By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.20

Publication Date: January 31st, 2023

Genre: Romance

Format Read: Ebook

Goodreads Summary: Fans of Abby Jimenez and Meryl Wilsner will fall in love with this hilarious and refreshingly authentic novel about second chances, pugs, and finding the perfect muse…

Business consultant Rose Josten might not have officially reached “pug lady” middle age, but she’s already got the pugs—along with their little Gucci coats and trash-lovin’ appetites. Still, life is good, with her work, her sisters, and a secret hobby creating incredibly tactile (if surprisingly sexy) mindfulness videos. So why does it feel like it’s not quite enough? Which is exactly when former filmmaker Ash Stewart enters camera left, and Rose’s world suddenly goes full technicolor . . .

Ash never looks at anyone. Not since her ex ripped her heart from her chest in Spielberg-esque style, crushing Ash’s reputation, dreams, and directorial career in one brutal blow. But Rose is altogether different. She’s curvy, beautiful, and just so damn put together. And her business expertise might be Ash’s best bet for getting her last film—and her last chance—financed. Now if they can just keep their attraction under wraps, Ash’s lost dream could finally come true. But are they creating movie magic . . . or setting the stage for disaster?

Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


Review

My first 2023 ARC of the year definitely set the bar high! Karelia Stetz-Waters’ latest happy ending lesbian romance, Behind the Scenes, was an absolute delight from start to finish. Behind the Scenes is a dual perspective novel following the story of business consultant Rose Josten and filmmaker Ash Stewart as their lives intersect for the first time.

Of course, it’s pretty obvious where this is going right from the start. Rose and Ash have undeniable chemistry, and the scenes where they’re together crackle with electricity. From the very first chapter, they had an easy banter that felt real, and hearing the emotions from both of their perspectives only amplified that. There were times in this book when I felt like Rose was perfect for Ash, but there wasn’t a lot of effort put in to make sure that Ash was perfect for Rose. It was “fated” but only on one side. As the book continued, however, those feelings dissipated and it became clear that they were a mutually compatible couple.

Rose and Ash are both full adults in this book. In fact, the book opens with Rose celebrating her 38th birthday party. She’s on the verge of making partner at Integral Business Solutions (how we got through the entire book without a single IBS joke is beyond me, but alas). Ash had a career that seemingly failed, and she’s onto the next one. There’s a maturity in their interactions with the world that heightens the happy-go-lucky attitude they have with each other. Reading a queer book about grown adults who fall in love– as opposed to teenagers, college students, or young adults that feel right about my age— was a new experience for me, and one that I deeply enjoyed. It’s comforting to see people older than me living the love that I want to have.

What took this book from just another romance to a memorable one was the character development of both Rose and Ash. The two of them had incredibly different lives, but the reason both are in their current position is because of the trauma that they endured years before. In my opinion, Stetz-Waters wrote a realistic portrayal of PTSD, anxiety, and sexual-based trauma. I appreciated that while the relationship helped each woman work through her struggles, falling in love was not an immediate cure all. I feared that love would be shown as a magical way to resolve trauma. Instead, I read a story of loving someone because and for their trauma, and being willing to stand by their side however they needed you to.

To me, this book was romance in its purest form. If you’re looking for a book that will make you cry real, raw emotions as you learn about the characters, and then make you cry with joy by the end, this is the book for you. The character development was incredible, the relationships (both romantic and otherwise) were handled with care, and overall this book was just so fun to read, teasing common tropes– such as miscommunication– but evading falling into them completely.