Let’s Pretend by Laura Vaughan
Pretending is what Lily Thane has been doing all her life – after all, it is another word for acting, which she has been trying to do since being the famous four year old in a cult Christmas film. Now, despite being part of a theatrical family and her determined mother – the “Momanger”, she is struggling. She is good at what she does, being a perfected attractive blonde who is always auditioning for parts, but real success in being cast is eluding her. So when she meets an old friend from theatre school, the sort of famous Adam Harker, and a proposal is made of a sort of acting job with sweeteners is made, it seems reasonable to take it. Adam has secrets and a darkness that attract and repel her at the same time, but pretending to be in a celebrity romance at least raises her profile. If only she knew how deep she must plunge – and how it will feature death…
This is a thriller set in the celebrity world behind the red rope, where things can be safe and separate, but also be a pressure cooker of emotion and varied desires. It certainly looks at what seems to be the reality of life in Britain, when success as an actor is a matter of connections and good fortune as much as talent. Laura Vaughan has created a character in Lily Thane that has a family that is known in theatrical circles, even if it’s not for the sort of lightweight roles that she is currently linked to in her efforts. She is shown as having a lingering element of fame as a child actor, but that seems a long time ago as she is shown as having her nose fixed, watching her weight, guarding her image. The other characters are also complex creations, with their awareness of social media, and in the case of Nina, celebrity gossip, as a force in their success or failure. Not being an expert in the field, I can only say that this element of the book is certainly convincing, and Vaughan never lets her research get in the way of the strong narrative. The character of Adam is certainly as contradictory and unstable as a nearly successful actor would need to be to survive such a challenging environment with his big secret. In a way, Vaughan has created a special world which transcends geographical boundaries as she establishes a world where the super rich and the created celebrity images overlap, guarded by an impressive range of managers, agents and PR experts. The settings also vary from hotels through hideaways to a modernist house with many secrets and distinguishing features in its lack of comforts. This is a complex book which is genuinely enthralling as Lily must try to survive, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
Adam’s need for a public companion is not an easy thing for Lily to cope with, given that he is a professional charmer and even in his worst moments maintains the sort of handsome aura that has given him some success in the past to the point of some cult status. Lily’s presence by his side is to confirm his image of all action hero with a hint of danger. It is only when Lily gets close that she realises his dark side may be dangerous not only to him, but those around him. Her motivations throughout are deliberately vague – this is a thriller which twists and turns around the central idea of a fake romance with real impact. It is a very contemporary story that I found fascinating, and I recommend it as an exciting read.