A whiplash novel? Two tales of one novel? A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of novels? I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to try to review it . . . below.
March 1, 2022
G.P. Putnam & Sons
Blurb: From # 1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Kate comes an enemies-to-lovers romance about an editor, her bestselling author, and one life-changing secret.
What she doesn’t know about love could fill a book.
With a successful career as a romance editor, and an engagement to a man who checks off all ninety-nine boxes on her carefully curated list, Lanie’s more than good. She’s killing it. Then she’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: to work with world-renowned author and her biggest inspiration in love and life—the Noa Callaway. All Lanie has to do is cure Noa’s writer’s block and she’ll get the promotion she’s always dreamed of. Simple, right?
But there’s a reason no one has ever seen or spoken to the mysterious Noa Calloway. And that reason will rock Lanie’s world. It will call into question everything she thought she knew. When she finally tosses her ninety-nine expectations to the wind, Lanie may just discover that love By Any Other Name can still be as sweet.
By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate is about an assistant romance editor, Lanie, who temporarily wins the position of editor after her editor decides to not return from maternity leave. Lanie can only keep the position if she can wrangle a novel from Noa Calloway, who is notoriously difficult and who is four months behind in submitting a manuscript. No one has ever met Noa except for Lanie’s predecessor and Sue, the publisher. When Lanie finally meets Noa (although they’ve become friends through correspondence for seven years), she feels betrayed and wonders if all of the values she’s devised in her life based on Noa Calloway’s novels are, well, valueless.
The first couple of chapters are okay, lulling the reading with the story of Lanie’s life thus far: she has besties in the form of Meg and Rufus, an incredible grandmother, a dream job, a dream fiancé, and a dead mother who instilled in her that she must find a love that is true. Weirdness begins to happen at the publicity function for Noa Calloway when Lanie seems to have a meltdown, which should have been a big old warning to me but I was too fascinated and a little appalled by the idea of cake inside of a balloon that you pop to get at the cake. Why, oh why, oh why? Is it just me? Doesn’t that seem messy and off-the-wall in not a good way? (Sorry for the tangent…onwards.)
Lanie’s next meltdown–and it’s huge–occurs when she meets Noa Calloway. Now according to the book so far, Lanie is successful at her job; she’s a star. Presumably she understands what professionalism is but she is so far from it in her interaction with Noa that she might as well be in Outer Mongolia. For much of the following chapters, we are presented with self-obsessed, self-absorbed Lanie whose behavior resembles a tween who is dealing with the fact that the world is not about them, does not revolve around them, and other people actually do exist. She is arrogant enough to believe that her fiancé Ryan is the only one doing wrong in their relationship, despite the fact that he’s never lied about what he wanted. She just couldn’t be bothered to pay attention because it didn’t fit with her idea of a perfect man and that’s what he is–was?. There are some humorous exchanges in the first half, especially with grandmother, BD, so all was not lost.
The blurb claims that this is an enemies-to-lovers (should be enemies-to-more because in this books they’re never lovers, but maybe the blurb is looking into the future 😉 ), but the enemies part is for about three pages, although Lanie does rant a lot in those pages. But why? This certainly isn’t the first novel I’ve read with this premise, just sayin’.
Enter the second half of the novel in which Lanie tries to extricate a novel from Noa by visiting many of Lanie’s favorite spots in the city. Seriously, I felt like I was reading an entirely different novel in which Lanie is not having meltdowns constantly and she seems more like an adult. Woohoo. Even the tone seemed different.
In this section of the novel, lots of nice things happen. The author even brought tears to my eyes with parts of Noa’s new novel. I felt like I was reading a really good romance, for which I had to endure the first half of this book. Argh. Not all was perfect but I did feel like I was reading something touching and worthy.
So, the first half of the novel gets: 🦋🦋🐞
and the second gets: 🦋🦋🦋🦋🐞
and because my brain does words and not math do we go with: 🦋🦋🦋🐞? Does that seem reasonable?
So, to recap By Any Other Name was cruising for the DNF pile but leapt to Olympic victory and got a medal. Should you read it? Frankly, I have no idea. Some reviews don’t even mention the first half and its difficulties, some reviews never get past them. You must decide into which group you might fall; of course, maybe you’re with me! Get past the difficulties and move on.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.