Book Review: How to Stay, by Katie Rose Guest Pryal a Hollywood Lights Novella


About the book:

A princess, a pauper, and a dog…

From the outside, it might seem like Miranda George has the perfect life—a wealthy family, a great education, a good paralegal job after college in her parents’ law firm. But all is not what it seems. When she’s assigned to Matthias Pino, the newest hire of The George Law Firm, she believes that he’ll be just like any other baby lawyer her parents have hired over the years: narcissistic, self-satisfied, and vain.

When Matthias Pino meets Miranda George, the princess of Winston-Salem, he doesn’t try to wine and dine her. Instead, he shows her where he grew up, in the trailer parks outside of Winston-Salem. He takes her to his brother’s dog rescue farm instead of to a fancy brunch. If she’s going to choose him, he wants her to choose the real him.

But when a family nightmare threatens to drag them apart, Matthias learns that Miranda isn’t nearly as tough as she seems, and Miranda learns that the hardest thing to do is to—quite simply—stay.

My Thoughts:

First, I should mention that I'm a North Carolina girl, born and raised, with hard ties to the Winston Salem area where this book is set. My mom went to Wake Forest University (which I'm guessing is the basis of the fictional Cameron University in this novel), and I went to college at a university in the neighboring county. My husband's family lives just outside of Winston Salem, and some of my best friends live in the surrounding communities.  

Winston is a colorful, small city with a unique history, thanks to its roots in big tobacco. Ms. Guest Pryal accurately captured the tone and feel of Winston Salem, especially it's recent efforts to revitalize and update the downtown area, which is thriving with great restaurants and social events (I go to the Salute! Wine Festival in downtown Winston almost every year).

On top of that, I'm a state bar certified paralegal and have worked in the legal field for 10+ years, so the fact that the main character, Miranda, is a paralegal really hit home. I love the respect Ms. Guest Pryal pays to the profession and in recognizing the contributions a good paralegal can make to the health and wealth of a law firm. Bonus points for that story line!

And if those weren't enough reasons to connect with this book, Ms. Guest Pryal includes a sub plot revolving around Matthais's dog, Lolly, a pit bull rescue. I adore dogs, and I have a special place in my heart for rescues and shelter dogs. My dog, Bonnie, came from a shelter 10 years ago, and we've been inseparable ever since. The fact that Matthais loves dogs and dedicates himself to bettering their welfare made me just melt for him. What an ideal man.

This book is a novella so the pace is fast, and there's not a lot of room for fluff or drawing things out between the two love interests, but I think fans of the traditional romance genre will appreciate that while Matthais and Miranda move quickly, their relationship is not a case of insta-love. There's enough conflict to provide that "will they or won't they" tension that, for me, is a crucial element in a great romance.

I also liked that while Matthais was strong, smart, and had plenty of ambition, both in his career and for Miranda, he wasn't a possessive, jealous, pushy alpha hero. Miranda's life is fraught with emotional stresses and uncertainties, and Matthais approached with the appropriate calm and care. I really liked him.

Miranda was a great character, too. Ms. Guest Pryal never writes a wilting flower heroine, and Miranda is no exception. She's smart, sharp, even a little mean at times, but her terseness is obviously a well honed defense mechanism to protect vulnerabilities of her family, to whom she is unflaggingly loyal. Maybe too loyal. I definitely found myself yelling at her at certain points, urging her to stand up for herself and be frank with her parents and her brother about the demands they put on her. If you know Ms. Guest Pryal's books, then you know she often addresses issues of mental illness and How to Stay has just such a conflict that creates a lot of stress for Miranda's family. The ending of the book left me satisfied as to the resolution of this issue, although I do wonder what will happen to the George family years from now. 

I was also satisfied with the resolution of the tension between Miranda and Matthais, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick paced, smart, and romantic read.

Ms. Guest Pryal provided me a free copy of her book for review purposes.

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