Last year, I read Waiting For Tom Hanks and did not love it – but I decided to give the sequel, Not Like the Movies, a shot. Needless to say, my expectations were low, but Kerry Winfrey surprised me. This book was an adorable take on what happens when two small town people are thrust into the spotlight overnight. Plus, it reads like a professionally written book instead of a fanfiction, unlike Waiting for Tom Hanks.
What happens when your life is a rom-com…but you don’t even believe in true love?
Chloe Sanderson is an optimist, and not because her life is easy. As the sole caregiver for her father, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, she’s pretty much responsible for everything. She has no time—or interest—in getting swept up in some dazzling romance. Not like her best friend Annie, who literally wrote a rom-com that’s about to premiere in theaters across America…and happens to be inspired by Chloe and Nick Velez, Chloe’s cute but no-nonsense boss.
As the buzz for the movie grows, Chloe reads one too many listicles about why Nick is the perfect man, and now she can’t see him as anything but Reason #2: The Scruffy-Bearded Hunk Who’s Always There When You Need Him. But unlike the romance Annie has written for them, Chloe isn’t so sure her own story will end in a Happily Ever After.
The writing in Not Like the Movies is much stronger than it was in its predecessor. In the first novel, the author used rom-com references in nearly every scene of her book, to the point that the story became a mud pile of 2000s movie references and had virtually no original plot. The author thankfully cut down on the number of pop culture references – Not Like the Movies was an adorable romantic comedy via its own merit – not leaning on existing properties to carry the story forward. As such, the story as a whole was much stronger and better paced than the first book – it was tightly plotted and had just the right amount of drama to make it a great story. Where the first novel read a lot like a fanfiction, this one was far more polished and clearly was given more attention in the editing process.
Chloe was a character who deserved a lot more out of her life than what she had gotten by the start of the book. She had big dreams – wanting to run a restaurant with her own culinary creations. However, had had held herself back due to her familial obligations – her father was sick with Alzheimer’s and her brother and mother were AWOL, leaving all of her father’s care to fall to her. This dedication to her family and those she loves was a defining trait, but also something that held her back from her own dreams and goals. She was terminally independent – most of her character growth stemmed from her learning to accept help from others. By the end of the book, she was still independent, but she didn’t carry the weight of the world on her shoulders quite as much as she used to. She didn’t become a new character; she became a better version of herself – truly the mark of a great character.
One of my favorite romance tropes is the silent, broody leading male. The kind of guy who loves deeply and quietly but is grumpy all the time. Nick was scruffy and clueless to the world of pop culture (and the movie based on him and Chloe) that was slowly infringing on his and Chloe’s lives. He was the quintessential good guy – he didn’t want to make a move on Chloe since he was her boss and he was willing to respect her boundaries when she changed her mind. There’s no denying the obvious chemistry between the two – hell, Annie wrote a movie about them because it was so palpable. Even through their lows, it was impossible not to root for them, they were perfect for each other.
Since this is a companion to Waiting for Tom Hanks, we see a lot of Annie (the star of the first book) – and reading about her character in this one reaffirmed why I didn’t like Waiting for Tom Hanks. Annie is truly the worst – she continuously abuses her friendship with Chloe and constantly disregards her feelings. The biggest and most glaring example of this is the fact that she didn’t even think to ask Chloe if it was ok to write a movie about her life. She basically wrote real life fanfiction about her best friends and didn’t think that was a gross overstep. She didn’t think about what her movie would do to Chloe’s life, and then had the audacity to ask Chloe to lie and pretend to be dating someone to help promote her movie. It was a truly one-way street friendship – Annie was never there for Chloe – she jetted off to LA, came back and leaned on Chloe, and then left again. Even worse, she didn’t become a better person in this book either. She treated her friends as pawns in her career and never even viewed her best friend as anything but a cash cow.
I was shocked I enjoyed this book as much as I did – it had a lot of tropes I love, adorable romance, and a great leading lady. I hope Kerry Winfrey writes another entry in this series with a similar writing style to Not Like the Movies – this was one of my favorite summer romance reads this year. If you were in the same boat as me and you didn’t like Waiting for Tom Hanks, I still highly recommend that you check out Not Like the Movies – it’s leagues better than the first book. If you’re looking for another great rom-com, check out The Switch by Beth O’Leary or Meet Cute by Helena Hunting. 5/5