I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is my own.
Jenny Holiday is one of the masters of the genre when it comes to earnest and heartwarming romances with considerate and self-aware heroes, and heroines who are strong, independent and - sometimes - a little emotionally closed-off.
In her latest book, Famous, she tackles the rock-star romance, but flips the script: instead of the trope's traditional and much-loved jaded and world-weary rock-star hero, we have an art historian hero, and it's the Taylor-Swiftesque heroine who is worn out by her fame, and the pressure her managers place on her to keep churning out hit after hit.
When Evan and Emmy first meet at a wedding, Evan is dealing with the fallout of his father's high-profile conviction for art fraud, while Emmy is about to move to Los Angeles to try and make it as a singer. As they part ways, he tells her: let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you.
Seven years later and Emmy is Emerson Quinn, one of the biggest pop stars in the world. She's meant to be writing her next album, and her managers - deciding she should abandon her teenage fanbase and skew towards an older demographic - have hired "co-writers" to write her songs. Worn-out and unable to work in the conditions her managers insist on, Emmy escapes to the man who once offered her help.
Emmy shows up on Evan's doorstep at a precarious time for him. He's trying to make tenure at his small Midwestern college, and his family's background means he can't afford even a hint of scandal, let alone a big-name pop star hiding out in his house. But he also sees Emerson's vulnerability, and in the end he can't turn her away. As Emmy, with her new, anonymous look of sunglasses, baggy clothes and badly dyed hair, makes changes around Evan's house and charms the townsfolk, Evan finds it harder and harder to accept that this is Emmy's "Summer of No Men" before she returns to the high-paced pop star life.
In some ways, Famous is what I think of as a quiet romance. This has to do with the levels and presentation of angst or conflict, and also the way main characters support one another, and are mindful of the other's wellbeing and emotional state. Both Evan and Emmy were vulnerable in their own ways: Evan is still dealing with the emotional legacy of his father's actions and how these affect his present and future, while Emmy is struggling with her lack of self-determination in her career.
On the other hand, the sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop - for Emmy to be recognised, for their idyllic time together to come to an end - but not knowing how this would come about, was incredibly suspenseful. It offset the domesticity of Evan and Emmy's life together well, and was one of my favourite aspects of the book.
I also loved the way Emmy related to her teenaged fans, and the teenaged characters in the book. It was refreshing to see teenagers' opinions being treated as legitimate, as opposed to the subject of scorn.
Overall, Famous was a cute and well-done small-town-slash-rock-star romance. It was close to being a favourite within each of those tropes. Partially, that's because I'm not a big reader of either, but it's also because I'm yet to meet a Jenny Holiday book I haven't enjoyed, even if this wasn't amongst my very favourites.