Genre: Contemporary Romance / NA
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Book Cover Design: Miles Tan
Photography: Chi Yu Rodriguez
Model: Fred Lo
It’s all fun and games until someone catches feelings.
If there’s something Pio Alvez is good at, it’s pretending to be someone he’s not. On stage and on-screen, the actor has mastered the art of becoming the characters he plays, and his new role should be no different. After all, how difficult would it be to pretend to be smitten with a beautiful, intelligent go-getter like Audrey Alonzo?
Perhaps it’s more difficult pretending not to be.
Tara Frejas has been getting a lot of love in the book community lately, and it’s easy to see why. Her writing voice is breezy and intimate at the same time, like a friend inviting you for coffee and bringing you up to date on what you’ve missed while you were busy. You could see that she puts in a lot of love into her stories, making you care about not just characters but their communities as well. This was evident in Waiting in The Wings, where she brought to life an entire “family” of theater actors with a lot of affection. Now, with Like Nobody’s Watching, she turns her focus to the worlds of entertainment and advertising, as she delivers an intimate look at an unconventional affair between two broken souls.
When Pio Alvez was introduced as one of the leading men in Tara Frejas’ Waiting in The Wings, he was too good to be true–too sweet to be a villain, and too slick to get the girl. Even if he wasn’t part of the endgame, he was such a great character that everyone wanted to see him get his happily ever after. Luckily, we get to see him take another risk at love in Like Nobody’s Watching, where he meets the feisty but neurotic ad executive Audrey Alonzo.
When I say that Audrey’s neurotic, I mean that she’s a bit of a mess; she’s confident and competent at work, but her personal life is in chaos; not only is she recovering from a traumatic breakup, but she still has to work with her scumball ex, who may or may not be running their agency to the ground. When she first meets Pio, he rescues her from a bunch of cat-callers by pretending to be her boyfriend; it doesn’t take long until they meet each other again at work, where they get to know each other as colleagues. They draw up an agreement to pretend to be a couple, but numerous hijinks ensue, and various feelings come into the mix.
It all seems so simple–especially with the four-year age gap, with Audrey being older than Pio–but Frejas breathes life into the pretend-boyfriend trope by bringing in elements that are distinctly Filipino. Both of them come from close-knit and affectionate families that only have the best intentions for them, even as the execution doesn’t land as expected. There’s a return to the Teatro Lakambini world, which is presented as a life-affirming “homecoming” of sorts for Pio (who is still friends with his stage colleagues a year after the end of Waiting in The Wings) as it awakens Audrey’s long-neglected love of theater. And as Pio and Audrey enter their fake-dating arrangement, they learn to trust each other as friends, even as they become lovers.
Speaking of lovers, there is a particularly steamy scene where our couple finally consummate their attraction to each other; this may come as a surprise, but Frejas executes the scene with equal amounts of sweetness and heat.
Indeed, love does conquer all in the universe of Like Nobody’s Watching, and not just for Pio and Audrey as a couple. Both of them learn a little more about themselves–and each other–when they’re together; when they’re not, they find courage from what they’ve learned to pursue the happiness that would heal their broken souls. Ultimately, you will find yourself rooting for Pio and Audrey’s happy ending, and you will have confidence that they have, indeed, found happiness in each other. Bravo, Tara.
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