From one classic film buff to another, this book was exactly my cup of tea. It's as campy and cliche as those classic 1930s films and captures the soul of the iconic movies like its title's original, It Happened One Night.
Let's start this review from the end: my final thoughts and a reflection on the shockingly low average rating of this book by other readers. I'm really sad to see the low average. But I get it, I do. I think this novel took so many nuances from the classic movies it was referencing—and in such an one-the-nose AND somehow subtly organic way—that it looped from a level of clever referencing back onto itself with an over-the-top edge that appears to have turned off several readers. This novel captured the camp and cliches TOO well, and therefore it seems like a some readers see this romance as derivative, ridiculous, and not authentic. (I am not trying to shame or call out anyone who didn't love this book, to each their own.)
As someone who's seen the movies that Lenker references in her afterword, I thought she nailed it. The soul of those movies and that era of filmmaking was captured in this novel—romanticized for the rom-com nature of the story, it's true, and omitting the period's racist ideals—and so It Happened One Fight felt like the best of fanfictions for themes and dialogues that I know so well.
Dialogue repetitive and themes over-dramatized? That was the early 1930s' jam!
Grandiose feelings and actions and constant external verbalizations of themes? This too was the era!
Joan Davis is a movie star, and a damned good actor, too. Unfortunately, Hollywood only seems to care when she stars alongside Dash Howard, Tinseltown's favorite leading man and a perpetual thorn in Joan's side. Davis and Dash, constantly together and constantly clashing—their onscreen chemistry leads to fantastic blowups on set, and their famous feud heightens each box office sale. It's a classic Hollywood setup, and Joan's tired of it.
So when Joan announces her engagement to Monty, another swoon-worthy Hollywood leading man, the LAST thing she expects is to find out that she's actually...already married? It turns out an onscreen marriage scene to Dash in an early film was much more legal than anyone thought. And somehow, a real marriage license made its way to a City Hall office.
Yep, that's right. Dash and Davis are actually husband and wife. And Joan is PISSED. (Dash's feelings are more on the humorous side, as he loves to see Joan spark with emotions.)
To fix this huge blunder, the two stars hightail it to Reno, where divorces are easier to grant after a quick 6-week residency. Their current film was already about a divorcee finding love on a remote ranch. A quick script rewrite and boom! Reno Rendezvous is ready for camera, set, action.
But six weeks is a long time to be that close together, and Joan and Dash are about to discover that their feelings might not be so simple after all. And they're already husband and wife, so... Cue some shenanigans on set and behind the scenes.
UGH. I loved this story. It was so much fun, and let's be honest: I did tear up there at the end. This romance was everything I was looking for in this setup, and the film buff in me enjoyed every reference. The characters were sweet, the plot was unique for the modern "illustrated cover romances" of today, and it was the perfect level of banter + slow burn + amusing setups.
I just think this novel is a lot of fun, folks, and the author did a superb job at honoring the source material and twisting it slightly for modern readers to enjoy without making the romance, the characters, or the setting feel too modern.
Come for the nod to the classics, stay for the nod to the classics. This is such a fun, lighthearted, and emotionally good time!
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.