Whenever I read too many romance novels in a row, my patience with certain genre staples takes a bit of a hit.
I grew up on rom coms and I adore them, but as Mindy Kaling wrote in one of her memoirs, they often exist in a world with different rules. Digging into a good romance requires a certain suspension of disbelief about how our world works, especially in these days where a simple text or phone call could solve those sticky miscommunications.
Lately, I’ve complained about a couple tired tropes in some of my reviews. Job loss as inciting incident for our female character to seek change in her life is one. The cartoonish douchebag boyfriend who will of course eventually dump or be dumped is another.
When I feel myself getting into this easily-irritated zone, I tend to step away from the genre for a bit. But since I request a lot of romance ARCs and have been trying to get my NetGalley ratio up, I decided to try one more before my palette cleanser.
And reader, I am so glad that I did! The book in question was Lauren Kate’s By Any Other Name.
This book follows Lanie, editorial assistant at the publishing house of her favorite elusive author, Noa Calloway. Though she works directly with Noa’s editor, she’s never met the writer face to face.
Then, her boss decides not to return from maternity leave and Lanie steps into her shoes. Which means meeting Noa Calloway live and in person for the first time. And she’s shocked to discover who’s really behind the books (and email exchanges) she’s loved all these years.
Because of the things I’d like to discuss in this review, there will be a few vague spoilers. Come back when you’ve finished reading if you don’t want the rough sketch of a few plot points given away!
(Full disclosure: Many thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for this complimentary digital ARC in exchange for my honest review! Book links are Bookshop.org affiliate links.)
What I Liked
Because I had forgotten the synopsis of this book by the time I picked it up, I approached with caution, unsure what I was going to get.
Lanie is engaged when we meet her, and I was honestly not sure whether she’d stay that way. I’d forgotten enough to not even be sure if I was reading a romance, at all.
But of course I had to be, with Lanie’s book-inspired list of 99 things she wants in a partner.
By Any Other Name does a few things differently enough that I felt very refreshed by my reading experience. It’s a romance, through and through, but Kate doesn’t shy away from mixing it up a bit, either.
For starters, the scary impromptu meeting with Lanie’s boss does not result in an unexpected firing. Instead, she gets promoted.
This results in some challenges, but lets Lanie grow in the career she loves rather than questioning her entire life and her abilities. It also leads her to meet her favorite author in person for the first time.
And it’s the seed of a spark for the inevitable current partner breakup, the other part of the book I appreciated. Lanie’s soon-to-be ex fiancé Ryan is pretty clearly not the right partner for her. Yet he isn’t a cookie cutter caricature of a man, either.
Yes, he’s an ambitious politician and yes, his desire for a family life in DC leads him to be less than supportive of Lanie’s career. But we see tenderness and caring between them, too. It lets us understand why they’re together even as we see why they shouldn’t be.
I appreciate a slightly less one dimensional ex here, for change of pace.
This book also delivers on: laugh out loud moments, quality banter, friends-to-enemies-to-lovers, solid friendships and family relationships outside the romantic pairing, and bookish goodness.
What I Didn’t Like
No book is perfect, but I am struggling to find anything major to pick a bone with here. By Any Other Name was witty and funny and exactly the book I needed in this moment.
I will note that if on the page, open-door steam is a romance requirement for you, this may not be the pick for you.
The pacing towards the end is also a bit quick. I genuinely got scared about the HEA when I notified the percentage read at the bottom as I raced to the end.
In the end, By Any Other Name has earned its place as my second five star read of 2022. I spent my weekend telling my fiancé to go away so I could read my book, and I’m not sorry about it.
I recommend the book to romance fans looking to mix it up a bit with the aforementioned tropes, friends to lovers and enemies to lovers fans, and anyone who’s ever made an important life decision because of something they read in a book.
By Any Other Name comes out March 1st, 2022. You can (and should) preorder now.
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