PLUS ONE - by Vanessa Raphaely

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Published: September 2018 - Pan Macmillan.
Genres: Adult / contemporary / thriller
Pages: 382.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendos / strong, infrequent bad language / scenes of sexual assault / strong themes of rape.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

As deputy editor of the glamorous FILLE magazine in London, Lisa Lassiter had almost passed up the chance of a weekend on a billionaire’s yacht off the coast of Mykonos. But her best friend Claudia Hemmingway, on her way to becoming one of the hottest movie stars on the planet, could be very persuasive when she wanted something. Not only would they get there by private jet, she’d told Lisa, they would also get to rub shoulders with VIP guests – not least a famous Hollywood film producer. It would be a weekend of fun, sunshine, champagne and partying. And it was all of those things. Until it wasn’t.

Lisa has spent ten years trying to get past that weekend. If she has learnt anything, it is that unfinished business and secrets always work their way to the surface. Moving on is one thing; forgetting is another, and forgiving … well, where to start?

Raphaely's writing is hypnotic and perceptive. Aside from a few unnecessarily long sentences and awkward phrasing (these are the exception), it's intensely readable, and the dialogue is excellent as well. I also love how un-melodramatic the writing is; there's enough drama to keep things spicy, but it's not laid-on too thick. 

The story flows effortlessly. I fell head first into the glitz and grit and seduction and shame of the electrifying world Lisa lives in, and was entertained from start to finish. The plot, in one word, is: entertaining. It's so fascinating and juicy, pumped full of secrets and scandals and betrayals. It isn't nice, but it captures you for a wild ride.
My only disappointment with the story is how the thriller aspect is handled. The mystery isn't as tight or well developed as it could have been, and the plot's pacing does not fit for a thriller. There's suspense, but it's not strong enough. It doesn't carry the story with the plot following one main point with every other aspect and scene pointing to it; that's characteristic of a thriller, and since this book isn't focused in one direction, it weakens the suspense. To be a powerful thriller it needs every single scene to contribute towards the mystery. This novel doesn't do that.

Anyone who has ever watched a movie, ironically, will have a basic understanding of how the Hollywood casting couch works. The ambitious, desperate wannabe does whatever is demanded of her for the chance to get her foot through the door.
And yet I've always assumed that the woman would have to be coerced into the act.

I didn't appreciate how the book ended. I can't say much without giving spoilers, so my non-specific explanation is that the final twist - although wonderfully shocking - leaves more questions than answers. The author completely switches themes, and as a result opens a can of worms.  Throughout the book she's examining this theme of female abuse by men of power in Hollywood, but the final twist turns everything on its head and brings up a totally new theme, which demands to be examined, too. If that had been brought up anywhere but the final page, then it could have been handled, but as a cliffhanger it's not adequate. It's misplaced, which makes it jarring and insufficient.

Lisa is a brilliant character. I love how her past is subtly revealed throughout the story, and how dynamic her relationships are with the people around her. The theme of friendship is explored deeply, which I also enjoyed, and it helps that the chemistry between the cast is so strong. I also totally shipped Liam and Lisa......the sexual tension between them is fantastic.

Plus One is a glamorous yet gritty look into the lives of Hollywood's elite and those who surround them. It raises serious themes, and delivers non-stop entertainment. I only wish the ending hadn't undone everything before it.