Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Decoy Girlfriend by Lilli Vale and I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today!
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Decoy Girlfriend
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 06 September 2022
Genre: Contemporary (Adult) Romance
A laugh-out-loud funny and whip-smart romantic comedy from the author of The Shaadi Set-Up, about a young woman who takes the place of her celebrity doppelgänger, and must fake-date the actress’s sexy costar boyfriend.
Writer Freya Lal has a huge secret: she’s a dead ringer for It-girl actress Mandi Roy. Her second novel is due in a month, but inspiration is nowhere to be found. Desperate to shake off her writer’s block, Freya leans into her look-alike abilities and indulges in some mistaken identity for simple perks, like scoring a free mimosa or getting into a trendy nightclub.
Actor Taft Bamber appears to have it all: gorgeous, talented, and Mandi’s love interest both on- and off-screen. But what nobody knows is that their relationship is a PR stunt, and after years of playing make-believe, he’s yearning for something real.
When Freya’s latest impersonation of Mandi goes viral thanks to Taft’s accidental interference, rumors of a breakup threaten Hollywood’s golden couple. To make amends, Freya is forced to give Mandi a little time off: she’ll pretend to be the actress for a month, move in with Taft, and squash the rumors by acting completely in love. But as Freya and Taft play house, it becomes impossible to ignore that their instant chemistry isn’t just for the cameras. While faking it, they might have just found the real thing.
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Please be aware that through the course of the novel, Freya recounts fond memories of her mother, who passed away before the book begins (off-page), and the ways in which that love is intertwined with her writing. Taft stands firm against toxic masculinity and learns to let go of toxic friendships. There is also explicit on-page sex between two consenting adults.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: I don’t often read celebrity romances but this fake-dating/forced proximity scenario sounded like a good time and for the most part, I had fun with this book! There were lots of cute, funny, sweetly romantic and surprisingly sexy moments in it but I admit there were some things that didn’t work for me. Overall though, I really enjoyed reading The Decoy Girlfriend! The characters were easy-to-root-for and their dynamic was great, the romance was full of chemistry and thankfully, it was pretty low-angst and only had a short third-act separation!
“When it comes to books, you can never be too greedy or go too wrong.”
The writing was engaging and funny. I found myself smiling and chuckling pretty often as I found Freya’s thoughts to be quite humorous! I sped through 80% of this in a couple of hours because it was an easy and enjoyable read. I loved that it was dual POV cos I’ve become a huge fan of those when it comes to romances as it gives good insight into what the H(ero)/h(eroine) are thinking, feeling, etc.
“What you want out of a relationship—romantic or platonic—doesn’t matter any less than what the other person wants.”
“Sometimes you think something is pretty good the way it is, because you’ve always stuck with what you know. But it could be better, and deep down you know it. If you add something new, something you could have never seen coming, your life could change.”
I didn’t expect to love Taft as much as I did but he was such a soft, sweet, hopeless romantic with great golden retriever energy. Despite being an up-and-coming Hollywood hot shot, he’s a fairly down-to-earth guy. He has issues setting boundaries but he also tends to prioritise others’ needs over his own because he doesn’t value himself, which meant he had a lot of toxic people in his life. It was so easy to empathise with him and it made my heart squeeze to see how people would treat him but it also made me frustrated that he’d rarely stand up for himself, though he had no issue standing up for others. I was honestly unsure about Freya at the start. I felt she was trying too hard to be antagonistic for no good reason and reading about her impersonation of Mandi was much weirder than I thought it’d be! That said… I grew to really appreciate her. She’s smart and headstrong but years after losing her mother she’s still feeling directionless and more than a little lost. I loved her growth throughout the story and how she finds herself and her passion for writing again. Even with the changes she experiences, she stays true to herself and I loved that.
“You’re hurt, and you don’t want to be, but that doesn’t mean you’re not. You should let yourself feel whatever you need to in order to […] make peace.”
“There is no greater magic in all the universes combined than someone who builds a home for you in their heart.”
Almost from the get-go, there’s evident physical chemistry between Freya and Taft and their banter was sharp and witty. Their romance progresses quickly but I liked how they found someone who’d see them for who they are with each other—sometimes a person can feel like home and that’s exactly what their romance felt like! I loved how they constantly uplifted each other and the discussions they had regarding positive mental health and setting personal (and professional) boundaries were really important. That said, the romance felt very instalove. Their connection was instantaneous and the way they go from bicker-bantering to being very quickly head over feet and “all-in” several chapters later was a lot. Also, the mention of how attractive and turned-on they were by each other was SO constant and THERE that I felt it took away from their arcs a bit. I have to admit that I found some of the sex scenes slightly awkward, particularly the dirty talking, which I’m usually fine with, but something about the way the dialogue was written felt cringe and made me wanna skip past it.
“I didn’t want to lose something great before I even gave it a proper chance.”
“With you, I just have to exist. You take me as I am. You meet me where I am, who I am right now.”
“You’re the bedside book I would reach for a hundred times over. A five-star favorite I’d reread like I was visiting an old friend or long-lost lover.”
There was also a lot the author tried to address in the story but the follow-through wasn’t entirely there. Issues that were brought up weren’t fully addressed or resolved especially when it came to Taft’s arc as the story focused more on Freya’s growth. I also wish that we got more interaction with the secondary characters because I loved Freya’s friends but wanted more scenes with them and I thought it was a shame Mandi didn’t have a stronger role, especially with how key she was to both their characters!
“Don’t accept anything less than what you deserve. Better friends will come along. Tell yourself that when it comes to your heart, compromise is never an option. You deserve to have true friends in your life who champion you. Not because they’re keeping trck of tit-for-tat obligatory reciprocity but because it’s important to them to be there for you the way you’re always there. Having needs doesn’t make you needy.”
Still, I did like the characters and I thought the way their conflict was handled was low-angst and only a short separation, not really a third-act breakup. I’d definitely be keen to read more by Vale in the future!
Lillie Vale is the author of books for both teens and adults, including The Decoy Girlfriend, Beauty and the Besharam, The Shaadi Set-Up and Small Town Hearts, an American Library Association’s 2020 Rainbow Books List selection. She writes about secrets and yearning, complicated and ambitious girls who know what they want, the places we call home and people we find our way back to, and the magic we make. Born in Mumbai, she grew up in Mississippi, Texas, and North Dakota, and now lives in an Indiana college town.
Do you have The Decoy Girlfriend on your TBR? Have you read anything by Vale and if you have (and enjoyed it), which would you recommend?