Reviewing: Built to Last
Author: Erin Hahn
Author Contact: @erinhahn_author on Instagram
Length of book: 336 pages (8hr 35m on Audible)
Narrator(s): Lisa Zimmerman, Kale Williams
Genre of book: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Release Date: Oct 18, 2022
Purchase link: Built to last
Overall impression: ⭐⭐⭐🌟(3+ ALMOST a 4)
Good afternoon lovelies! I've been on a reading roll as of late, so today I’m giving you my two cents on the romance/romcom novel Built to Last by Erin Hahn.
Why did I read Erin’s book?
I requested a copy of the audiobook from NetGalley and they didn't accept my request. BUT I fell in love with the sample of the narrator's voice when he read the opening pages. I also loved the voice of the clearly whitty author, and her snarky comments hooked me from the beginning so I purchased the audiobook from Audible.
*side note I listened to the audiobook for this one, and I really like to read along so usually I'll get the actual book too but this one was a little pricey and not included on KU so I only purchased the audio. So some of my comments will also be about the narrators (who I LOVED btw full 5⭐️ for them).
What is Built to Last? (the following is jacket blurb copied from Amazon)
Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like the rough spots on the vintage furniture she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a widely documented meltdown and huge public break up with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs―the one who got away.
Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can't help but get on board.
There's something in it for everyone―almost. Cameron wants to set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove she's not the messy party girl anymore. And a jealous Lyle can’t help but try to get in the way. But for his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could ever dream of, nothing is getting in the way of their second chance at love.
More details about why I gave a 3+-star review:
Ok, so until the first sex scene this book was a STRONG 4 (maybe a 5) and I actually took a break at about 25-30% to recommended it to a friend who shares my love of sarcasm and whit. But when I got to the first sex scene, I knew she'd be disappointed, so I backtracked slightly (more on this in a second). Overall, I liked this book but I really thought I'd LOVE it. It had a strong beginning, but in the end, the love was way too instant and some of the conflicts didn't feel like conflicts. I think I liked it more because the narrators they chose were INCREDIBLE. They really adopted the characters voices and I while I can't know (because I didn't read it without the audio) I don't think the book would have been as good without the audio.
✔️Main characters you love, relate to, and/or want to root for.
Ok first of all Cameron Riggs is one of the most swoon worthy book boyfriends I've seen in a long time! I absolutely loved him from page one:
"Most especially, I’d choose train travel over this shitstorm of a bushwhacker held together with honest-to-God duct tape and flown by “Hal No Last Name” who reminds me of that crop-duster pilot from Independence Day."
His voice is hilarious and refreshing and the way he drops everything to be there for Shelby 😍😍😍😍
Plus, chef's kiss 💋 on Kale Williams who did the voice of Cameron and hit every one of the jokes perfectly.
Shelby Springfield is an okay heroine, but in my opinion she seems a little immature, and I didn't quite get her arc. Ok, that's not entirely true, she did grow a lot from where she started, but most of it was off the page, and that was a little sad. She also seemed to let the people around her affect her a bit too much, so I wish she had more agency.
I enjoyed Lisa Zimmerman’s voice of the narrator, and she too did a great job interpreting the inflection I think Erin Hahn intended which is important.
Ultimately, I wanted to root for these characters, former child stars who were to torn apart by life and come back together after a long time apart, but honestly, it felt a little forced to me. They both made decisions for their lives when they were kids and it seemed like they just never discussed it or grew up. True, they did both explain that being a child star makes you simultaneously mature as a kid and makes it hard for you to grow up (which I totally believe could be true), but some of the issues felt tentative.
There were however some AMAZING side characters that I absolutely adored! Lorelei (Shelby's best friend) was the kind of female best friend we all hope to find and I found her sub-plot almost as compelling as the main plot. And well done Lisa Zimmermann for achieving a pretty believable southern accent!
I also LOVED LOVED LOVED Rigg's best friend Kevin and he may have had the funniest line I've ever read in a RomCom. After being teased about wearing suspenders instead of a belt, the 6'6 bearded guy sniped back, "I’m 317lbs of pure sex Riggs… I can’t be contained by a mere belt…” 😂😂😂 Hilarious, and again, masterfully hit by Kale Williams’ deep baritone, rumble you could feel between your thighs (if you know what I mean 😉). Anyway, I loved Kevin, and YES, YES, YES to most of the side characters
✔️Conflict that makes sense and moves the story forward
Shelby was in a terrible relationship with the pair's former co-star Lyle, and once she got out of it, it seemed like she grew up and moved on (without either guy). So, go Shelby! Girl power, you don't need a man anyway... right?
Well, that was all well and fine until Lyle takes over the home improvement show she's trying to get aired and she, Cameron and Lyle have a weird 'love' triangle that actually feels unnecessary. Lyle doesn't want Shelby (he's married) and it actually feels like there's no obstacles between Shelby and Cameron, so I felt like HEA could've been achieved in chapter 5ish.
A lot of the conflict was forced by the media, which I think is valid since they were child stars. But since neither of them felt compelled to be liked by the media, that also felt sort of tentative. They ‘want’ their home improvement show to air (Shelby more for her dad which feels odd) but neither if them really ‘need’ it, so it seems like they could easily 🖕🖕 and say no thanks. Also, Lyle was a looming presence throughout, and while he was a good villain, some of it was over the top.
Ultimately, I get it, there has to be conflict to keep the story moving, but some of theirs didn't feel as valid as it could be. Miscommunication tropes (or lack of communication) feels unfortunate to me, and there was a lot of that here. It's a common thread among romance, so it's not entirely unwarranted, it's just not my favorite type of conflict.
This knocked the story from a 5 star to a 4 for me.
✔️Seggy 🔥🔥 scenes that didn't make me want to 🤮
Sorry, but that's reality. 😬😬😬
I know this is Erin's first attempt to write a romance with spice (she has previously released YA) and it showed.
First of all, the first sex scene was a flashback from when they were teenagers (or maybe two barely adults). I think Cameron was 18 but Shelby was maybe 17? It wasn't entirely clear. Anyway, the point is, reading this (or actually listening to it because I got the audiobook) felt kinda uncomfy for me. Both virgins and awkward. A lot of cringy talking that felt authentic to someone’s first time, but not exactly 🔥🔥 as an adult. I do appreciate that she didn't make it completely mind-blowing (though Shelby did have the big ⭕--which sorry to say wasn't my first experience-but whatever) but still... As an adult not the 🔥🌶️ I'm looking for.
The next several sex scenes were just... I don't know. Awkward is the best way to describe it. ALOT of dialogue and not sexy dialogue. And far too many professions of love for people who had up until that point not even wanted to be dating and wouldn't admit they even had romantic feelings. Ultimately, I felt like with a little more work, some of the sex scenes could've been good (they had some good stuff in them) but it felt like she read a lot of smutty scenes and then tried to incorporate way too many book boyfriends into one guy.
That's obviously my opinion, but these issues knocked the rating from a 4 to a 3 (+) for me.
✔️An easy-to-read style that stays consistent
Ok, I know I've been a little bit of a downer, but I actually did LOVE Erin's voice. Her one-liners were HILARIOUS and I found the book a super easy read (I read it in an afternoon). Her voice was pithy and interesting and I found her writing style perfect for the book she was writing. Her whit and charm really came through and I imagine based on her sarcasm we might be friends in real life (if she didn't get pissed about my honest comments about her book).
✔️Writing that is well done and doesn't have me editing in my head along the way
I listened to the audiobook, and didn't read the pages, so this wasn't really an issue for me. I will say there were a couple times I was a bit confused by who was talking (which to me indicates missing dialogue tags/action beat) but other than that, I didn't notice anything. But it's my experience that sometimes the narrators correct issues that might not be caught in editing, so there is that, but since I didn't read the page, I wouldn't know.
✔️A satisfying ending
As in all truely self-respecting romances there was a HEA. Do I wish the love was less "insta?" Yes. There was a lot of slow burning lead up to them getting together (they hadn't even kissed before they had sex) and during their first encounter they said "I love you," which feels 😬😬😬 to me.
Ok, so what does it all boil down to?
Overall I LIKEd Built to Last. I didn't LOVE it. I think Erin Hahn is a gifted writer, and she does a great job painting a picture, but I didn't love her first attempt at adult romance. I do however think I would enjoy her YA books, because honestly I think the main issues I had with this story was that the characters seemed immature. So if I wasn't expecting adults (Shelby and Cam were both pushing 30) I might've liked it better.
I plan to check out You'd be Mine and Never Saw You Coming because despite the issues I had with this book, I think Erin is a talented writer and I'd love to see what she does in the YA space.
So that's all I have! If you read Built to Last let me know what you think (comment below or shoot me an email).
Thanks for reading! Have a great week my lovelies!
-Rose Rayne Rivers
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