Book Review

Once More With Feeling

Once More with Feeling

  • Author: Elissa Sussman
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: May 30, 2023 
  • Publisher: Dell

Thank you to NetGalley and Dell for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: infidelity, body shaming, fat-shaming

Then. Katee Rose is living the dream as America’s number one pop star, caught in a whirlwind of sold-out concerts, screaming fans, and constant tabloid coverage. Everyone wants to know everything about her and her boyfriend, Ryan LaNeve, the hottest member of adored boy band CrushZone. Katee loves to perform but hates the impossible demands of stardom. Maybe that’s why she finds herself in the arms of another CrushZone member, Cal Kirby. Quiet, serious Cal, who’s always been a good friend to Katee, is suddenly Cal with the smoldering eyes and very good hands. One unforgettable night is all it takes to blow up Katee’s relationship with Ryan, her career, her whole life…

Now. Kathleen Rosenberg is okay with her ordinary existence, and leaving her pop star image in the past. That is, until Cal Kirby shows up with the opportunity of her dreams–a starring role in the Broadway show he’s directing and a chance to perform the way she’s always wanted. The two haven’t spoken since the joint destruction of their careers, and each of them blames the other, making their reunion a tense battle of wits and egos. Katee reluctantly agrees to the musical, as long as she keeps her guard up around Cal. But rehearsals are long, those eyes still smolder, and those hands are still very good. Despite everything, Katee can’t deny the chemistry between them. Is it ever a good idea to reignite old flames? Especially if you’ve been burned in the past?

A former pop star finds herself back in the spotlight–along with an old flame from her past–in this “friends to lovers” meets “enemies to lovers” romance from the bestselling author of Funny You Should Ask, the sensational Tik Tok romance!

I really loved Sussman’s last book, so I jumped to request this one when I saw it on NG. And I was fully expecting to fall in love with it immediately. Despite the fact that it’s all about a musical and theater, and I’m totally not a theater or musical person, for some reason, I enjoy it in books.

This one also follows the second-chance romance trope that FYSA did, and it completely makes sense. If something works, stick with it, right? And it completely works in this book as well. The connection between Kathleen and Cal is still there, but it’s buried under the burden of what happened in their shared past. And neither of them is sure that they can get over it. Not even to make a romance work, but to make this Broadway show work. Hence, this one turns into an enemies-to-lovers dynamic as well. Both of these tropes are personal favorites of mine.

We only get Kathleen’s perspective, but we do get to see both the current and past versions of the story. It was interesting to see bits of the past, both when she was young and attending theater camp, and then when she was a bit older and a famous pop star, and finally seeing her now, carrying all the weight of her mistakes and the repercussions that resulted from them. 

At first, I really struggled with Kathleen. She’s obviously bitter about what happened in her past, and how Cal reacted to it. Instead of standing by her, he dropped her like a hot potato, and I can completely understand her being upset about that. However, this story takes place many years in the future, and she still takes out plenty of her frustration on Cal, even though her inner voice knows better. It’s like her mouth gets away from her and she says things she doesn’t mean to say and is aware that they won’t be helpful, but simply can’t stop herself. 

But, as the story went on, Kathleen grew on me. I loved seeing her confidence increase, and watching her get more comfortable with working with Cal. She grew a lot over the course of the story, and addressed her issues not only in the present but the ones that lingered from the past as well. 

On to the romance, which was one of the best parts of the story. The connection between Kathleen and Cal was so obvious right from the start, but watching it develop from when they were young and then mature through the years was really cool to see. And then their second chance together, while they were navigating so many complicating factors, made it feel like they were meant to be but the circumstances just never felt right for them to actually be together. And when they finally did get together, I was so happy for them.

In addition, there’s also an emphasis on friendship, since the Broadway show is written by another person that Kathleen and Cal met at theater camp, Harriet. Harriet grew to be Kathleen’s closest friend throughout her life, and remained close with Cal as well, but that friendship had some issues to face as well. It’s tough to have one friend always be in the spotlight, while the other friend works behind the scenes. 

Overall, this was a fantastic and quick-paced read. I loved nearly everything about it, including the Jewish representation throughout the story, the way sexual orientation was incorporated since more than one character is queer and it wasn’t always accepted in the public eye, and the consequences of living life in the public eye from a young age. This is the perfect read for theater lovers, people who enjoy second chance and enemies to lovers tropes, and sweet, meant-to-be couples. 

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