Author: Heidi Rice
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Ruby Graham’s verdict: I want to live in Oz, where danger is defeated by friendship, your dreams are always in glowing Technicolor and you can get a pair of absolutely gorgeous ruby slippers simply by landing a house on a hag!
Luke Devlin’s verdict: Flying monkeys? Seriously?
The late Matty Devlin was so much more than Ruby Graham’s boss. He was her best friend, her father-figure, and she is showcasing a series of his favourite classic movies at the independent cinema in Notting Hill which was his life’s work … and of which she is now part owner.
Matty left the other half of The Royale to his nephew, Luke,the elusive Manhattan property developer and rumoured son of a Hollywood icon.
It’s all beginning to sound like the plot of one of Ruby’s beloved films until it becomes clear Luke is no more interested in swooping in to save the crumbling Royale than he is in talking about his famous father. He’s bad-tempered, cynical, and he couldn’t care less about the cinema!
But saving The Royale is about far more than just Matty’s legacy. The Royale is the only place where Ruby gets to live in a world of dreams and happy endings, a place where there are no lost causes, and where falling in love is just like in the movies … or is Luke about to change all that?
The story opens with our two main characters having their first meeting. It plays out similar to a movie where the two characters are seemingly opposites and are “forced” to be together in a common event. It was a great premise and one of the main reasons why I was excited to read this story, however, I walked away from it with mixed feelings as there were parts that were brilliant and others that just did not work for me. Every reader is different, so some might struggle with parts that I loved (or vice versa) or not struggle with anything at all. There are multiple movies highlighted that give a correlation to each part of the story. The movies featured were really cute and included: The Wizard of Oz, About a Boy, Brokeback Mountain, The Way We Were, and The Last of the Mohicans.
Ruby Graham is devastated after the sudden loss of her best friend, Matty. We open the story at an attorney’s office to read Matty’s last will and testament. Matty has left half of The Royale, the classics movie theatre that he owned and was Ruby’s workplace since she was a teen. The other half of the theatre was left to Matty’s nephew, a New York high-end real estate developer, Luke Devlin. Matty and Luke never met so Luke and Ruby are baffled as to why half of the theatre was left to him. Luke also does not have an interest in movies or theatres, so he is confused even further about this inheritance. Due to an unfortunately incident involving some trespassing, Luke cannot escape The Royale and must complete community service at the theatre. This means that he and Ruby are forced to spend more time together while he works on projects here and there. The two start as enemies and eventually become lovers with the added forced proximity troupe.
Luke was a fantastic character with a well-written backstory. He is a complex character with an interesting past and a complicated relationship with his family. His life has been in the public eye due to his mother being a famous actress and his father is the worst kept secret in Hollywood. He lives in the shadow of his parents and prefers to live the quitter life away from the spotlight. Unfortunately, Ruby does not get the same treatment with a detailed backstory. She talks here and there about life with Matty at the theatre, but you never fully understand their story. Her character, therefore, never feels complete as you get the very basics of her personality where she loves movies and she is optimistic about its future. I would have loved some flashback chapters where the reader can fully experience Ruby’s life at the theatre when Matty was alive. This way the reader can fully understand how special their bond was and also give more insight into her character. There are additional hints that, like Luke, have some tragedy in her past, but it seemed to be put on the backburner in favor of focusing on Luke’s.
If you love films, then you’ll love the introduction of each of the movies where Ruby and Luke’s individual thoughts about the films are written. I am sure there are lots of readers that would like this idea, but, for me, I thought maybe on the first one was necessary, as it did not bring much to the story, except to reiterate that Ruby absolutely adores movies and Luke does not. This fact was established at the very beginning of the story and is repeated every time Ruby made a movie reference, so I felt that these “reviews” of the movies were cute, but not necessary. Aside from their opinions on movie seeming to be repeated, it also seemed there was some déjà vu happening with some events between the two characters in their will-they-or-won’t-they moments as I felt that it was the same event just at a different point in time. For those times, it seemed that it was not for the plot, as the story would have the same impact without them, but instead it was for page length and to draw the story out longer. The banter, chemistry, and bond seemed to be there so, for me, it just seemed like all the potential was there, but it was not executed in the manner I prefer.
Overall, I loved that this story was told from both Ruby and Luke’s perspectives. It gave a great insight into both characters and made their growing relationship more engaging. The last part of the book was well-done as there was a lot of heart that brought the story together. You care about the characters by the end, but it just took longer than expected to get there. The romance between the two characters was sweet, but their initial moments escalate quickly. While this happens in multiple stories, I wish there some inner thoughts expressed to at least give some background before any feelings are expressed out loud. The story is very cute and has great potential. There are parts that I wish were done differently, but I would encourage readers to form their own opinions as they might think completely differently from me. If you are a movie-buff who enjoyed an enemies to lovers romance, then this would be a great book to try!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter, for this enjoyable ARC to read. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**