The Stand-In Audible Audiobook – Original recording
How to upend your life:
- Get fired by gross, handsy boss
- Fail to do laundry (again)
- Be mistaken for famous Chinese actress
- Fall head-first into glitzy new world
Gracie Reed is doing just fine. Sure, she was fired by her overly “friendly” boss, and yes, she still hasn’t gotten her mother into the nursing home of their dreams, but she’s healthy, she’s (somewhat) happy, and she’s (mostly) holding it all together.
But when a mysterious SUV pulls up beside her, revealing Chinese cinema's golden couple Wei Fangli and Sam Yao, Gracie’s world is turned on its head. The famous actress has a proposition: Due to their uncanny resemblance, Fangli wants Gracie to be her stand-in. The catch? Gracie will have to be escorted by Sam, the most attractive - and infuriating - man Gracie’s ever met.
If it means getting the money she needs for her mother, Gracie’s in. Soon Gracie moves into a world of luxury she never knew existed. But resisting Sam, and playing the role of an elegant movie star, proves more difficult than she ever imagined - especially when she learns the real reason Fangli so desperately needs her help. In the end, all the lists in the world won’t be able to help Gracie keep up this elaborate ruse without losing herself...and her heart.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 55 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 15, 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #48,107 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#839 in Romantic Comedy (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,671 in Contemporary Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#11,914 in Romantic Comedy (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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Gracie Reed’s life is a bit of a mess. Between avoiding her skeezy boss, getting her beloved mother into a nicer nursing home, and finding the perfect planner to keep track of the many lists swimming around in her head, she’s struggling to keep her head above water. But an incredible opportunity arises when she is randomly approached by Chinese cinema’s golden girl, Wei Fangli, who pleads with look-alike Gracie to act as her stand-in, pretending to be her at a series of social events while she is working in town. Desperate Fangli offers Gracie an obscene amount of money for the job, and it seems like the answers to all of her problems… except that Fangli’s best friend, fellow actor, rumoured love interest, and sexiest man alive, Sam Yao, hates the idea - and, it seems, Gracie by extension. And he’ll be the one escorting her to glitzy events around town. It’s such a fun set-up, and I was so excited to see how it would all play out!
I love Gracie! She’s flawed, awkward and kinda graceless, and she’s so relatable! Watching her enter the completely foreign world of wealth, privilege and celebrity is so funny. And watching her do it while snarking and bantering with a very standoffish Sam is even better! Their dynamic is so much fun, and the chemistry that very clearly brews between them is awesome to watch.
As Gracie grows more comfortable in her role, she gets to know Fangli, and their friendship is just gorgeous. It soon becomes clear that even though it looks like somebody so beautiful and talented is living a fairytale, the reality is far from that. It’s emotional, and so beautifully written, and I loved the care that was taken with Fangli’s story, and her growing relationship with Gracie.
And, of course, Gracie spends a whole lot of time with Sam. He’s such a great character – again, so very real and his shift in attitude throughout the book is natural and so well written. Their friendship is slower developing, but Gracie’s honesty, wit and openness win him over, and we get this beautifully slow-burning enemies-friends-lovers story that completely swept me up. It’s so sweet, with so much heart, and that sense of fun and snark between Gracie and Sam builds into a fun, banter-filled romance that is an absolute delight to read.
There are multiple storylines running throughout the book, and they all blend together perfectly to create a clever, fun, dramatic, funny and heartfelt story that I couldn’t get enough of. There are twists and turns that kept me on my toes, I laughed out loud so many times, and I loved watching Gracie navigate her new world, new relationships, and all of the subsequent changes in her life.
I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Phillipa Soo, and she does an incredible job with it! She brings Gracie to life with so much heart and relatability, and this story was a joy to listen to. Though I’ll have to reread it again once it comes out on kindle, because there were so many times I wish I could highlight what I was reading – the dialogue, and Gracie’s inner monologue, are just gold.
The main reason Gracie has told herself, before her illegal firing, that she has had no choice but to hold onto her horrible job is that her mother has Alzheimer's. Gracie does not have to pay anything for her care, because Canada provides state-funded residential care for its mentally and physically incapacitated citizens. But, as far as Gracie is concerned, that’s not good enough, because the government only pays for a double room, and Gracie believes that her mother deserves and needs a single room—even though the vast majority of the time she is not lucid enough to notice her surroundings, including recognizing Gracie herself. Gracie has put her mother on the waiting list to move to a fancy, private, residential facility, which she has zero means to pay for. However, she entertains a vague hope that money will somehow fall out of the sky to pay the facility’s exorbitant fees by the time her mother’s name rises to the top of the waiting list.
Then, lo and behold! Money actually does magically manifest—$100,000 of it. One day while walking down the street, a mysterious SUV with tinted windows pulls up beside her, revealing the internationally famous stars of Chinese TV and cinema, exquisitely beautiful Wei Fangli and heart-stoppingly handsome Sam Yao. Due to Gracie’s identical-twin-like resemblance to Fangli, the burned-out actress believes that Gracie is her own personal miracle, as well. She pleads with Gracie to serve as her stand-in for a series of publicity events which are scheduled during her stay in Toronto while she is appearing with Sam in a play. If Gracie does this for her, it will permit Fangli to have some vitally important down time to rest and decompress when not performing in the play. The problem is, 30-year-old Sam is very protective of Fangli, with whom he has been best friends since childhood. He automatically assumes, with no evidence—since Fangli has approached Gracie, not the other way around—that the very fact that Gracie might even consider this fantastically profitable offer means she must be an opportunistic user.
I experienced this novel as an audiobook narrated by the talented actor, Phillipa Soo. While her portrayal of the various male and female voices and accents is excellent, the problem with this novel in audiobook format is that it goes by at about one-third the rate it would take one to read it to oneself. It is a major test of the quality of a novel if it can stand up to that kind of close scrutiny. For me, there are multiple plot issues that, sadly, impaired my enjoyment:
1. It is awfully convenient that Gracie’s utterly unaffordable desire to offer her mother the best of the best in residential care is magically bankrolled by a huge payout of $100,000 for being a stand-in for a rich actress.
2. It is poorly motivated that Gracie is consistently frozen and voiceless with her horrible boss, even on the day when she is fired and has nothing to lose, but does not hesitate to go toe-to-toe endlessly with Sam, who is merely distrustfully abrasive, rather than cruelly, sexually abusive—and might potentially stand in the way of her earning $100,000 she wants so badly for her mother’s care.
3. Given the fact that Gracie is clearly beautiful, since she is a clone for one of the most gorgeous women in the world, it is rather strange that she has no confidence at all about her looks.
4. This book is extremely redundant. There is scene after scene with the same type of events: Gracie showering, putting on makeup, fixing her hair and picking out and dressing up in designer clothing and accessories. Gracie going to various publicity events. Gracie fighting with Sam. Gracie studying Chinese (since her mother did not speak it with her growing up). Gracie working on her time-management app. After a while I started fast-forwarding over these repetitious scenes just to get to the relatively sparse scenes which advance the romance plot, since this book is billed as a romance.
5. The romance itself takes up what felt like, to me at least, only about 33% of the book, to the point that it becomes a subplot, not the main focus of the book that it is advertised by the publisher to be. The relationship itself is exceedingly slow burn, with very little chemistry or passion between Gracie and Sam throughout the book, and the sole sex scene very late in the book is offstage. Some readers may not mind that authorial choice. And, actually, I myself wouldn’t myself mind it nearly as much if there were more on-stage focus on the romance and more chemistry between Gracie and Sam overall.
6. Unlike modern romance fiction—but very typical for chick lit—this book is written in the first-person point of view only of the heroine, Gracie, so we never truly get to know her romantic partner, Sam. If this book were advertised as chick lit, in which the focus is on a twenty-something heroine in a big city, with a great deal of time spent on the heroine’s clothing and makeup, frequent instances of heavy drinking, lots of scenes emphasizing the far greater significance to women of female relationships rather than seeking out romance with men, and the centrality of the heroine's developing much needed backbone and self esteem in a misogynistic society, it would have been a much more accurate and honest categorizing of this book. In that manner, potential readers who do not normally enjoy chick lit (such as myself), could make a clear-eyed decision about whether they want to read this particular chick-lit novel.
Overall, as a romance novel, I would only rate this book as 3 stars, at most. As chick lit, many who enjoy that genre would probably rate it as 4 stars. However, since this book is advertised as romance, I am rating it as a 3-star romance.