Here for the Right Reasons (#1) by Jodi McAlister

Published: 6 July 2022 (print)/5 July 2022 (audio) Goodreads badge
Simon Schuster Australia/Simon Schuster Australia
Pages: 352/9 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Jaimee Taylor-Nielsen
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When Cece James agrees to be cast as a ‘Juliet’ on the next season of the hit television show Marry Me, Juliet, it’s certainly not for the right reasons. She’s knee deep in debt and desperate for the associated paycheck. The last thing on her mind is the hunky ‘Romeo’ waiting for her at the end of the gravel driveway.

But Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor isn’t your usual fame-hungry TV star. An Olympic gold medallist with calloused hands, kind eyes and a propensity for panic attacks, it turns out he’s not here for the right reasons either. As spokesperson for a men’s mental health foundation, and the franchise’s first non-white male lead, Dylan’s got a charity to plug and something to prove.

When Cece gets eliminated on the first night, it seems like her and Dylan’s awkward first meeting will be their last conversation. But when the TV set is shut down unexpectedly, Cece and Dylan suddenly get a little more time together than they’d expected.

Will love bloom when the cameras stop rolling?

Reading these out of order was accidental so I knew what to expect but at the same time I was interested to see a whole new storyline because there is definitely two separate love stories happening despite being set during the same experience.

I loved that for the first part on the show we see the same conversations playing out because of course they’re all in the same group. It makes me wonder if I’d done it in another order I’d have the same surprises. The ending of book two was a nice reveal that you had an inkling about, whereas this doesn’t have the same feeling of mystery to it.

Without comparing the two books, I found I wasn’t invested in the Dylan/Cece relationship like I was before with the other story. I don’t know why, Dylan is perfectly nice, a little one dimensional at times, maybe too I couldn’t warm up to Cece as narrator. I found myself tuning out unintentionally which I felt bad about, but I couldn’t stay in the story. The conversations between Dylan and Cece didn’t grab me and it felt flat. It wasn’t that I need drama or anything, but I never became invested in their characters.

You definitely see the two falling in love as they become better friends, a great contrast against the backdrop of reality TV and fabricated relationships for personal gain and fame. You also see Cece’s growth as she builds in confidence and finds out what’s she’s looking for, but she never felt complete. With the knowledge of book two I actually enjoyed their relationship from an outsider’s perspective more fulfilling.

I felt I got more out of the story having read book two. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I did it the other way but there was something interesting about having extra knowledge that wasn’t being revealed in the story. Knowing the ending doesn’t ruin anything. You know where it’s going to go anyway, this is enjoying the journey and discovering the trials and tribulations on the way to the destination.

McAlister did a great job having two separate locations and so dual storylines could happen. We only see Cece’s side, and this focuses it more on a story with her inner turmoil than being about the dating show aspect alone. Often the television dating part is something happening in the background, something that we pop in and out of and connects to a wider story. That’s not to say we don’t see the drama of reality TV. There are extra characters to clash with but the situation McAlister has put Cece in means a lot of time is spent in her head which often felt repetitive.

I did like that both books give an unconventional conclusion; a romance that comes from unexpected places but still a place of sincerity and honesty. I can definitely sense there is a third book coming. If not there needs to be another story about Lilly, her social media brand and whatever is going on with that producer. I need answers because it’s mentioned often enough, and cryptically enough, in both books that it’s a failing if McAlister doesn’t offer any answers at all.

You can purchase Here for the Right Reasons via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Audible

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