Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with Ford model Mark Perini to pen a poignant and gritty YA novel about love and the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry.
Eve’s time as a fashion model nearly destroyed her-now she’s determined to build a career behind the camera lens. But landing a coveted photography internship brings her face to face with her dark past-and her ex.
While Eve is snapping pictures, up-and-coming male model Alex is launching his career-which, for him, involves maintaining a fake relationship with his co-star, Elana.
But Alex is falling for Eve, and Eve won’t let herself get hurt again. If Alex can pull off a fake love with Elana, can he convince Eve to risk a secret affair with him?
When I finally give the rack a closer look, I start to weigh the options. There’s a varying array of briefs, boxer briefs, and pseudo banana hammocks with full backs in every color under the sun—black, neon green, pink, yellow, gold, red, navy, bright fuchsia. As the stylist is looking through the rack and sizing me up, probably trying to match my coloring, I’m silently chanting, boxer briefs, boxer briefs…
He’s reaching a hand toward the banana hammock rack and I suck in a breath, trying to look cool with whatever.
But seriously. No one is cool with whatever.
“Nah, not these, they’re not relatable enough to the G.P.” the stylist says.
I let out a sigh of relief. But no sooner do I look back up and he has a pair of black briefs with neon green micro-polka-dots.
“These are perfect. You’re ready to be pounced on by the woman of your dreams,” he says.
“Great. Can’t wait to…try these suckers on.”
“You’ll look amazing.”
Yep. A dude just told me I’m gonna look amazing in skimpy underwear.
He hands me a robe and leaves without waiting for a response.
After a quick change and after they’ve lubed me up with some makeup and self-tanner, I’m off to set. The thing about shooting underwear shots is the light is important. Janessa has two guy assistants as stand-ins testing everything. I resist the urge to go talk to Eve and instead sit down on the couch. I’m not about to ask her out while wearing neon polka dots. That’s got failure written all over it.
As soon as Janessa sees me on the couch, she ushers me over to fill in for one of the assistant stand-in guys. I ditch the robe and feel the awkwardness Richter scale skyrocket. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Eve standing out of Janessa’s line of sight. She’s trying not to smile, but she’s doing it anyway. At my expense. I decide it’s time to look the beast in the eye. I wave dramatically at her, like I’m flagging her down.
Janessa follows my wave all the way to Eve, who turns completely scarlet.
“Eve!” Janessa says. “Step in for Daniel. You’re closer to Elana’s height.”
Her eyes get really big and round, but her voice stays totally even. “Okay.”
Well, this should be interesting. Of course it would be much more interesting if she was also wearing neon polka- dot underwear.
“Guess your time in the spotlight isn’t over after all,” I say when she appears in front of me.
“This is not exactly the spotlight, nor do I have any choice in this matter,” she whispers, leaning in close so I get a whiff of her hair and something that smells like cinnamon.
Janessa interrupts us by shouting some directions. “Get really close!” I can totally do that. Just give me my pants back. “Alex, dip her down like you’re going to kiss her.”
I love pants. I will never take them for granted again. When I get the fragrance campaign, I’m donating a bunch of money to a pants-related charity.
But in the meantime, I don’t have a fragrance campaign and I’m not about to show any signs of fear. Fashion people can smell it a mile away and then ruin my chances.
“You heard the boss lady,” I say to Eve before hooking an arm around her waist and tugging her closer. My fingers brush over a strip of bare skin on her lower back and it sends my pulse racing so fast that I’m sure she can feel my heartbeat. And for a good long second, I don’t even care. Let her figure it out if she hasn’t already. I hadn’t planned on playing hard to get or any other equally frustrating mind games.
I move my hand up to the back of her neck before I lean her backward. My eyes are still locked with hers. I’m fighting the urge to undo her ponytail and run my fingers through her hair.
For the cameras. Of course.
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Julie Cross is the international bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy. Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. Her knowledge of the modeling and fashion world comes from viewings of the movies The Devil Wears Prada, and Zoolander, and her unwavering devotion to the first three seasons of Ugly Betty. On a recent trip to NYC, she also took the time to walk past both the Gucci and Prada stores, spending at least 15 seconds viewing items through the windows.
Mark Perini is a New York City-based author debuting his first YA novel, Halfway Perfect. Additionally, Mark is a featured author in the NA anthology, Fifty First Times.
Mark began his career as an international fashion model ten years ago, while simultaneously obtaining a business degree from Seton Hall University. He has a passion for traveling the world, and he’s made a blood pact with friends to see all seven wonders of the ancient world before he’s thirty. Four down, three to go.
Eve Nowakowski left the modeling world behind many years ago. Now, as she pursues a career behind the camera, she is thrown back into the world she avoided for so long. But she doesn’t have a choice if she wants to impress a world-class photographer and if she happens to see people she’d rather not, so be it. Enter model Alex Evans, who is gaining recognition and climbing the ranks. For that to continue, he must maintain a fake relationship with his co-star Elena. A co-star who just happens to be underage. All the while Alex finds himself more and more attracted to Eve. As things slowly heat between the two of them, Eve’s past comes a-knockin’ and Alex’s future career is riding on the line. Will they fight to stay together or will they let outside forces tear them apart?
From moment one, all I wanted was to see Eve succeed. On the outside, it seems she has been dealt a pretty awesome hand. She was a successful model in her teens and she’s smart and (obviously) pretty. But that modelling success costs her so much more than most people realize. The fact that she made so much money means it’s impossible for her to receive financial aide for school, despite the fact that her parents spent all her money and she’s now completely broke. Plus, there was a very real reason she left that life behind and a hatred for the art of modeling is not it. This girl is so smart and funny and determined to make a life for herself that I envy her drive. If I went through everything she had and then still had to fight like hell to get the high level college education she was going for, I can’t say I would have even made the effort.
Then we have Alex. Hot, cocky, and extremely photogenic, I wasn’t sure I’d like him initially. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I was more than a little nervous to read from his perspective. It didn’t take him long to win me over, though, especially with his high moral standards. He’s desire to protect Elena had me awww with he rest of the female population. It’s clear that he is a flawed character. He loves this job, even though he can’t get his family to understand. I love his family, by the way. You get to meet them about halfway through and I adore every single member. The parents, the brothers, the sister, the whole set. We should all be so lucky. What really won me over, beside the determination to make things as comfortable as possible for Elena, is how he pursues Eve. He’s thoughtful and sweet and doesn’t simply rely on his gorgeous face to win her over.
When I first heard about this novel, I immediately wanted to read it. First because I adored Julie’s NA novel Third Degree and I knew this would be just as good. Second because it was about modeling and it was co-written by a male model. Even though writing is often seen as a male profession, we don’t have nearly as many male YA writers as we do female and I’m always excited to see through their eyes. Despite the fact that I’m happily married to a very sweet man and have read dozen’s of male perspectives and seen dozen’s of movies portrayed through men’s eyes, I’m still fascinated by seeing through that perspective. This is probably going to sound extremely naive of me, so I apologize in advance, but I always wonder it men think the same way women do. It’s a stupid notion, but really, from the point we girls hit teenage years, we are told to believe that guys only think about sex and that’s all that matters. Despite aging much beyond those years, some of those lectures still stick in my mind. So, some forever teenager stuck in my brain is always screaming with glee when I come across a well written story about a teenage boy that is thoughtful and sweet. Is it a bit stupid? Absolutely, but my brain does it anyway and I cannot be the only one out there who feels this way.
I read this novel very quickly. I was sitting at home on a Friday, thinking about the books I was supposed to be reading and thinking that I wanted to read something else that just grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I consulted my For Review list (yes, I have an actual spreadsheet list with all the books I have requested/received for review) and Halfway Perfect jumped to the top of the list. I started reading it that night and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then I got up the following morning and finished it. It was addicting. I had to know what happened next. Did Eve get that scholarship thing? Did Alex finally realize what an asshat his agent was? Will Eve and Alex find a way to make it work?
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m stuck on things with a contemporary romance side. I can’t help it. I devour them quickly and this was no exception to that. From the first moment I picked it up, I was enraptured. This novels takes turns that I wasn’t expecting and pushes the story in a direction that I didn’t see coming. There is one specific turning point where the novel went in the exact opposite direction I thought that it would, so I have to applaud Cross & Perini for not following the expected path in the best way possible. Things turned out better that way. All you really need to know is that this novel is better than halfway perfect. It’s completely prefect and I recommend it to everyone!
****Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****