Boy meets girl. Boy woos girl. Boy wins girl. Boy . . . sells girl out, and then flees the country, never to see her again—until 14 years later, when their paths cross once more.
Twice in a Blue Moon starts off simply enough: small-town California girl Tate Jones visits London with her grandmother. Vermont farm boy Sam Brandis is in London with his grandfather, and in a meet-cute lovingly borrowed from E.M. Forster and an acclaimed Merchant Ivory film adaptation, the pairs swap rooms so the ladies can have “a room with a view.” The view includes the hotel’s garden, where Tate and Sam meet nightly to stargaze and flirt, and to share their dreams and secrets.
Tate’s secret is a doozy. She’s the daughter of Ian Butler, the world’s most idolized actor. As a little girl, her red carpet images were recognized around the world. But when she was 8, her mother—heartsick about her husband’s blatant, unrelenting infidelity—took Tate and left the spotlight behind. Back in her tiny hometown, they buried their pasts, adopting the last name Jones. Only a handful of people know Tate’s true identity, and Tate shares it with Sam with all the overflowing trust of a girl in love for the very first time. But when she steps out of the hotel to find a waiting mob of paparazzi—tipped off by a well-paid “trusted confidante”—she gets her first broken heart, and resolves to be more careful about ever loving again.
Fast-forward 14 years. Tate, having used that unwanted reveal to launch an acting career, is about to start filming a role that could push her onto the A-list. The pressure has doubled, since a supporting role will be filled by her superficially doting, micro-aggressive father. Worst of all, she’s totally blindsided to show up on location and meet the screenwriter: Sam Brandis, writing under the pen name S.B. Hill. Pulling it together to give the screen performance of a lifetime will be hard enough, but when the cameras stop rolling and she has to write her own life’s dialogue, Tate grapples to find answers, inner strength and possibly forgiveness.
The best-friend writing team known as Christina Lauren never fails to delight. Twice in a Blue Moon is funny and engaging, whether Tate is bantering with her badass bestie, or navigating an awkward love scene with her adorable co-star. It also rings true on the low notes. Tate’s genuine heartbreak over her secret’s exposure comes both from being betrayed by Sam, and her personal sense of having betrayed her mother and grandmother’s trust. Her lack of faith in her own judgment—and in men, in general—requires Tate to reach deep to find the strength and conviction she thinks she lacks. It's a strikingly poignant note, and makes her journey toward trusting herself, and determining who else is worthy of her trust, all the more meaningful.
Some—including me—might quibble that Tate gives her trust back to Sam a little too quickly. (I’m the Old Testament type who thinks betraying men should get struck with lightning bolts from on high—preferably aimed at their crotches.) But it’s hard to argue with a character who has fought this hard to figure out what she wants, and who finally finds the courage to go and get it.