Review: Finding Gene Kelly by Torie Jean

  • Title: Finding Gene Kelly
  • Author: Torie Jean
  • Publisher: Sunset and Camden Creative
  • Release Date: 9/20/22
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Rating: ★★★.5
  • Publisher’s Summary: When five-year-old Evie O’Shea married her next-door neighbor in the wedding of the century, she had no idea she was swearing an oath to love the man who would grow into the bane of her existence until the end of time. Or that in ten years time, she’d start a long and winding journey to an eventual endometriosis diagnosis. Now, aged twenty-six, Evie O’Shea lives in Paris, balancing precariously close to her Charlotte Lucas birthday. A burden to her parents, with no prospects and no money, Evie’s humdrum life needs a shake-up. Enter Liam Kelly, the man Evie married at the age of five and promptly divorced at seven when he had the audacity to throw a muddy football at her while she was reading Eloise in Paris. Clad in a Henley and equipped with toned forearms and eye crinkles that rival Gene Kelly himself, Evie is determined to keep her ultimate temptation at a distance while she flails wildly navigating life, love, and endometriosis on the banks of the Seine. But when a family announcement shakes up Evie’s world weeks before her brother’s wedding, Evie seeks Liam’s help to get through the wedding with some semblance of sanity intact. Her request? Fake date. Making a deal with the Devil always comes with a cost, though, and when Liam’s conditions which include elaborate backstories and practice dates, reignite passions her disease smothered long ago, Evie has to learn to fight for her dreams and break free from her life measured in ibuprofen pills and heating pad settings. Or else risk being alive but never truly living.

Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite movie, so Finding Gene Kelly had me intrigued from the title. I grew up watching Gene Kelly’s movies and definitely understand the draw of the classic movie musical lead. In the end, Evie and I both did find our own Kelly men. (Liam’s name is a little bit on the nose, I will say).

Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. I loved living vicariously through Evie’s descriptions of different parts of the city she visits throughout the novel. She even mentions a patisserie that my husband and I frequented when there on our honeymoon, which made me nostalgic.

I love the childhood friends to enemies” to lovers as much as the next person, and I did thoroughly enjoy reading Evie and Liam’s story. There was also a moment where the fake dating trope came into play, but that faded a little too quickly. I also couldn’t help but feel throughout the story that Liam felt maybe just a little too perfect. He always drops everything in a heartbeat to help Evie; he’s willing to sacrifice his professional dreams for his dad. Of course, he seems like a total catch. I’m just not sure anyone is that perfect.

Throughout the story, Evie repeatedly mentions feeling betrayed by Liam when he didn’t show up to be her date at a debutante ball . It is immediately clearly to the reader that the moment of betrayal stemmed from a misunderstanding, but Evie never gives Liam the chance to address it. I was frustrated that Liam wasn’t given the chance to tell his side of the story. Of course, the narrative required Evie to remain frustrated by him.

There is an irreverent tone to Finding Gene Kelly that not only is fun, but it also solidifies Evie’s voice as the narrator. There are mentions of popular memes; Evie makes jokes about her booty shorts that say “pizza” on the butt; and she describes a pole taking Liam “the fuck out.” It’s clear that the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it fun to read.

I’m glad Jean addressed Evie’s endometriosis diagnosis throughout the story and how it affects her daily life. It’s always important to bring stories like this forward to raise empathy and compassion for what others are going through. You never know who might be dealing with an extremely painful but invisible chronic illness.

As someone who spent many years living in New England, I loved all of the book’s nods to New England culture (including references to “Dunks,” of course). All of the mentions of Red Sox and Patriots gear on the characters also didn’t go unnoticed. New Englanders take their sports teams VERY seriously. Both Evie and Liam have very Irish last names too, which is also very Massachusetts. (My husband and I have definitely joked about naming our future child Liam Kelly as the most Irish name possible).

This Singin’ in the Rain loving human enjoyed Finding Gene Kelly, but it’s not one that’s going to really stick with me beyond my first reading.

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