Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .
Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.
When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.
The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . . .
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Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.
The Dating Game is a new spin on a romantic tale that features a Bachelor-like dating show. The show in this case is The Stag, where the bachelor (Stag) choses one of sixteen contestants (the Does) to be his bride. Not only does the bride find love, but there is also a nice prize of 50,000 pounds. The entire show takes place at Stag Manor, which is a rented mansion used on location for each season. Each season, columnist for magazine Feed Your Mind, Anastasia Blabbergasted, writes the episode recaps. Only the editor, Prue van der Puttin, and her best friend, Lisa, know that Anastasia’s true identity is 33-years-old Abigail (Abby) Jones.
With her journalism degree, Abby dreams of writing more serious investigative journalism articles; however, for now, she writes about reality shows. Her witty writing and division of the Stag contestants into five categories: (potential) Brides, Villians, Dark Horses, Miscellaneous, and Filler, finds her a solid audience and the attention of the showrunner, Roberta. Abby receives a call from Prue that the show wants her to go undercover as a contestant for the next season. The new season will film in Sydney, Australia and feature six British and six Australian contestants vying for the attention of new bachelor, Daniel. Abby eventually agrees to take part and becomes Doe Abby, a 28-years-old public servant, who will try to win Daniel’s heart and write the recaps of the episodes with an insider’s perspective.
With the addition of Doe Abby, Abigail now needs to try and balance her three personas, the Stag contestant, Anastasia the writer, and the real Abigail. While this aspect of the story was interesting, the true standout is the humor within the Stag’s filming. The contestants and situations for the show were all enjoyable and it was an entertaining tongue-in-cheek take on the reality show. Abby starts to have feelings for one of the producers Jack Freeman, but she does not know where she stands with him. Jack and his brother Harry were greatly enjoyable and I loved Abby’s core group, such as Kaz and Becca. The friendships, amusing date situations, and a slow burn romance all create a very fun story.
The romance is fairly low angst as the focus leans towards the friendships between the various contestants. Abby is a very fun character as she tries to balance her real life with her writer one. There a few moments in the format where it was difficult to tell where the recaps and narration separated, but context did help. One thing that I wish there was more of was tension for Abby’s secrets. Considering that Abby is hiding her true nature, it seemed there would have been more anxiety on her part and those around her to make sure nothing happens. There is some in the story, which I enjoyed and appreciated, but I expected a little more.
Overall, Abby was a fantastic main character as she was realistic. She has her hopes and beliefs, but she is not perfect. She makes mistakes and has insecurities, which made her a very likable and enjoyable character. Her fellow “Does” and her interacted well as it is a difficult situation where you like each other and wish to be friends, but you are pitted against each other in a competition setting. Daniel was an excellent choice for the Stag as he was complex and you never fully knew what to expect with him all the way until the end. The ending worked really well for the style of the story and fit the characters. Sandy Barker continues to write charming novels and I cannot wait to read more!
**I give a special thank you to Rachel @rararesources,, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to participate with this enjoyable novel via Netgalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**