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Nora Goes Off Script

Review

Nora Goes Off Script

If you’re someone who secretly (or not so secretly) binge-watches the kind of feel-good movies that air on Hallmark Channel, you’re sure to encounter more than one laugh-out-loud moment in Annabel Monaghan’s adult fiction debut, NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT.

Monaghan’s titular heroine has made a name for herself by cranking out connect-the-dots screenplays for the fictional Romance Channel. As Nora Hamilton puts it, “My superpower is methodically placing a man and woman in the same shiny town, populated by unusually happy people with maddeningly small problems. They bristle at first and then fall in love. It’s all smiles until one of them leaves, but then comes back immediately after the commercial break. Every. Single. Time.”

"If you’re someone who secretly (or not so secretly) binge-watches the kind of feel-good movies that air on Hallmark Channel, you’re sure to encounter more than one laugh-out-loud moment in Annabel Monaghan’s adult fiction debut, NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT."

Nora herself lives in upstate New York, in one of those small towns that feels almost too quaint to be real. She resides in a picturesque but ramshackle old house, complete with a picture-perfect “tea house” that she has converted into a writing studio. Now, in the wake of her overdue divorce from her narcissistic ex-husband Ben, Nora has been struggling even more than usual to keep up repairs on the old place. Fortunately, one of her scripts has been picked up unexpectedly for a feature film release. This one is based on her own failed marriage. Despite how painful it might be to see that story play out on the big screen, the Hollywood-sized paycheck will come in handy, and it’s undeniably exciting to have the movie’s co-stars film on location at her home.

When they arrive, Nora (and every other straight woman in the vicinity) is instantly attracted to leading man Leo Vance. Despite the fact that he’s playing Nora’s ex in this fictionalized version of her life, Nora finds herself drawn to him --- especially when he winds up parking his trailer on her property during filming and immediately establishes a generous, caring rapport not only with Nora but also with her two children, both of whom are still grieving the end of their parents’ marriage in their own ways.

After filming wraps, Leo surprises everyone by asking if he can continue staying at Nora’s place, renting her tea house for a few days (at a seemingly outrageous rate of $1,000 per day) while he spends some time unplugging from his regular life. Almost immediately, Leo is making himself part of Nora’s small-town life, endearing himself to her children and even offering to help co-direct the school production of the musical “Oliver.” Nora feels like she has fallen inside one of her own sparkly screenplays as Leo seems genuinely smitten with her too. But when he is called back to Hollywood and then disappears without a trace, does it prove that, like made-for-TV movies, their love affair was too good to be true?

Monaghan previously has written YA fiction and a collection of humorous essays for adults. Her new novel is definitely funny, too --- full of Nora’s self-deprecating observations and snappy dialogue. Some readers may grow impatient with the circumstances that precipitate the story’s central crisis, and they may be frustrated by the lack of Leo’s perspective, which at times renders him fairly opaque. But (without giving away too much) that air of inscrutability is kind of essential to the plot.

At the end of the day, although she might be a romance writer first and foremost, NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT is, at its heart, about Nora’s ability to trust and value herself.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 17, 2022

Nora Goes Off Script
by Annabel Monaghan

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0593420039
  • ISBN-13: 9780593420034