I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of @ekinsellaauthor‘s new book Heart and Seoul, and I enjoyed the book. It’s the story of Tessa, an author whose book is being turned into a Korean TV show, and Eun Gi, a lead singer in a K-Pop group who’s been tapped to play the lead in said TV show.
Of course, shenanigans ensue, and in order to deal with his fans and the fact that they’re becoming friends, they end up pushed into a marriage. Marriage of convenience is such a fun trope – and one that’s so rarely used in contemporary romance.
While marriage of convenience naturally leads to consent issues, all of the consent issues were caused by the studio pushing them into the marriage, not by either member of the couple. I will definitely give the author an A+ for having both Tessa and Eun Gi making sure the other was okay with everything they were doing despite the situation they’d been forced into.
I liked them as characters and watching them grow stronger as they dealt with numerous problems, from anxiety and migraines to their jobs and families. And as you would expect in a world as dramatic as the entertainment industry, there’s oodles and oodles of drama to go around!
…Honestly, sometimes too much drama.
There’s a few things I had issues with. The first is that Tessa was a bit too much of a fangirl. As someone who has worked with the industry at various events, people who are overly fannish are steered away from having close contact with the people they are fans of. There were other things that broke the fourth wall for me since I actually know the industry, but for fans of K-pop who aren’t as familiar with what happens behind the scenes, this book is pure wish fulfillment. I’m also not really a fan of K-pop or Pop Music in general, so in that sense I wasn’t the target audience.
Second, the book suffered a bit from too many plots, many of which were super minor and solved in less than one chapter, particularly in the middle of the book. I would’ve preferred less of the “oh no, what will happen next?!” and instead having the “learning to live together” and “dealing with his mother” drama more strengthened.
Because his mother… now she was an excellent antagonist and someone who I felt was underutilized. When an author has a good villain, you always want to use them more.
I wanted a bit more of the slow fall into love – I understand that Tessa is demisexual and it takes time for her to fall in love with people, and honestly I loved that. But that she felt like she already knew Eun Gi from being a fan and that it shortcut the demisexuality? …No. She didn’t know the real him, she knew a persona he created for the fans. Again, it didn’t feel true based off of what I see as a native New Yorker whose one time down the hall neighbor was one of the actors from Glee (and also my package buddy).
I wanted more time for them to grow into love, because while I did eventually believe in the relationship, it felt a little too rushed. Which circles back to the too many plots issue I mentioned before. It’s all related.
But in the end they were adorable, so the relationship did ultimately woo me.
Back to the good parts, I did seriously love a lot of the side characters – Kelly and Min Joo were sweet and good friends for Tessa. Sung Soo, Hwan, and Min Jae were a lot of fun and great friends for Eun Gi – I loved their group dynamic. I liked Chun Hei and her relationship with Eun Gi, though I’d have preferred if she’d been introduced earlier. Pyong Ho was fun. I can see plenty of ways to make this a good series!
My ultimate favorite was Sung Soo, so I’m hoping to see his romance next… and since it’s the first in a series, there’s always a chance!
I will also give serious props for the writing and the editing – I only caught one or two grammar mistakes in the entire book. Also, good on having a glossary, though a more prominent position might have been better. It definitely helped me figure out what some of the Korean words were!
And I want to reiterate, the consent was excellent. With everything from sharing a bed to hugging to kissing to full-on sex, both Tessa and Eun Gi checked in with each other, made sure everything was okay, and stopped if it wasn’t. We always like consent around here, and this book was great for that.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of K-pop or J-pop and also likes New Adult Romance or Musician Romance.
I enjoyed it, but because of the problems I personally had with it, I can only give it…
If this is your jam, you can get it here.
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