It is extremely rare that I’ll read a book in a single sitting, but when I do it’s because I have to know what happens next. That was definitely the case with Jae’s Departure from the Script! The book starts with a date from hell and immediately pulls you in from there.
Aspiring Actress Amanda Clark and photographer Michelle Osinski are two women burned by love and not looking to test the fire again. And even if they were, it certainly wouldn’t be with each other.
Amanda has ever been attracted to a butch woman before, and Michelle personifies the term butch. Having just landed a role on a hot new TV show, she’s determined to focus on her career and doesn’t need any complications in her life.
After a turbulent breakup with her starlet ex, Michelle swore she would never get involved with an actress again. Another high-maintenance woman is the last thing she wants, and her first encounter with Amanda certainly makes her appear the type.
But after a date that is not a date and some meddling from Amanda’s grandmother, they both begin to wonder if it’s not time for a departure from their usual dating scripts.
Departure from the Script is a light-hearted love story that firmly understands its genre and uses Amanda’s career to create tension throughout the story. I haven’t read enough romance novels to truly understand their plot formula but the few that I have read have all had the sex scene at or near the end, sort of like a prize for reading through the rest of the book I suppose. Normally, I don’t understand why things take so long and then am made uncomfortable by said sex scene (as they aren’t my favorite thing to read). Departure from the Script follows this formula of having the sex scene towards the end of the book, but I actually enjoyed how the author prolonged it. Jae’s publishing tagline is “slow-burn romances with strong female characters” and Departure from the Script delivers on that promise. Jae made the prolongment of our protagonists taking their relationship to the bedroom funny and enjoyable by having the two constantly interrupted by phone calls, a nosy grandmother, and babysitting duties, among other things. Jae builds consistent tension in the book by denying these two their inevitable physical encounter but in very believable and relatable ways. And, as an added bonus, the sex scene is very tastefully written and doesn’t use vulgar language to describe body parts or internal feelings. Seriously, A++ sex scene.
Departure from the Script is expertly paced, but there were instances when time would progress forward that seemed abrupt. The book uses clip art of a film reel shaped as a heart to show the passage of time:
It was a cute addition, as this book is the beginning of Jae’s Hollywood series, but it threw the pacing off in a few areas. Like I said previously, the pacing of the book is excellent overall. It keeps the reader interested and each chapter ends with the reader wanting to know what happens next because of the wonderfully crafted tension sewed throughout the narrative. But there were a few instances when the film reel clip art was inserted and it had only been a few moments since the last scene. I’m not sure why some scenes were broken up the way that they were, especially when the passage of time could have simply used a paragraph of narrative and done the same effect but in a less abrupt way.
I will say, though, that despite really enjoying how the book was paced, I almost didn’t read it at all. Initially when I started reading Departure from the Script, I was put off because of how Amanda referred to Michelle before she learned her name. The book is written in third person but from Amanda’s perspective; in the narrative, Amanda refers to Michelle as “the butch” or “butch” 45 times before learning Michelle’s name. As someone who loathes the act of blatantly labeling people based on how their outward appearance is perceived, it almost caused me to put the book back on the shelf. I’m glad I read past it, though; despite it putting me off at first, I began to realize that part of the plot was having our protagonists unlearn the inherent stereotypes that are ever present in the queer community:
“You hit the jackpot when you met Grandpa,” Amanda said. “But that doesn’t mean that I’ll be as lucky. Lately, all of my dates seem like the auditions I go to—I hope for the big relationship break, but all I get are short-lived bit roles.”
“That’s because you’re typecasting,” her grandmother said. (62)
The subplot of unlearning certain assumptions based on appearances did a lot for this book – it created tension, it showed palpable character development in Amanda, and it showed how unlearning those stereotypes opens you up to actually getting to know another person. It also showed that stereotyping others is often not a conscious decision but rather a subconscious one learned from social conditioning and listening to that inner subconscious voice and making assumptions about people based on their looks is often misleading and incorrect. Not only was it a lesson for our protagonists, it was a lesson for Jae’s readers as well. And who doesn’t love a book that subtly teaches its reader? I know I do!
Since I quoted her, I want to take a second and talk about the Grandmother (Josephine Mabry) in this book. She is hands down my favorite character, partially because she’s the best developed character, in my opinion, but also because she is a maternal figure who embraced her granddaughter’s gayness and took it upon herself to learn lesbian culture through consuming as much gay media as she could. There is even a running bit through the book that she watches The Ellen DeGeneres Show religiously. She is the reason the Amanda eventually agrees to call Michelle and part of the reason that Michelle is initially interested in Amanda. Josephine ties the two women together but also provides a solid, supportive character that grounds Amanda. Josephine is a kind yet protective grandmother and is a great example of a supportive adult in a queer persons’ life.
Having Josephine so flushed out made Amanda feel a little underdeveloped in comparison. For a substantial part of the of the book Amanda relies on her acting skills to get through uncomfortable moments and avoid actually dealing with her emotions. That started to get old after a while but once Amanda moved away from relying on acting after she started opening up more to Michelle and began unlearning stereotypes was when I began to like her. Amanda truly grew on me after a scene where she’s on a date with Michelle and the woman from her hellish date that opened the book calls her. She takes a mature stance and clearly articulates to the woman that she’s not interested instead of skirting around the issue or making up an elaborate lie to get her off of the phone. Seeing that character growth made me like her, but she was definitely one that had to grow on me.
Minor spoiler in the next paragraph.
Jae does a great job of subtly bringing reoccurring backstory throughout the book. We learn more about Amanda’s ex, Lizzy as well as the story of how a camel gave Amanda a scar on her shoulder this way – as little snippets sprinkled throughout the book. That is why one scene in particular was a little bit of a let down for me, as it felt like a missed opportunity to do something similar. While Amanda and Michelle are out on a date at an Italian restaurant, they have a run in with Lizzy. Minor spoiler alert – Lizzy happens to be a mutual ex of theirs. The fact that they share a mutual ex didn’t at all bother me—it definitely happens in the queer community. I did think that the scene was a missed opportunity, though, for the story. Once we find out that Michelle and Amanda have both slept with the same woman, it’s never mentioned again. It would have been interesting to have Amanda ponder on the fact that she and Michelle have slept with the same woman while on a break from filming because she knows what Lizzy liked in bed and what that may or may not mean for when she and Michelle finally become physical. It could have been another point of tension where she could wonder whether or not they’d be compatible in the bedroom, and that could have better led into a conversation about what turns each other on, which they have over the phone while Amanda is on set in Vegas.
Departure from the Scrip was overall a really fun read that makes the reader feel warm and fuzzy at the end. Jae does a fantastic job creating tension and continuously keeping the reader hooked on what will happen next, keeping the pages turning to see how the newest stage in Amanda’s acting career will prolong taking her budding relationship with a woman she’d never imagined herself with to bed. If you’re looking for a solid slice of life romance story with a Hollywood flare, I’d definitely recommend you go and pick it up.
4 out of 5 rainbows
Recommended Reader: Anyone looking for a cute, feel good women-loving-women romance. I’d also recommend this for teens to read, as it shows supportive adults, gay aunts actively being a part of their nieces’ and nephews’ lives, and shows how unlearning stereotypes opens you up to develop a relationships with someone.