Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?
Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.
Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?
Reading Like a Love Song felt like a big warm hug. I think I spent most of my time reading this book grinning from ear to ear. It was just so delightful, fun, and fluffy – the perfect balm for any bad or heavy day – and I can confidently say that this will be a romance that I will recommend for years to come.
Like a Love Song follows Natalie, a Brazilian teenage pop star trying to recover from the consequences to her public image when her messy breakup is accidentally televised to the world. Her PR’s plan: Set her up with a fake boyfriend – but instead of a confident bad boy, she gets the soft and tender-hearted British indie film star, William. But when her romance with her fake-boyfriend starts to feel very real, Natalie will have to figure out what she wants, as well as the pop star she wants to be.
I liked that Like a Love Story instantly pulls you into Nati’s world. Although I loved that Nati was written to be relatable – just like an ordinary teen, apart from the fact that she’s famous – we also witness how her fame, and being under the public eye’s scrutiny, shapes and defines the ways that she presents herself. What I loved, though, is that the story provides a window into just how much presentation and image shapes and defines Nati’s choices. From things as (relatively) small as always having a smile on her face (otherwise the media will spin stories on why she’s upset), curating the perfect social media post to tell a story, never saying no to a photo opportunity (lest she be branded as unfriendly and unappreciative of her fans), it also seeps into how she navigates her Brazilian identity.
Nati’s relationship with her Brazilian identity resonated with me. Nati’s pop star image is deliberately performed and embodied: straightened hair, ‘American’, exclusively sings English, her Brazilian accent subdued. As a consequence, an emotional distance exists between ‘Natalie’, and who she believes she needs to be, and ‘Natalia/Nati’, her real name that she changed so that it was easier and more palatable to American audiences. I loved that Like a Love Song explores and critiques how American standards of beauty are so pervasive, to the extent that even Nati inadvertently contributes to erasure of her cultural identity in order to be successful and marketable.
Furthermore, Nati feels distanced from her Brazilian heritage, her family, and speaking Portuguese (which she can’t speak fluently, which gives her all sorts of mixed emotions), to the point where bridging that distance puts her in a very vulnerable place. I loved the emotional depth and nuances of how Nati navigates her identity, and how her narrative felt so personal and genuine. Personally, I really connected to this, and how Nati eventually traverses this blurry area is so hopeful and courageous; I understand the guts it takes to put yourself out there, potentially putting yourself forward to be criticised by the people whose opinions you care about the most.
Though I loved the socio-cultural themes of Like a Love Song, I also just loved this for its gorgeous and unapologetically fluffy romance. Fake-dating can be a challenging trope to navigate sometimes, because it, arguably, involves a degree of manipulation. However, I really loved how Like a Love Song develops the relationship and romance between Nati and William. Though they have to keep up their ‘public couple’ act, the moments where they begin to develop a genuine bond with one another was so satisfying and tender. I also loved that Nati and William grow with one another; they each teach other something and, at the end, find ways to redefine who they are and claim agency and authenticity in their lives.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Complete with wholesome and empowering female friendships, a thoroughly supportive mother who feels like a safe harbour for Nati, and that Nati and William develop a meaningful friendship, Like a Love Song satisfies in all the right places, giving us relationships that feel cosy, and also intrigues and piques with its insightful and nuanced exploration into identity and presentation. I absolutely adored Like a Love Song – now all I need is a live series adaption of this romance, and I’ll be happy forever.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: After a messy public break-up, a teen pop star agrees to fake-date a British indie actor to repair her image – but discovers that she may be falling for him, blurring what is real and fake.
Perfect for: Readers who love cosy and fluffy romances; readers who enjoy stories about famous teens (and feel relatable); readers looking for something heart-warming and light-hearted
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of the fake-dating trope
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Trigger/content warning: racism (challenged)