ARC Review: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

When It's Real

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Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt 

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy Awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…




“This is as real and as awful and as wonderful as it gets. I’d hold her forever if she’d let me.”

4.5 ‘guilty pleasure’ stars

This is a sweet, smart, mature YA read with well-developed, loveable characters, great banter, sizzling chemistry, and a gorgeous love story. It’s a fake relationship between a hot pop star and a ‘normal’ girl, and it’s gorgeously romantic, low angst and deliciously feel-good. I loved it.

Oakley Ford is the son of two Hollywood superstars, and a hugely successful pop star. He’s been in the business since he was 15 years old and is now only 19, but he already has a reputation as a wild party boy. He’s desperate to break free from the type of music he’s known for and explore his developing ‘grown up’ style, but he’s experiencing a writing block, and the producer he’s desperate to work with won’t touch him. He needs an image overhaul, and his Manager and Publicist have an idea for him to date a ‘normal’ girl to get him back in the public eye and show that he is settling down.

Vaughn Bennett is a 17 year girl wish way too much responsibility on her shoulders. After her parents were killed in a car accident, she and her older sister have worked hard to make ends meet and support themselves and their two younger brothers. But she is the girl-next-door that Oakley’s publicists are looking for so when the offer of a lifetime is presented to her, she warily agrees to pose as his girlfriend for 12 months for money that will save her family. But she has no idea what she’s in for.

Oakley is a bit of a jerk. He’s arrogant, entitled, and he doesn’t know what to make of Vaughn. She is the complete opposite of everything that he is used to – people normally fall all over themselves wanting to be close to him and make him happy, but Vaughn doesn’t seem impressed by his celebrity or his sexy good looks that usually bring women to their knees. Vaughn is strong and sassy, and though she’s feeling a bit lost in her life, she is determined not to let Oakley walk all over her. Her part of their arrangement is complicated by the fact that she already has a boyfriend, but she wants to help her family, so she goes along with all of the arrangements, not realising that she is about to turn Oakley’s whole world upside down.

“The good ones put your character to the flame and burn away all the rest of the shit until you come out a better you. She’s one of the good ones.”

Their relationship is completely planned – from the ‘meet cute’ to the social media interactions, private dates, public dates, and pre-planned levels of intimacy. But what happens when they both start to feel so much more for each other than they ever anticipated?

I wrap my arms around her shoulders. She snuggles into my side and I swear, my damn heart flips over because I want her to be my girl. For real.

This is such a beautiful love story. It’s realistically paced, and I could feel the emotion as things begin to shift between them from snarky banter to tentative flirting and so much more. It’s sweet, exciting and just gorgeous, and I fell right along with them.

“I’m confused right now.” I rub my sweaty palms on my knees.
Oak drags his index finger along my lower lip. “I know, baby. And scared?” I give a small nod. “I’m scared too. But let’s work this out together. Let’s see where it goes. We don’t need labels or words. We just need to be together.”

I loved how the deeper, ‘real’ parts of Oak were explored. This book is a true journey for him as he examines his life, opens up to Vaughn and figures out who he truly is, and I love how willing he was to embrace all that Vaughn had to offer.

“You’re the one person in my life who wants nothing but me and it’s terrifying and awesome at the same time.”

I loved the strong family themes, the way that the public vs private lifestyles were portrayed and the strong musical influence. And I really enjoyed the secondary romance that was glimpsed throughout the book. The drama is minimal and there is very little angst, but Oak and Vaughn’s story and their gorgeous romance kept me captivated from start to finish, and I finished this book with a huge grin on my face.

A true guilty pleasure read. I loved it. 4.5 stars.

An Advanced Review Copy was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



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