Samantha “Sam” Cathner gave up needing Peter years ago, but now her theatre needs his play. She knows how fairytales end once the house lights are up, so she steadies herself to work with the brilliant playwright who once broke her heart. Peter Everoad is back in Pasadena, the hometown he traded for the bright lights of New York as soon as he graduated. The Pasadena Playhouse, where his oldest friend and one time lover Sam works, is in financial trouble, and they need him and his new play Looking In.
Sam is flustered to reencounter this new version of Peter – as always, witty and smart, and now handsome and successful. But he’s still the jerk who crushed her happily-ever-after. She’s not going to let him waltz in and unsettle her carefully ordered life. But she’s drawn to him and intrigued by the autobiographical undertones of Looking In – is the Pasadena debutante “Sally” supposed to be her? Can Sam ever really trust Peter again, or will the demons that drove them apart the first time tear them apart again?
I really, really liked this book. It was everything you would expect from a romantic novel: sweet and funny, but also heartbreaking in all the right moments. While there wasn’t a lot of depth to the story, I was looking for a feel-good novel, and this delivered fully. There was just the right amount of drama and comedy (although I didn’t really have that many “laughing-out-loud-by-myself” moments, I did smile through most of it), and the story was believable enough, with a very good ending. I was left feeling warm and fuzzy (and yes, some tears were involved), which is exactly what I look for in a romantic novel. I also liked the fact that Sam and Peter’s back story is mostly told through the character’s personal memories, when these are triggered by scenes in the play which they are trying to set up. I found this a good twist on the classic use of flashbacks, and I liked discovering how the character’s personal perspective changed their view of the same event.
Oh, and I just LOVED the main characters! Sam and Peter are so obviously madly in love with each other, but they simply can’t seem to be able to leave their past behind. I really liked the fact that I could witness the fears, hopes and inner conflict of both, as they struggle to reconcile their history with their feelings for each other. I really felt like I could engage with them: I was constantly cheering them on, rejoicing in their joy, and suffering in their pain. I’m just sorry I can’t say the same about the secondary characters. While a lot of time was devoted to developing the two protagonists, secondary characters just felt a little bit flat and one-dimensional to me, which was a shame because they really had a lot of potential. This isn’t a major flaw, though, and they’re still pretty good characters, so this might actually not bother others as it did me.
Overall, this was a really pleasant read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light read, a great romance and fairly memorable characters.