Publication Date: July 2, 2014
Nicola’s on-and-off boyfriend, Max, has hurt her for the last time. It’s now time to focus on the development of her acting career and keeping her mind as far away from romance as she can. Max is deeply sorry for hurting Nicola but is sure they’re better off as friends though the attraction between them is strong making him wonder if he’s better with her than without. With the drama of theater, jealous divas and a generally crazy cast can Nicola and Max reunite or are they better off without each other?
The author, Beth Matthews, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The story opens with Max approaching Nicola to play Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Fling: Stage Kiss Book 1 at the Rosalind Shakespeare Festival. Nicola, for her part, is sick of being on the road and ready to put down roots and focus on a Hollywood career so having a job doing a play in a prestigious film festival seems an ideal, next career step. While she and Max have a deep and complicated history stemming from their relationship as teens, Nicola knows to be true her goal of developing her career she has to put her attraction and genuine affection (beneath the loathing) for Max aside. She can’t start caring again only to be let down by his heart-breaking behavior.
Max, for his part, is an equally complex and conflicted character. He’s made mistakes in his past and acknowledges them but is in part living in the shadow of his movie star brother. While a movie star good looking guy, he questions if directors want him for himself or for the publicity and ticket sales that his brother attending a performance could bring. Max does not have illusions, but he knows that his relationship with his brother is deeply complicated due to their past and that the infrequency of his visits could negate Max’s own value to the production — or so he thinks. Max also has addiction issues that he must battle and while Matthews gives us the story in dribs and drabs, her presentation reads early on as “Oh! And before I forget to tell you…” but matures as the story progresses melding well with the narrative.
While in many ways, A Midsummer Night’s Fling: Stage Kiss Book 1 is a straightforward romance it’s the story of the leaving behind of childish dreams and reconciling who they are with who they want to be. There’s a great scene toward the end of the novel where Nicola is talking with her friend Cassie about a fortune-teller game she used to play with her young friends. One friend was going to be a lawyer and married to a famous actor and have 27 children. While the actor and (thank goodness for her), number of children didn’t work out, the friend did become a lawyer. While reading the scene the purpose shined through. Dreams change. People are happiest when they change organically with them. There’s a lot of hurt and damage for both characters to navigate and Matthews doesn’t minimize her characters by making life easier, but she does give them the light bulb moments both clearly need and whether that brings them together or not, there’s no guarantee. There’s a lot that I identified with the outside of the stage life in A Midsummer Night’s Fling: Stage Kiss Book 1 that made the work surprisingly thought-provoking.
Some of the progression of the story is awkward. The first third of the book is written in a way that feels like Matthews wanted to lay out what was to come while not giving too much away and may be found easier once she arrived at the heart of the piece. I have no frame of reference for backstage routines, but her technical descriptions of the components of the play read as though they were written by someone familiar with the process.
While I never really grew to like either Max or Nicola, Matthews background characters were framed to highlight the star players and worked well. A Midsummer Night’s Fling: Stage Kiss Book 1 was an overall enjoyable story that read well in a comfy afternoon with a blanket and hot bevy. If you like romance, you might just love A Midsummer Night’s Fling: Stage Kiss Book 1.
Read an excerpt and A Midsummer’s Night Fling by Beth Matthews on