When the world goes insane, there’s nothing like copious amounts of junk food and a solid romance novel to get you through. Having read two books by Christina Hobbs & Lauren Billings in 2019, The Honey-Don’t List was definitely on my radar for 2020. However, after seeing a bunch of mediocre reviews, I did what any reasonable bookworm would do: I lowered the hell out of my expectations.
Who, What. Where?
THDL follows two assistants named Carey and James who work for home renovation gurus and reality stars, Melissa and Rusty Tripp. The Tripps are on the verge of airing a new Netflix series and have just released a guide to marriage and relationships. The only problem is that they can’t stand one another. When Melissa finds out about Rusty’s latest affair, Carey and James are forced to join the couple on their book tour to help keep their image intact. Both would rather be anywhere else but with Carey needing to keep her medical insurance and James desperate to salvage his resume, they’re stuck. Although, the more time they spend together, the more it seems like this tour may be the start of something unexpected.
Carey & James
One of the major reasons I’ve enjoyed past CL books is their characters. THDL is told in alternating first person POV and while I thought Carey and James were likable characters, they weren’t exactly favourites. Of the two, I definitely found Carey more memorable and interesting. Carey has been with the Tripps since she was sixteen, back when they owned their first furniture store. Now twenty-six, she does all the design elements of their projects with zero credit whilst managing her dystonia and having almost no personal life. I really felt for Carey and it was great seeing her grow in confidence to eventually take charge of her life and stand up for herself.
James was hired by the Tripps as a structural engineer and to his frustration has somehow ended up Rusty’s babysitter. After the last company he worked for turned out to be acting illegally, he desperately needs something respectable in his work history. James is what you’d call the hot-nerd type – smart, clean cut, looks good with his shirt off, and caring. I really liked how supportive and understanding he was of Carey, but…he’s also a teensy bit boring which made connecting with him difficult.
Romance with Missed Potential
In terms of the romance, I’m on the fence, mostly because the relationship shifts felt rushed within the time-frame. The bickering between Carey and James becomes attraction very quickly, they “get together” at halfway, and say the ‘L’ word by the end. It’s too much, too fast and the development of the relationship is often sacrificed to serve The Tripps storyline (which feeds into Carey and James’s personal journeys). When it comes to the relationship itself, while they don’t have the ease of Josh & Hazel or banter of Olive & Ethan, I still found Carey and James well suited for each other and sweet to read about. With more attention and time given to their interactions, this relationship could have been something really good.
Less Laughs, More Drama
One of the other boxes CL usually tick for me is humour. Whether it’s dialogue or crazy situations, they normally get at least a snort. With The Honey-Don’t List, not so much. The conversations don’t have the same charm and the story itself is more serious than past books. There’s a failing marriage, a muscle disorder, cheating, two young people getting taken advantage of by their bosses – it’s not a “fluffy” read. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of going in.
An Underwhelming Plot
As for the actual plot, it’s okay. Not keep-you-up-to-til-early-morning exciting, not boring. just middle of the road, ‘eh’. Things happen as expected but there’s enough going on with the characters to keep you mostly engaged. A few things to comment on though: first, I could have done without the police interview transcripts which frame the story and mess with the tone, two, I wish the ending had more closure on certain characters, and three, I wonder whether the story would have been better served by having it set filming the renovation series rather than on the book tour.
Overall, a quick and decent romantic contemporary, but missing a couple of things. If the blurb appeals to you, give it a go but if you’re after a great adult romance, I recommend picking up one of Christina and Lauren’s other works.