Ever since reading “The Girl with the Stars in Her Eyes” I’ve been waiting for a new release from Axelrod, and behold! She is here and she is stunning! “Love on the Byline” follows former college classmates and secret crushes as they reconnect five years later. Now, Blake is a cub reporter at a gossip magazine that she hates, and Oliver is the best friend turned personal assistant to her latest celebrity assignment: the arrogant Brandon Cody, who, on first appearances, doesn’t look like he’s changed much from when she last saw him. But, much like Axelrod’s previous release, our main cast of characters are filled with a surprising amount of depth, accomplish huge growth amidst interpersonal mysteries and secrets, oh, and have palpable tension and steamy encounters, all packed into a very smooth contemporary romance. Seriously, Axelrod is quickly becoming one of my auto-buy authors!
I’m always a sucker for friends-to-lovers and Axelrod does that so, so well. But what I loved about our MMC is just how soft he is. Oliver is kind of shy and a bit demisexual; it makes him a wonderful contrast to his best friend who is a super confident actor who delights in the casual fling. Oliver is sensitive, a writer who cares deeply for people and may be too much of a people-pleaser for his own good. His growth in this novel was one of my favorite things to witness. He and Brandon have a wonderfully complex and deep friendship but it is almost toxic in its codependency, and watching Oliver and Brandon come to terms with that and both grow from it was wonderful, and not something you see a lot when it comes to the male characters in a romance. So pitting the self-depreciating Oliver with the confident, nothing-will-stop-me-from-reaching-my-goals Blake was such a delicious pairing! The characters aren’t really opposites, for they had so much in common that neither had the chance to explore in college, so watching them reconnect helped give this novel smooth pacing throughout.
My only, minor, complaint about the story centers around some of the subplots. Blake’s side project was fascinating but got wrapped up, I felt, a bit too cleanly and was a bit unsatisfying of an “end” to me, but then again, I love true crime mysteries so that’s totally just a me issue. Hopefully the drama with Diamond Moon makes an appearance in later books in this series! It also takes Blake and Oliver awhile to get to that point where the tension between them is just too much to handle. I didn’t mind it but I know some romance readers may get frustrated if they don’t know that going into this book. But, all-in-all, I vastly enjoyed this story! And not just because Blake and I share a city and also a degree, either. Axelrod touches on so many topics outside of just the “when will these two get together?” story line that just tick so many boxes for me. Like the unique take of “the casting couch” we get in this story, so just be aware if that’s triggering, but I loved that it was included in order to make such a well-rounded story. So, of course, this is another 5 star read for me and I can’t wait for even more books by this author! And thanks to Milk & Cookies marketing for the eARC for an honest review.
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