REVIEW: Unscripted by J.R. Grey

The Official Description:  Movie star 101: A smile hides all pain.

Quellcrist King has been playing a part his entire life. The more famous he becomes, the more he hides. The only person he ever let see the real him rose with him from nothing to the very top.

They were the king and queen of Hollywood— and then she wanted a divorce. The only way to survive his depression is to bury himself in work. If he can be a character, maybe he won’t have to remember himself. A gay role can’t be any different than playing a straight one, can it?

But instead of finding solace in the character, he finds it in his costar. Hale becomes his best friend, his lifeline, the light in his darkness. Quell is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about himself while filming intimate scenes with Hale that feel more real than anything ever has before.

He’s lived his entire life following the script. What would life be like unscripted?

Just the facts: Actors, working on set as a gay couple, mental health

Quell and Hale are playing lovers in a TV show but the chemistry between them is real. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit:  I am new to books by J.R. Gray and I really enjoyed this one. The novel begins with Quell – a well-known actor – buying the script for a TV show. He’s read the book: “Pirate Night” … which is part of a series about a Prince and Pirate who end up in a relationship. He’s sold on the emotion and plot of the book and determined to produce it and star in it. He has enough clout in the industry that he gets the series funded and they begin looking for the cast and crew.

Enter Hale. Hale shows up an audition to read for a supporting role the will reoccur and is snagged by the producer to read with none other than Quellcrest King. It turns out that everyone involved thinks that Hale is perfect for the role of the pirate … who becomes the gay lover of the Prince. Yes, the prince played by Quell.

There are some cute and humourous awkward moments in this as these two characters get to know one another. I thought the author did a good job of capturing the oddity of having to throw yourself into an onscreen relationship with someone you have only just met. I really liked Quell. He seemed to have his life together and really seemed down to earth for an actor new or otherwise. I know some actors so I didn’t find it all impossible for a famous actor to be an introvert with social anxiety and depression. I also didn’t find it a stretch that he didn’t like to be alone. There’s something about being in the limelight that can be a blessing and a curse to people that act. I’ve seen both sides of it and this read quite true to me.

This book has a fast-moving plot that still manages to be detailed, enjoyable, and well-paced. I know that seems like a weird sentence but I think romance plots are about balance! The plot has to move along as a pace that gives enough movement that it’s interesting but it still has to be believable. Gray has struck a great balance in this book.

One of my favorite things was the dialogue between the characters. It was funny and quirky at times and quite entertaining. The supporting characters are often the funniest and I really enjoyed that. The banter was authentic feeling and added some lightness to some scenes that could have been really heavy.

Of course, this is a kind of reworking of the “fake boyfriend” trope. Clearly, acting as lovers on screen could bring out same-sex attraction in someone who hadn’t previously thought about it. This was an entertaining take on a popular theme.

I appreciate the author having a main character who was living with depression and social anxiety. Having a character who has chronic depression was a pleasant change. I don’t like reading books in which a character falls in love and “bam” the depression is gone. Depression can be chronic and an ongoing battle and I thought that Gray did a great job in his characterization of it in this novel. As someone who has lived with depression my entire life, I greatly appreciate reading a character like Quell. The fact that Quell is able to put on a front that means most people don’t even know what he’s dealing with is something that I feel is more common than people realize.

This was an enjoyable read and I’ll gladly read anything else by this author! I’m looking forward to book two of this series, “Rewritten” which is out June 4!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) the word “cum” is used rather than “come” (don’t judge! some people have let me know they detest that spelling), description of depression, social anxiety, description of disordered eating, emotional abuse in a relationship, discussion about infidelity, on paper infidelity (separated but not divorced).

Links: Goodreads // The Author /

I received an ARC of Unscripted by J.R. Gray via A Novel Take Promotions  in exchange for an unbiased review.

a novel take

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