Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I’m shameless…at least in writing. As the vaguely anonymous reviewer here, I can fan-girl over C.D. Reiss, and you can assume I’m shameless even when my cheeks are pink from my adoration for her brand of romance. Now, to be clear, I know her brand runs the gamut of tropes, and she can be as dirty as you want in a romance or she can be a bit more buttoned-up. If I had to characterize her newest book, Lead Me Back, it’s a bit more buttoned-up (not by much, though) than I’m used to from her. However, that seems so inconsequential when you consider the genius of her brain. Now, I’m SURE I’m going to overdo this review. I’m sure I’m reading WAY too much into Lead Me Back. For gosh sakes, I earned my master’s in English and Literature. I spent YEARS learning to read and read EVERYTHING into that reading, picking it apart and contextualizing it with literary theory…blah blah blah. BUT if I am going to take this review too far and if I’m going to read into Reiss’s newest book, so be it. I’m putting myself out there and who cares. Right?
At the most basic level, I loved Lead Me Back. This book is more of her Hollywood series, so there are characters from earlier books who show their faces which is fantastic, wonderful, everything you love about Reiss. Additionally, her heroine, Kayla, is a ballsy broad for lack of a better term. She takes no prisoners and she gives back to Reiss’s hero (which he loves) what he deserves for his entitled self. Kayla is the person you want in your corner when you must slay your dragons. She’s honest and insightful when she isn’t self-flagellating over past choices. And Reiss’s hero, Justin…ahhh…hold on to that name as it clues you in to her inspiration for him, is layered. At first glance, you don’t see it. In fact, there were times when Justin made me a little crazy by his actions. When your life is driven by others for so long, you tend to lose yourself, and Justin has fallen prey to this. I think this is typical of Hollywood, and Reiss does a fantastic job of showing that struggle, but it also makes him frustrating at times. However, as we know, romance needs moments of conflict to keep the readers engaged or they will lose interest and close the book. All of these qualities make this book worthy of a read. No question.
But…but…but… here is where I can’t help but want to believe what I suggest to be Reiss’s writing genius. And yes, once again, I may be reading into this, but please bear with me. In the story, Justin has been cast as Mr. Darcy in another iteration of Pride and Prejudice (honestly, what a miscast but he does well apparently). If you’ve ever read one of my favorite books of all times, then you know, or might know, that Pride and Prejudice illustrates the consequences of misperceptions. And for this book, C.D. Reiss, takes that idea and creates an allusion to P&P within Lead Me Back. She doesn’t recreate P&P; she carefully crafts its truths into her story in a way that feels like it could be a different version of it. Again, I might be reading this idea into her story, but there were moments that felt like a parallel to Austen’s story. And if I’m right, then, in my mind, Reiss is a genius. Yes, I know writers do this all the time, and yes, I think they are geniuses too especially if they write it as nuanced as Reiss has. But for Lead Me Back, it works, and it works well.
Along with that level of genius, Reiss interweaves the story with pertinent social issues: the #metoo movement is in this story, mental health issues are here, the dangerous specifications of the fashion industry and the relationships that support it find purchase in Lead Me Back, etc. If you think Reiss left the heavy lifting for another book, she didn’t. If you think this is simply about a former boy bander turned actor romancing a future fashion guru, you’re wrong. The qualities of Reiss’s storytelling that make it important reside in Lead Me Back hidden behind the facade of Hollywood, and it makes this book nerd silly. My fangirl flag is flying once again after reading one of her books.
If I haven’t sold you on the characters or story or $exiness of C.D. Reiss’s Lead Me Back, then I have not articulated myself well enough, and you should one-click it anyway. You can trust Reiss to tell stories that will titillate, challenge, and steam your glasses. Lead Me Back is more of that with the added depth of story that makes Reiss’s romances feel necessary.
In love and romance,