The play’s the thing in this enchanting starter to Ewens’ (Catalina Kiss, 2012) romance series.
Samantha “Sam” Cathner is both grateful and nervous when her childhood friend Peter Everoad returns to California to work on his new play, Looking In. She’s the assistant creative director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and she trusts that anything Peter writes will draw a crowd there. But it turns out that the script is about Peter’s unfinished emotional business with Sam—and even he doesn’t know how the story will end, even as he’s writing the final scenes. It’s a tightly crafted premise, and the story ends with Peter moving to New York City to escape the aftermath of his father’s suicide, leaving Sam brokenhearted just as she and Peter were becoming more than friends. The tension between them is most convincing during play rehearsals: Sam is livid as she watches a professional actor portray her character, “Sally,” as a superficial debutante, while Peter instructs the actor playing “Phillip” to make the audience sympathize with him. However, the novel’s detours into the nuts and bolts of theater production, although detailed and authentic, tend to stall the action. The second act is more successful, as it brings the couple’s lost love into the present moment, with a touch of Hollywood romance. Peter chooses a historic movie theater on Catalina Island, where he and Sam used to spend vacations, to stage a grand gesture that would make anyone swoon. But an unfortunate twist leaves Sam in the same place that Peter left her in years ago, stuck by herself just when she needs him most—only this time, Peter can’t use his youth, or his father, as an excuse. In a character-defining moment, he’ll have to decide how their love will continue after the curtain falls.
Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they wait to see if the play has a happy ending.