(Full disclosure: I received a digital review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Book links are Bookshop.org affiliate links).
Let’s be honest. I’m a sucker for a bright, vibrant cover. For all we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, the adorable and vibrant cover artwas definitely the first thing that drew me to Amanda Aksel’s No Funny Business.
Once I read the synopsis that accompanied this eye-catching cover, I knew I had to hit that NetGalley request button. This book follows lawyer by day, stand-up comedian by night Olivia Vincent as she seizes an opportunity to tour around the country with a fellow comic. A cute fellow comic who happens to have the same agent, a woman who makes Olivia promise there will be “no funny business” as the two road trip across the country.
I’ve never really read any books that center on a stand-up comedian as the protagonist, let alone a romance between two stand-ups. This uncharted territory mixed with my love a good forced proximity road trip romance drew me to this title, and I was thrilled when Berkley approved my request.
So, did the reading experience stand up (see what I did there?) to my expectations?
What I Liked
I loved Olivia’s determination to follow her dreams. Even if I cringed to see her shirk responsibilities at her day job, I loved the way she was willing to take risks to make her stand-up dreams come true. She’s a strong, confident character, which I really appreciated seeing on the page.
Seeing inside the world of a comedian on the road was really interesting, and I enjoyed watching Olivia experience this part of the life she imagines for herself for the first time. I also really enjoyed the burger-related banter between Olivia and Nick, even if I wasn’t that into their love story overall (more on that later).
The thing I liked best about this book was the fact that it isn’t just for laughs. When we meet Olivia, she’s clearly struggling to process the grief of losing her father, who cautioned her against giving her all to comedy. Watching her slowly open up about her past and re-engage with the place where she grew up, including being willing to get a little more authentic in her stand-up routines, was the heart of this book for me. I found myself feeling really invested in her emotional journey, even moreso than her desire to crush her audition for a popular late night show comedy spot.
What I Didn’t Like
A hero can make or break a romance for me, and I was definitely not Team Nick for most of the story. I warmed up to the stoic male comedian routine well enough by the end, but I found the romance to be the least compelling part of this story. It was fine but fairly predictable and I didn’t feel that invested in whether they wound up together or not.
Reading a stand-up routine on the page is a bit of an awkward experience, and I found myself wondering whether Olivia was actually crushing it even while the narration told me she was. I think Aksel is aware of this challenge, as most of routines take place largely off the page, with a brief summary of it going well or not going well. We don’t listen to the full routine until Olivia’s big moment in the end, which is a smart decision, because it fell a little flat on the page for me.
This is a small thing, but it did bug me — the words “no funny business” show up a bit too frequently in the dialogue and narration of this book. I love a good nod to the title, but when it’s overdone it can be a bit distracting.
Overall, I really enjoyed No Funny Business. It’s a fun story with a strong, independent female character committted to her dreams and working through her grief. The romance was just a cherry on the top in my opinion, as there was so much else at stake for Olivia.
I recommend this book to fans of comedy, stories about women who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want, and those who enjoy a romance that tackles some deeper themes.