THE HONEY-DON'T LIST by Christina Lauren – double review!

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…


Title : The Honey-Don’t List
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : March 24, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I know, I know, you might be saying to yourself, but Hollis, didn’t you say in your last CLo read that you were no longer going to be requesting their advanced copies after so many disappointments? And yes, you would be correct. And this time I swear I mean it.

The concept of THE HONEY-DON’T LIST feels like a CLo take on the Netflix movie Set It Up and honestly that’s why I grabbed at this one, all excited, despite my best intentions. Because I loved that movie and wanted this duo’s twist to make it, possibly, even better. But sadly, for me, it wasn’t.

This book centers on the results of a once great working relationship — turned pseudo-family dynamic — between a young employee and her married bosses; a relationship that has become hella toxic and abusive and manipulative and with downright thievery. The marriage between her bosses is falling apart behind the scenes whilst they are trying to run a business, promote their brand of happiness and love and success, and also launch a new home decor show — and she and the male counterpart’s assistant are (for some reason) held responsible for making things seem like there’s nothing amiss as they go on a book tour for their (oh irony) successful marriage memoir.

Said other assistant is only two months into the job, apparently brought in to help rein in the husband (which in a continuity aspect, in relation to something that comes up, doesn’t make sense..) and as the MCs are thrown into direct proximity to each other, instead of a vague awareness of each other, and a general dislike, they get to know each other, grow to rely on each other, and boom, romance. Apparently.

I’ll admit, unlike the last one, at least they don’t fall in love in the span of a handful of days — I think the tour is a few weeks? — but still. I don’t know. I really liked Carey, I felt for her, but her situation literally hurt my stomach. It was awful. Her sudden desire to grow a backbone, stand up for herself, seems to come so late in the game, and definitely flickers in and out, until finally she owns it. Part of me wonders if it would’ve ever happened without James’ presence and that makes me sad. And it’s not like James was terrible but.. shrug.

The fact that so much isn’t resolved or owned up to by the end is frustrating. In hindsight I’m not sure why we needed the police interview interludes to break up the narrative (yes, this was a thing), I kept hoping a certain something had happened (which I won’t speculate on to keep you guessing) and in the end it was just.. flat. Which is sadly how I felt about the whole story.

So that’s it, it’s really over, no more CLo ARC reads for me.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

I am pretty much everything opposite to Hollis on this book. I was in a moody book slump and by a few pages in, this book had lifted me well and truly out of that with its genuinely unusual story.

I liked that this story centred on a famous couple, but they weren’t the protagonists. The protagonists were the two assistants to this high-maintenance, house-maintenance couple and that context of making shows, travelling on book tours set a really interesting backdrop. Added into the mix was the fact that this famous couple were like a bomb set to explode, this wasn’t happy coupledom but Carey and James had the job of damage-limitation.

The chemistry between Carey and James had a gradual and believable simmer that I enjoyed reading. The growth of their friendship and relationship was gentle and subtle; I don’t always want a big bang! One of my favourite elements to the characters was a disability and how this was written, written very well. This brought out a caring nature in James but not a overly sympathatic one; it was pitched just right.

This is the kind of book I could have read in a day if work hadn’t got in the way. As it was, I read it in two days and I will definitely reach for it for a quick, satisfying re-read. This is light but packed with depth at the same time. I highly recommend.

Thank you to Gallery and Edelweiss for the early review copy.