If I had to sum up Kerry Winfrey’s new contemporary romance Not Like the Movies in one word, it would be charming.
Chloe Sanderson is an optimistic, klutzy, hopeful ball of positivity, and reading from her perspective is the perfect nightcap to a long, arduous day. The caregiver for her father, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, romantic comedy movies are Chloe’s escape. But her best friend has just written a rom-com that’s inspired by her. On the surface, this seems fun and flattering, but in reality, it sets an untenable expectation for a happily ever after, because the guy in the movie who gets the girl based on Chloe is an obvious fictionalization of Nick Velez, Chloe’s boss at the coffee shop where they work—and in real life, they’re just colleagues who wonder “what if,” but never follow through. The stress of seeing their on-screen HEA is seriously anxiety inducing.
Nick is a quiet introvert who’s sweet and kind, and he’s thoroughly supportive of Chloe. He’s much more serious than Chloe, and less carefree, but fortunately, opposites attract. Unfortunately, Chloe’s life is maxed out with responsibilities and he repeatedly gets swept up in her chaos. When she says life is too risky to take a chance on a relationship, he sticks around and reminds her of why it’s so important to leave her comfort zone.
They say it’s bad to meet your celebrity crush, because the reality never lives up to the fantasy. Chloe and Nick are forced to face their own fantasy in film form, and it’s a scary prospect. But Winfrey has built in all of the charming things that make rom-coms addictive: richly developed characters, a deep pool of supportive friends, awkward situations, goofy reactions, missed opportunities, big misunderstandings and grand gestures. This romance is slow building, but the journey is a delight.