Comedian Stephanie Renshaw is approaching her thirtieth birthday, and she still hasn’t made the big time. The life of a stand-up comic in Los Angeles isn’t an easy one. She’s been at it for ten years, and she told herself if she hadn’t caught her big break by the age of thirty, it would be time to concede to family pressure and find a “real job”. After spending a year on the road playing gigs at bowling alleys and honky-tonk bars where payment was often free beer and chicken wings, she’s returned home to give LA one more chance. Housing in Los Angeles is expensive, but she gets a line on a rent-controlled apartment close to the comedy clubs the city is famous for. The catch—the landlord only rents to couples. Undaunted, Steph decides the natural solution is finding a roommate who can pose as her boyfriend/girlfriend.
Stoic Rae Coleman works the door at one of LA’s most popular comedy clubs. She’s a former police officer with the LAPD. After getting injured in the line of duty, she was offered a desk job, but she couldn’t stomach being cooped up behind a desk. It would be a daily reminder of all she lost on one fateful evening. Her body isn’t the only thing that was wounded. Guilt plagues her even in her nightmares. Her injuries left her blind in one eye and driving at night is a thing of the past. What she needs is an apartment close to her work so she can make the commute on foot.
When Steph and Rae meet, their vastly dissimilar personalities clash. They couldn’t be more different. The only thing they share is a need for affordable housing. Rae is skeptical when Steph approaches her with the idea for a possible roommate arrangement. Reluctantly, Rae decides to go along with the charade as long as Steph keeps her distance. Since leaving the police department, Rae has carefully constructed a life for herself that’s free of emotional entanglements. That works for Steph because she fills her down time with casual and frequent one-night stands.
As a tentative friendship develops between Steph and Rae, they realize what they’ve been avoiding is exactly what they’ve been longing for. Do they have the courage to put their hearts at risk in order to open themselves up to finding love?
Victoria: I like these women. I like them a lot. Steph and Rae’s pairing is a perfect example of how two completely different women can bring out the best in each other.
Steph is such a carefree, fly-by-the seat-of-her-pants soul. Thankfully, Jae is talented enough to write a comedian who is in fact funny. Steph’s humor is not only how she makes a living, but it’s one of her coping mechanisms to keep her from getting hurt or feeling the disappointment from her family. She also uses her wit to keep Rae at arm’s length when she realizes she may actually like her prickly roommate. From the beginning, I felt like there was a lot more to Steph’s character than meets the eye. There certainly is, and getting to see the authentic woman behind the jokes was very satisfying.
Rae is delicious. Tall, dark, and handsome—need I say more? She’s such a grump at the beginning of the story, I was hooked. (I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with that.) I love a brooding main character because I know she’s going to come with an intense backstory. Rae’s initial awkwardness around Steph is warranted, and when I learned why it’s difficult for her to navigate her new apartment, it broke my heart wide open for her. Her cold veneer masks deep seated shame. I felt nothing but compassion and empathy for her. It’s clear that Rae is at a crossroads in her life. She can either take a leap of faith and let Steph get to know her, or she can remain a closed off, passive observer in her own life. Watching her work through her pain and become vulnerable enough to let Steph see the real her is the best part of this book.
Tara: Can I add a “hell yeah,” to everything Victoria just said? Rae and Steph are the perfect opposites-attract pairing and I enjoyed seeing them move from strangers to caring about each other, to eventually falling in love. I especially appreciated seeing why they were reluctant to open their hearts: Steph had never had a serious relationship before and Rae had had one, but it had crashed and burned. It helped me believe in their happily ever after, since they each had so much to overcome and they did it together.
The Writing Style
Victoria: The pacing of this story is perfect. Jae lays out clues about Rae’s past like breadcrumbs, and I followed along from revelation to revelation. There aren’t any lulls in the plot when I felt like I was unnecessarily waiting for Steph and Rae to get their acts together. Their romance naturally bloomed, and the ups and downs never felt forced or contrived.
The dialogue realistically captures the essence of each character. I love it when I can read dialogue and instinctively know who is talking because their voice is always consistent with their character. And, thank goodness, Steph’s jokes are actually funny. It would be a disaster to have a main character who’s a comedian and have her jokes fall flat.
Tara: Because it’s a Jae romance, I wasn’t surprised by how easily I got sucked into this book. Her writing is always very easy to get into and this was no exception. I agree with Victoria about Steph’s humour too. Rae has some pretty heavy stuff in her backstory and the tone never gets too heavy, because Steph is there with a funny word and a thoughtful gesture.
Tara: Like every other book I’ve heard her perform in the last couple of years, Lori Prince crushed it. She’s honestly one of my go-to narrators now, so much so that I barely care what book she’s reading. With The Roommate Arrangement, the story was great, so the narration made it even better for me. Prince differentiates the various characters well and I especially loved how she brought Rae and Steph’s vulnerabilities to the forefront, truly bringing them to life.
Victoria: First of all, I’m an LA girl through and through, so it was fun reading a story set in my backyard. Jae did her research, and she captured the sights and sounds of the Los Angeles comedy club scene to a T. She may have changed some names here and there, but she hit the highlights and the world of The Roommate Arrangement is completely authentic.
It’s also fun because Steph is the younger sister of Clare, one of the main characters from Just for Show. There are several scenes involving her and her fiancé, Lana. I enjoy it when an author has characters from previous books pop up so the reader can see what they’re up to.
Tara: I also liked seeing Claire and Lana come back. On top of that, I appreciated how much this book surprised me. I expected it to be very heavy on the whole fake-relationship thing, like Just For Show was. Instead, this was much more about opposites attract and finding love when you least expect it. Yes, there was definitely a fake relationship situation there, but it didn’t drive the romance development, so I enjoyed seeing their relationship unfold in ways I wasn’t able to anticipate.
A Heads Up
Tara: If you like tension and angst in your romance novels, this will not be for you. The burn is slow and sweet, but I never doubted for a second whether Steph and Rae would end up together.
Victoria: What a treat! I thoroughly adored reading this outstanding romance by Jae. I read a lot of romance—a lot—and this story had me captivated from beginning to end. I got so wrapped up in the story, I completely forgot I was reading it for a review! No hardship there. I immediately did a reread, and I loved it just as much the second time! (I know, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but I’m actually showing quite a bit of restraint.) This book has everything going for it. The two main characters are wonderfully realized, and the story is layered with so many nuances it’s going to swirl around in my sentimental head for quite some time. For any Jae fans who haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? If you’ve never read anything by this talented author, here’s your opportunity to discover a writer who never disappoints. Enjoy! (Just one more exclamation point for good measure.)
Tara: I may not have loved the book quite as much as Victoria (did you see that conclusion!?), but I definitely enjoyed The Roommate Arrangement. I want to echo Victoria’s point that it would be a great place to start if you’ve never read Jae before because the characters are memorable, the dialogue is often very fun, and I don’t think I’ve read a book that features a stand-up comedian before. This would be a great pick if you’re having a bad week and need a book that’s like a warm hug—especially in audio.
Excerpt from The Roommate Arrangement by Jae
Okay, here goes nothing. “My friend Gabe said you’re looking for an apartment closer to the club.”
Rae turned so she was facing Steph, who bit back a smile.
Gotcha! She had Rae’s full attention now, but she had to reel her in carefully. “I just heard about a great two-bedroom apartment not too far from here. The tenants are moving out, and they are looking for someone to take over their lease.”
“What’s the catch?” Rae asked.
Steph tried not to shuffle her feet under Rae’s probing gaze. “Well, the rent is over two grand, so I’m looking for a roommate.”
“Roommate.” Rae tilted her head. “You mean, you and me…living together?”
Steph quirked her lips. The way Rae had said that, as if it was an entirely foreign concept to her, was almost cute. “That’s usually what a roommate arrangement implies.”
Rae’s brows bunched together. “If I said yes, would you always be such a smart-ass?”
“In the interest of full disclosure…yeah, probably. My family says I don’t have an off button.” Steph tried out her most charming smile on Rae, but the woman’s expression gave nothing away. “So are you interested?”
“How close to the club is the apartment?”
Rae’s brooding expression lightened. She rubbed her strong chin. “And I’d get my own bedroom?”
“Of course,” Steph said. “Even though it would officially be a guest room or a home office.”
Damn. She’d nearly had her, but now Rae looked at her with that suspicious expression again. “The landlord is a bit of an asshole. I mean, not that I know him, but he insists on renting to couples only. So you and I—”
“Forget it,” Rae said.
“Thank you very much. Has anyone ever told you, you’re killer on a girl’s ego?” Steph reached out to nudge her but then pulled back. She playfully puffed out her chest and fluffed her hair. “Just so you know, there are dozens of people all over the country who’d love to be my significant other.”
Rae arched her brows. “If you’re such a hot commodity, why aren’t you asking one of those plentiful people to move in with you?”
“Because I’m not the relationship type, and I don’t want them to think otherwise,” Steph said. “You and I, we’d just pretend to be a lovey-dovey couple when we’re around the landlord. As soon as the lease is signed, you can go back to scowling at me.”
Rae stared out into the darkness or maybe at the flickering neon lights of Melrose Avenue.
Steph waited, bracing herself for rejection.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour but was probably only a few seconds, Rae directed her attention back toward Steph. “All right.”
“All right?” Steph hopped up and down. “You’ll do it?”
“Only if I like the apartment—and if you abstain from hugging me.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 978-3963242793
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Audiobook Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Lori Prince
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