By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate
March 1, 2022, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Review by Iby
I know some readers dislike deception in their romance. I’m not sure that I’m necessarily opposed to deception, but I do enjoy it more when an author makes the other main character aware of the deception early on. Lauren Kate does that here, as she introduces us to her heroine, Lanie, a book editor who also works on the books written by the anonymous author Noa Calloway. Noa is a mystery, and when her boss quits, Lanie is suddenly charged with wrangling Noa into submitting the next highly-anticipated romance novel. Noa’s next novel is several months late, and Lanie’s promotion is contingent on getting the next novel published on time.
But Noa has a secret – the older, wiser woman Lanie had been picturing writing her favorite books and sharing witty emails with over the last few years? Yeah, she is a he – and he is handsome, a little reserved, and not at all what she was expecting.
First, let me give a round of applause for the writing here. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I fell in love with the New York City portrayed in the story. Second, I adored the cast of characters. I needed more of BD – Lanie’s beautiful, eccentric Jewish grandmother – and more from the cast of equally interesting friends and family. Third, this is basically an ode to reading, which I completely loved as a prolific reader. I felt like both MCs are my people, just as obsessed with books as I am.
I loved the way the story unfolded. We get to see Lanie’s love of Noa’s work, and how it had helped shape her career and her love life. We understand how shattered she feels when she realizes the funny idol she has been emailing all along is not who she pictured. She feels tricked, and the readers feel deceived by her. If I found out that Jane Austen was really a man, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have also had a similar existential crisis. Luckily, this isn’t drawn out for too long, and Lauren Kate lets us in on the secret pretty early in the book. If Noa had continued to lie to Lanie, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this nearly as much as I did.
On top of her career crisis, Lanie realizes it’s time to end her relationship with her fiancé. Her fiancé is perfect on paper, but they are misaligned with their vision for the future. Some readers may have found that Lanie stuck with her relationship for too long, but it was clear from very early on that they aren’t meant to be. With her job on the line – pending Noa’s new book – and her personal life in shambles, Lanie is a relatable character who seems on the precipice of a huge life change.
Overall, I adored this love story. It’s billed as a romcom, and it definitely has some silly moments, but I honestly felt like I was reading a beautiful love story for the ages. The book gets a little meta towards the end, but it really works for the story. My only minor criticism is that I wish we had more snippets of the emails sent between Noa and Lanie before the book started. For 7 years of friendship, we still didn’t have a ton of background on their online-only relationship, and they feel like they are more newly acquainted than what the timeline suggests. Maybe this could have been helped by more flashbacks, or by a few scenes from Noa’s point of view.
I fell in love with this story and these characters. I highly recommend this book if you love romances set in NYC, or want to fall in love with the art of reading all over again.
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This plot sounds so similar to a book I read a few years ago – Changing Lane by Season Vining. It’s a small town and not NYC and there are a few other differences- she’s recently divorced, she’s working at the local bookstore, he’s her new neighbor…. I didn’t love the book and I’m sure this one is better written but it sounds very, very similar.
Thanks for your review, Iby, as this does sound appealing.