REVIEW: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

In brief: Carey and James work for the America’s renovation sweethearts. Only problem is, the couple hate each other. Can their assistants keep the peace and the news out of the press?

The good: Very interesting, open and fun.

The not-so-good: A little more serious than Christina Lauren’s recent books – but you’ll still laugh.

Why I chose it: Because I love Christina Lauren’s books. They are simply delightful.

Year: 2020

Pages: 308

Publisher: Piatkus (Hachette)

Setting: Mainly California and Wyoming, USA

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

I don’t care what judgements anyone makes, but Christina Lauren’s books are good for your soul. Where else can you get a novel that is amusing, fun, romantic and teaches you something you know nothing about? In The Honey-Don’t List, the storyline is set around a real-life couple who design and renovate houses and are now on the cusp of huge, Netflix-worthy fame. But it’s not about them. It’s about their assistants.

Carey has been working for Melly and Rusty Tripp since she was in high school and before the Tripps got famous. She’s a big part of the family business – actually, integral – but still holds the title as Melly’s assistant. But Carey doesn’t really mind too much. She has health insurance (important in America) which she needs and she gets to do what she wants. James, Rusty’s assistant, is not liking his job title and with good reason. He’s an engineer (and was hired as one) but he co-ordinates calendars and picks up dry cleaning. But he needs this job for his CV. Neither of them wants to quit, but this resolve is seriously tested as the Tripp’s star brightens. They have landed a show on Netflix and they’ve just released a bestseller on how to have a happy marriage. Except they don’t and James and Carey must keep it under wraps during their book tour. The pair aren’t really friends, but as they have to communicate and work together to stop the cracks in the Tripp’s marriage from reaching social media, they learn that they…get along. Maybe even more than that. But they each want such different things…

What I like about Christina Lauren’s books is that there is never a smooth, perfect path to the main characters’ happy ending. There is always another hurdle to jump through, but it’s not predictable stuff. It’s realistic and true to the character. Carey is a great character who you can’t help but feel for. She’s never really fit in at home and came under the wing of Melly at a young age. She’s got a lot of things to worry about, such as her health, but she has a determination to see things through even if the conditions aren’t great personally. James was a little more stiff to start with, but behind his sheltered upbringing and mistakes, he’s a guy who is scared about starting again and being a disappointment. Each character brings out the strengths in the other.

If only we could say that about the Tripp couple – their burning hatred leaps off the page. It’s a fascinating study of how love turned to hate and how the pair are bound together. Is it only the fame that got to their heads? Was it a communication breakdown? Or were they always going to drift away from each other? The glimpses we see of them happy are fleeting and it’s possible that they really did have something great. I’d love to have seen more about their adult children in the story, who sound like over-indulging nightmares but who could make for a good story if their heart was in the right place.

As always, pages just zap by in a Christina Lauren novel. It’s an easy transportation into another world, and I even picked up a little bit about design and TV. I can’t wait to see where the pair go in their next book.

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