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March 22, 2020

The Honey Don't List by Christina Lauren ~ a Review

by MK French

Carey had started working for design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp since she was sixteen, and her entire adult life has been spent as Melissa's assistant. The famous couple had worked on TV shows for HGTV and written books on design principles, banking on their image as a couple as in love as they had been the first day of their marriage. In reality, their marriage has been silently combusting for years. It's up to Carey and Rusty's new assistant/engineer James McCann to keep the couple from going off the rails as they publicize their latest book on marriage advice. They both need the job badly, and the proximity forces Carey and James to get to know each other as they work together.

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March 2020; Gallery Books; 978-1982145217
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); humor
There are flashes of a police investigation from the outset, as well as chapters from Carey's or James' points of view. Melissa is a tough and sometimes vindictive woman as she tries to control everything around her, while Rusty has fallen out of love a long time ago and would rather flirt or have sex with just about any other woman around. Carey and James have their work cut out for them, and I really feel for Carey. She was a hair away from a high school dropout when she began working for the Tripps at their original store in Jackson, Wyoming, and the couple had essentially been surrogate parents when her own weren't as concerned with her education. She feels beholden to the two of them, to the point that she basks in Melissa's praise and essentially does all of the design work for her. Rusty is aware of that and isn't willing to disrupt the status quo, and Melissa seems to resent that as much as she needs Carey to structure her entire life. This is all she's ever known, and it takes the upset of this book tour and the newness of James' position as Rusty's assistant to truly point that out to her.

For his part, James comes across as stuffy and difficult to like at first, but he does unwind as the chapters progress. We find out exactly why he was so invested in this job, and why he seems so stiff. It's a reasonable progression and doesn't feel forced at all. While their relationship begins building up, Rusty and Melissa seem to combust even faster from the close proximity of the book tour. I really grew to like him over the course of the novel, and he was definitely someone that was a worthy partner for Carey.

I like the mentions that Carey has dystonia. It's a real condition that not a lot of people know about, yet it can affect so many people in different ways. For Carey, it's part of the reason that she stayed for the health insurance: she needed botox to reduce the spasms in her hands, and she also needed help paying for a therapist to help manage her stress levels. These are very real needs, and they're not glossed over or tossed aside at the end of the novel. She still has dystonia, she still has therapy sessions to deal with the fallout of the book tour. There's no easy way out for anyone, and it's still going to be work going forward for all of the characters involved. I enjoy the hopeful notes in this happily ever after, and that it feels very real and worth the journey we took to get there.

Buy The Honey Don't List at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children. 

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