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Monday, June 6, 2011

'Fanfare' by Renee Ahdieh

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Cris Pereira hates starring in a cautionary tale. Alas, her recent heartbreak relegates her to this unbecoming fate. The only good thing about being dumped a foot from the altar is the newest layer to her punchy sarcasm. All she wants is a do-over, but this is not your average fairy tale, and wishes don’t come true in the real world. One Sunday afternoon, she meets a movie star. Tom Abramson is intelligent, charming, and impetuous. In other words, he plays the role a bit too well. She isn’t falling for it. She knows better. All British men are not descendants of Fitzwilliam Darcy, and movie stars are genetic mutations gone awry: X-Men with statistical disadvantages and emotional handicaps. Keep your knight in shining armour. A modern girl can rescue herself, thank you very much. After all, dreams are for the foolhardy, nightmares are just a part of life, and . . . this is not your average fairy tale.

Sometimes life gives you lemons, closes a door and kicks you when you’re down. For Cris Pereira there has been no lemonade, windows opening or getting up to brush herself off. Between her fiancée cheating on her and her father dying, it’s pretty fair to say she has had a run of bad luck.

And then Cris loses her iPod.

At a celebrity signing for the current ‘it boy’ of Hollywood, Cris is forced to queue in line with her squealing, obsessed cousins as they fawn over the latest British export, and then she loses her iPod at the signing table. Brilliant!

Cris is baffled when an anonymous note promises to return her lost iPod to her. And the surprises keep on coming when a mysterious phone number belongs to none other than Tom Abramson – the famously hunky British actor!

What follows is a sweetly kindling romance which blooms amidst txt messages, e-mails and long-distance phone calls, followed by secret rendezvous’. Cris finds herself falling for one of the sexiest men alive (according to People magazine) . . . even more shocking is that Cris can fix her heart after such a tortuous broken engagement. Does it matter that the price of mending her heart will be to live and love in the public eye?

‘Fanfare’ is the debut novel from Renee Ahdieh.

I was initially intrigued by this novel’s premise because it reminded me a bit of Alice Clayton’s (fabulous) ‘Redhead’ series. Both books are about a woman falling for the latest Hollywood heartthrob and then managing their romance in the limelight.

The anger flared. “You have no idea what you’re talking about! You think that all of this drama is fabulous and entertaining. You read your blogs and your People magazine, and you think this world is like the adult version of Disneyland! Newsflash: it isn’t!” I shouted.

There are similarities between the books – despite the broad plot outline. Cris herself isn’t in the fame game (whereas Grace Sheridan was an aspiring actress). Most of the parallels come between the male leads; Jack Hamilton, heartthrob of ‘Redhead’ and Tom Abramson’s rising star in ‘Fanfare’. Both of them are British and both play the guitar. They are both starring in book to film tween adaptations that have skyrocketed them to the front cover of Tiger Beat magazine (playing a time traveller and ghost, respectively). Both of them are uncomfortable with the fame game, and welcome the opportunity to inject their romantic lives with some normalcy of their own dictate. But that’s essentially where the similarities between ‘Redhead’ and ‘Fanfare’ end.

Redhead’ is a slightly sexier romance. Jack and Grace had plenty of sparking chemistry and Alice Clayton excelled at writing steamy, heart-palpitating sex scenes for them. In ‘Fanfare’ Cris is in a very fragile emotional state, so she and Tom move their romance at a steady, snail pace for the sake of healing. I would have liked a sizzling injection to the romantic aspect, if only because I had some issues with the tameness of the novel. . .

My biggest problem with ‘Fanfare’ was the characters of Cris and Tom. They weren’t terribly fascinating – individually or together. The most interesting thing about Cris is her recent heartbreak, and Tom’s only noteworthy for being famous. Otherwise, they are pretty ho-hum characters chugging along at a steady romantic pace. I quite liked that Tom is portrayed as just an average Joe who happens to have an infamous job, but really if you took his acting out of the equation this could just be a novel about a woman getting over heartbreak and learning to love again.

Because Tom was such a charmingly sedate character, I did find that his and Cris’s relationship wasn’t particularly fiery. Tom was just lovely – trustworthy, dependable and gallant. Even when rumours surfaced that he was ‘canoodling’ with his co-star, there was never a moment of drama for me or a second’s doubt that he would hurt Cris. He was so lovely and kind to the point that his and Cris’s relationship was predictable and not terribly steamy.

Sure, Cris is a vivacious Puerto Rican woman who likes to dance, speaks her mind and doesn’t back down. But despite her cultural feistiness, her character didn’t have much verve. She was kinda funny and very observant . . . mostly she was just very down-to-earth. The most interesting moments for me came from Cris’s observations of being an average woman dating a famous man;

The unflattering comparisons in my mind were endless . . . and humorously cruel. I heard once that you never see a really good-looking guy with a homely girl, but it didn’t seem terribly unusual to witness a beautiful woman with an aesthetically forgettable man.
I might get thrashed for saying this, but I think that many women are so focused on their sense of self-image that they can’t stomach being the question mark in a coupe; they prefer to be the exclamation point.

I can understand Tom being so normal as to border on mundane. His job is the big draw-card; otherwise he’s just an ordinary bloke looking for love. This is probably true of many film stars (Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon come to mind) but to counterpoint his ordinary schtick I wish Cris had more charisma to carry the romance.
I did like that Cris was Puerto Rican, and surrounded by friends of varying ethnicities – it made for vivacious secondary character explorations and ensured that her cache of friends never faded into the background.

Overall I thought ‘Fanfare’ was a very realistic look at a ‘what if?’ fantasy which most woman have considered at some point in their life. What if someone famous fell in love with you? Could you love in the public eye? Would you be willing to give yourself to someone and lose your privacy in the bargain? Renee Ahdieh raises some interesting points in a plot that resembles an ordinarily sweet romance, but with an injection of Hollywood glamour.



  1. oooooh some what similar to the redhead series huh?

    it sounds like this one it's more on the serious side and not hilarious like the other one...

    Great review hon!


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