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The Stand-In by Lily Chu


For some reason, this book was on my (library) TBR shelf for a long time. I think that I assumed it would be a pretty straightforward book: the premise of it is a bit "romance reasons." But then, I was kind of here for it. The premise is that the female main character (FMC) lives in Toronto and is mistaken for a Chinese movie star who is in town. It turns out they look surprisingly alike, so the movie star approaches the look-alike woman and asks her to be her "stand-in." She is incredibly worn out and needs a break, and she basically just wants to do her theater work and have someone else go to her charity events, random social events, awards shows, and movie premieres. The FMC is really hesitant to be a part of this nonsense, but she loses her job due to a ridiculous boss (who basically sexually harasses her), so she is left without a job while trying to pay for her mother's long-term care. Her mother has dementia, so the FMC needs the money very badly, so she agrees to the plan.

She needs to basically get trained on being this movie star person, so she moves into the movie star's hotel to do this. Of course, there is another movie star - the female movie star's best friend - who is male and incredibly hot and incredibly does not trust this stand-in lady. From there, I assumed their relationship would grow and blah blah blah, but there is so much more going on. There is the fact that these movie stars are pampered and sheltered, but they also kind of hate that situation; they have never lived a normal life. The FMC starts to realize that it is honestly pretty difficult to do what they do: they have a lot of expectations on their time, and from their fans, and they have challenging parental issues (particularly the MMC). The MMC has dealt with some mental health issues, but it is made clear that has found stability. This is incredibly relevant, because the female movie star is struggling with very similar mental health problems, and the FMC is able to kind of push her in the right direction. It turns out that she is not just burnt out, but actually is struggling with depression and needs mental health support. The FMC is also working on regaining her confidence after her awful boss broke her down, and the reader goes on that journey with her.

On the one hand, this is a bit of a "quiet" book. On the other hand, it is incredibly good and there are a lot of things going on that are dealt with adeptly and with the right balance toward each. I really enjoyed the way that the characters develop toward each other. Typically I tend to prefer novels in which, if there is a relationship that develops, it is given the space to do to develop throughout the book. However, and spoiler alert here, the ending of this book reminded me a lot of the ending of The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. The cadence of how the relationship develops is similar. I completely bought that we were at the beginning of this relationship at the end of the book; although there is some physical stuff that happens, by the end they are really just starting out as romantic partners. That is not typically the ending that I am looking for, but given how the characters are, I really bought that and I felt that this was going to work out for them.

This would be a great book to have a sequel, though it would have to have a completely different premise. It would be great to see a book about the woman in the coffee shop, for example. It would be great to see a book about a lot of the side characters, while also seeing how their relationship is going and how they are structuring things while the FMC is starting up a company and the MMC is an international movie star. Anyway, I super recommend this, it felt warm and fuzzy and very observant about people and their environments, and how they are shaped by each other, and by their environment, and by their parents. They are finding themselves and figuring out what they want for themselves in the midst of all of that noise.

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