra hours.” Nodding toward the musicians, she says, “I feel like I’m being visually assaulted by the crotch of that guy’s outfit, but this band? They don’t completely suck.”
I follow her gaze to where the lead singer has moved to stand under a single bright spotlight. His acid-washed jeans are so tight I can see every lump he has to offer. A few more hours in those pants and I’m confident he can kiss his child-fathering years goodbye. The band shifts from the closing notes of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” into a cover of Great White’s “Rock Me”—I have my older brother Thomas’s addiction to hair metal to thank for this knowledge—and a brave (or drunk) group of women gravitate to the edge of the stage, dancing to the bluesy opening chords.
And why not? I sway a little in my seat, drawn in by the way the guitar player drags out each note, like a maddening seduction, his head bent low in concentration. Loose Springsteen might be a cheesy cover band—and most of them are wearing at least one dangly earring and/or an article of clothing covered in animal print—but Lulu is right: they aren’t half bad. With a little polish I could see them playing in a bigger club somewhere, or in an eighties revival off-off-Broadway.
The singer falls back and the guitarist moves into a circle of smoky light, beginning his requisite solo. There’s a surprisingly loud reaction from the women up front . . . and there’s something familiar about the way he holds the guitar, the way his fingers glide up the neck, the way his hair falls forward . . .
Oh, holy . . .
He lifts his chin, and even with his eyes in shadow and half his face turned away, I know.
“That’s him,” I say, pointing. I sit up straighter, pulling my phone out. I’m still on enough painkillers to not entirely trust my eyes right now. I zoom in, snapping a blurry picture.
I stare down at the screen and recognize the cut of his jaw, his full mouth. “Calvin. The dude from the subway.”
“Shut up.” She squints, leaning in. “That’s him?” There’s a moment of silence where I know she’s looking him over, seeing exactly what I’ve seen almost every day for the last six months. “Damn. Okay.” She turns to me, brows pointed skyward. “He’s hot.”
“I told you!” We both look back over to him. He’s playing high on the neck, screaming out the notes on his guitar, and unlike the meditative lean of his posture at the station, here he’s completely playing to the audience. “What is he doing here?” What if he sees me? “Oh my God. Is he going to think I followed him?”
She’s right, of course, but even now, the way I can’t take my eyes off him, I feel like a stalker. I already know so much about his schedule—I saw him just this morning, after all— and I know even more now. Is this the kind of thing he does when he’s not busking? Good Lord. Maybe this is why there’s such a fire to his playing at the station; he has to physically force this music out of his head.
The song ends and the lead singer slips his mic into the stand, muttering that they’re taking a break before smashing his bottle of Rolling Rock to his lips and triumphantly draining it.
I’m out of my chair before I know what I’m doing. People shuffle back to their seats to refuel on bad beer, and the lights go up just enough that I see Calvin disappear into the shadows and reappear a moment later at the opposite side of the bar.
Whereas the rest of the band is a veritable cover spread of 1980s fashion don’ts, Calvin is in a black T-shirt, with the hem tucked lazily into the front of his dark jeans. He’s wearing his black boots, too, and the left one is presently propped on the brass rail near his feet. The bartender places a dark beer in front of him and he lifts it, staring ahead.
I’m not sure how to approach him, and he still hasn’t seen me standing a few feet away. Saying his name somehow feels sincerely weird, so I square my shoulders and slide onto the barstool beside him.
Only once I’m seated do I register that there were about ten other women working up the nerve to do the same thing, coming at him from all angles. He turns slowly, like this happens at every set break and he’s never sure what manner of companion he’s going to end up with.
But when our eyes meet, he startles, face immediately relaxing into a genuine smile. “Hey, it’s the girl from the Netherlands.”
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