Review: Full Exposure by Thien-Kim Lam

Review: Full Exposure by Thien-Kim LamFull Exposure: A Novel by Thien-Kim Lam
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Pages: 320
Published by Avon US on February 21, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Happy Endings author Thien-Kim Lam is back--with a rom-com set during the divine madness of Mardi Gras as two lovers ask: Can a Big Easy fling become the real thing?
Boudoir photographer Josie Parks never ever takes a vacation. But when a client cancels a New Orleans shoot at the last minute, she decides to fly out from her Washington, D.C., studio anyway. Maybe the trip will reawaken her recently stagnant muse. After all, it's Mardi Gras season...
Spencer Pham has come home after twelve soul-sucking years in corporate hell to pursue his passion: making a docu-film on his family's history as the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras krewe. The last thing he expects is getting whacked in the head by a beautiful woman trying to snag some parade beads.
During a long night at urgent care, Spencer and Josie connect over their artistic pursuits. He offers to show her the real New Orleans, if she'll help him with the camerawork for his film. Despite Josie's type-A personality clashing with Spencer's laissez-faire attitude, they seem to make a great team, and soon, the good times are rolling both on and off camera. But Josie has a life in D.C., and they both have big dreams they're chasing. When this Big Easy fling starts feeling awfully serious, can they find a way to choose between personal and professional passion?

My Review:

Mardi Gras was just this past Tuesday, making this the perfect week for a visit to New Orleans – at least between the pages of this sparkling romance. There’s always magic in New Orleans, whether at Mardi Gras or not – even if it’s just the magic of the beignets at Café du Monde.

Although the description of the messy, yeasty, sugary goodness of the beignets on Josie and Spencer’s first date will certainly make every reader’s mouth water nearly as much as Josie’s when she first checks Spencer out.

Just after she hits him in the head with the parade beads she’s just caught. It’s either a painfully cute meet cute – or just downright painful. Because either Spencer is seeing stars and little birdies after Josie clocks him – or there are some serious sparks between them from the very beginning.

Jodie’s mortified – but not concussed – and she’s feeling them too. Definitely sparks.

Over a couple of plates of those iconically delicious beignets, Spencer and Josie discover that they have more than sparks and less than a whole lot of time to see where those sparks might lead.

Josie’s in town for a mere seven days before she needs to return to her successful but stressful boudoir photography business in Washington DC. Spencer is back home in New Orleans for an unspecified while, after a dozen years in a high powered, high stress and highly detested job in – of course – Washington DC.

Spencer is more than willing to go with the flow and see where it takes them. Josie has always been constitutionally incapable of taking a step without not just A plan, but Plans B through at least F or G as well. But just this once she’ll try.

For as long as she can stand it. Or until fate intervenes. Or love walks in. Or out. Or all of the above.

Escape Rating B+: The meet-painfully-cute kicks this one off with a bang – or at least with a clonk to the noggin. The banging comes later. But this isn’t just a romantic comedy, although it certainly has plenty of the elements to make it qualify as one.

(Which is honestly kind of a relief. I read several books last year that were promoted as romcoms that turned out to be anything but. So the truth in advertising is a welcome change.)

Howsomever, Full Exposure isn’t just a romcom and it’s the not-so-funny bits that tug at the heartstrings after the final page is turned.

A big part of what both Spencer and Josie are dealing with outside of all the sparkly banter between them are real cases of burnout. Both are/were under pressure in stressful jobs and both have issues with saying enough is enough. In Spencer’s case that’s a result of family pressure and a lack of open communication, while in Josie’s case it’s because she selflessly sacrificed both her savings and her dreams when her younger sister was in a severe accident and needed long-term, expensive, hospital care and physical therapy.

While the reasons for it may be different, both of them feel intensely responsible for supporting their birth families and neither of them are able to open a space in those feelings for their own artistic dreams – because art doesn’t make money they both believe their families still need.

As much as Josie and Spencer have their artistic dreams in common, their romance is definitely a case of opposites attracting. Josie is Type-A down to her toes, while Spencer has a bit more of the New Orleans attitude of “laissez les bons temps rouler” – or at least a bone deep ability to be spontaneous that Josie planned out of her own life in the wake of her sister’s accident.

But Spencer needs a bit of Josie’s organizational magic as much as she needs a touch of his spontaneity. (Not to mention as much of his touch pretty much everywhere as she can get!)

So this is a romance of letting go, letting things out, letting things unfold, and not giving up on the best thing that’s ever happened to either of them without one hell of a fight.

One of the other terrific things about this story is that, in spite of some bumps in the road, both Josie and Spencer are functional people who have terrific support networks behind them that they both truly appreciate.

In Spencer’s case it’s his sometimes intrusive but always loving family and the New Orleans Vietnamese community of which they are an integral part. In Josie’s case it’s her best friends, the Boss Babes, who are with her through thick and thin and crisis and resolution and everything in between.

Josie’s Boss Babes are terrific, but it seemed terrifically obvious that we weren’t getting the whole picture of who they were and how they all fit together in this story. The Boss Babes, including Josie, first appeared in the author’s debut novel, Happy Endings. (In other words, while Full Exposure isn’t exactly the second book in a series it isn’t exactly not, either) So if you enjoy Josie and Spencer’s story, and I definitely did, and if you’re wishing for a gang like the Boss Babes of your very own, check out Happy Endings the next time you’re looking for a fun, sexy read with a whole lot of heart. I certainly plan to!

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