With a very strong start, excellent banter, and deeply flawed but lovable characters, Birds of California* was primed to be one of my favorite reads of this year. Unfortunately, a lackluster third-act and dissatisfying conclusion left me feeling bittersweet.
Former child actor Fiona St. James dropped out of the spotlight after a spectacularly public crash and burn. The tabloids called her crazy and self-destructive and said she’d lost her mind. Now in her late twenties, Fiona believes her humiliating past is firmly behind her. She’s finally regained a modicum of privacy, and she won’t let anything–or anyone–mess it up.
Unlike Fiona, Sam Fox, who played her older brother on the popular television show Birds of California, loves the perks that come with being a successful Hollywood actor: fame, women, parties, money. When his current show gets cancelled and his agent starts to avoid his calls, the desperate actor enthusiastically signs on for a Birds of California revival. But to make it happen, he needs Fiona St. James.
Against her better judgment, Fiona agrees to have lunch with Sam. What happens next takes them both by surprise. Sam is enthralled by Fiona’s take-no-prisoners attitude, and Fiona discovers a lovable goofball behind Sam’s close-up-ready face. Long drives to the beach, late nights at dive bars… theirs is the kind of kitschy romance Hollywood sells. But just like in the rom-coms Fiona despises, there’s a twist that threatens her new love. Sam doesn’t know the full story behind her breakdown. What happens when she reveals the truth?
Sparks fly and things get real in this sharply sexy and whip-smart romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a post #metoo Hollywood from New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno–page-turning escapist fun in the spirit of Beach Read, The Kiss Quotient, and Red, White and Royal Blue.
As I noted above, Birds started out very strong for me. I loved how Cotugno was able to take a story that could’ve been extremely dark, with an unreliable and unsteady narrator, and turn it into something that was very wry, snarky, and tongue-in-cheek, all while still capturing Fiona’s mental state. Birds has some of the best banter I’ve read in a very long time and I laughed out loud at multiple points.
Birds is hilarious, sexy, and so timely in a post-#MeToo world. And I think it had an amazing set-up and the makings of being something phenomenal, but it ultimately felt like an incomplete story to me. The final third of the book felt like it was moving both too slowly and too quickly. Certain aspects of the story and characters weren’t as fleshed out as I’d hoped, and issues that had seemed like they would be much bigger to the story’s overall development were rushed over.
Like I said, Birds had the potential to be phenomenal, but it ultimately felt a bit too shallow. And this isn’t to say that the subject matter was shallow—it was more that I felt like for all the work the author had done in the first part of the book, I was surprised at how little payoff there ultimately was.
This is the author’s first adult romance so I think some leeway should be given. I’m excited to see where she goes from here and will definitely be picking up her next adult release.
CWs: sexual harassment, grooming, PTSD, disordered eating. Click here for a more comprehensive list of content warnings.
Read This If
- You enjoy celebrity romances
- You like dual-POV narration
- You’re not looking for an overly romantic story but rather one that is more understated
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ / 5
Where to Purchase
- Buy Birds of California on Bookshop.org
- Buy Birds of California on Amazon (kindle)
- Buy Birds of California on Amazon (paperback)
*Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This has not impacted my review or opinion in any way; all opinions are my own.
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