The World is a Stage by Tamara Morgan (Games of Love #2)
June 5, 2012
Reviewed by May
Favorite Quote: “Proposition. Noun. A fancy way to tell a woman you want to see her honey pot.”
Rachel is a talented actress currently working in a Shakespeare after dark theater (think skimpy outfits and added heat to some scenes) in Washington. She watches over her alcoholic (former famous stage actress) mother and gentle and weak younger sister instead of working in New York or Los Angeles and furthering her career, and she takes her duties seriously.
Michael is the simple guy everyone assumes is rather thick and slow, but he’s smart, funny and a good friend. He is also a Highland games athlete – or rather he was. Knee surgery and injuries have him sidelined and recovering, with little to do outside work on the lentil farm (where he lives). So when his friend asks Michael to come along and play wingman and distract Rachel he agrees.
Instantly, I can’t help but love Michael. He’s a big good looking guy sure, but he’s also funny and loyal and a lot smarter than anyone thinks. He is simply one of those guys that is a pleasure to know, and that you want to have as a friend. His attitude is positive, his outlook optimistic, and I always looked forward to seeing what he’d say next.
He was Michael O’Leary. He wore a skirt, and he smiled in the face of hostility. He stood by his friends through Shakespearean zombies and hissing she-bats.
These were the things he knew to be true.
Rachel on the other hand, is an intensely difficult to like shrew.
Rachel let out a whoosh of breath. She couldn’t tell if it was annoyance or relief – annoyance that her sister was once again being lured by a man whose ineligibility was literally stamped on his skin, or relief that she hadn’t yet had the time or the opportunity to count all his tattoos…..
“Let me guess,” she said quietly, looking into her sister’s turbulent gray eyes, so very much like her own. It was the only trait they shared outside of the signature sloped Hewitt nose, which everyone assumed was the product of a plastic surgeon’s skilled hand rather than really good genetics. “You met him at a bar. He didn’t even try to get you drunk or passed out in his bed. He’s misunderstood, really sweet once you get to know him. Not at all like the last one. I just don’t understand.”
In this day and age to say someone is automatically a bottom feeding scumbag of society and bound to commit unspeakable crimes based on him being a big muscular guy with some tattoos or piercings is utterly ridiculous. This is the kind of judgmental attitude our heroine has, and so to say Rachel started off really annoying in my book would be an understatement.
In fact, I disliked her so much that I was very worried about if I’d enjoy this book or if she was going to ruin any chance of a great read for me. As the story goes on three things happen- she lightens up, we come to understand some of her reasoning, and she doesn’t get off the hook for her heinous behavior. In other words, the author makes it work. Early on in the book Michael puts it perfectly:
If ever a woman needed to be put in her place- a tight, cramped, uncomfortable hole where she’d be forced to smell her own shit – it was Rachel Hewitt.
Face her actions she shall, and from hating the very sight of each other to truly caring about each other and coming to love one another this unlikely pair shall. Thrown together as Michael is roped into working as an understudy and generally helping out for the next Shakespeare production she is working on, they end up spending more and more time together and getting to know one another.
“If you ask me, all the men around here could use a little carpe scrotum.”
Ah Michael, he uses humor and purposefully antagonizes Rachel with crude jokes and inappropriate suggestions.
“Do you have some secret underground lair or something? Is that your new plan?”
He raised a brow. “You mean a sex room? As in, nipple clamps and ball gags and thirty-one flavors of lube?”
The vein near her temple throbbed a warning, so he put a hand over his heart and winked. “Not yet, Red. But you say the word, and I promise to dig you one with my own two hands.”
“You’re disgusting,” she said, though Michael noted she didn’t actually move away.
From the dirty limericks to the lines that had me snorting (and nearly falling off the treadmill) he never gives up on her. At first it’s to entertain himself and help his friend, but he quickly sees the protective hard shell Rachel is wearing, and the truth of the woman beneath it and how much more she is than a bitter man hating actress. He also sees how the way everyone treats her feeds her attitude and anger, that her being treated like a monster isn’t helping things for anyone. Their attraction and the tension between them builds as the pages go by, and I love Tamara Morgan’s style of writing that she really shows us the tension of that first accidental touch, those details leading up to the first kiss. It’s real good stuff.
The secondary romance was interesting because those characters had more obvious issues and past trauma, and I would have liked even more pages in this story to add in more details about Rachel’s sister and Michael’s friend. They both seemed to remain more open to each other and to love while Michael and Rachel battled it out and verbally wrestled and disagreed as much as possible.
The Highland Games weren’t much of the plot this time – the focus being more on the Shakespeare production that they are working on. In fact you can definitely skip the first in this series and read this as a stand-alone. Some characters show up, but in no way are the plots tied together.
Between the stuff going on with the secondary characters, the play, Michael coming to terms with his knee, and Rachel learning to let her sister go a bit, there’s a lot going on and I loved every page.
My one complaint would be that because she is so bitter, so vile to begin with Rachel has a lot of growth and work to do as a character – and Michael really has none. As far as strong female leads go Rachel is certainly verbal and refuses to be intimidated – but emotionally she’s really fragile and untrusting and is the one who has to apologize and see reason. It did not affect my enjoyment of the book – but I’m not a fan of one lead being the one that needs to ‘shape up’ to be with the other. In this case, she really did and I liked the way all of the resolutions were handled.
Now for the really great news: this book ended up being such a good read, it is the first “A” contemporary romance that I’ve read in nearly two years. Yes you read that right, this is hands down my favorite recent contemporary romance novel. Loved it! The common writing pitfalls are avoided, the plot charged forward, and the story hit a great balance between comedy and love story. In short, it was fantastic. My face was sore from smiling and laughing by the time I was done, and if the premise sounds fun and you’re looking for a contemporary rom-com I strongly recommend this one.