I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Dating Game by Sandy Barker. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .
Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.
When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.
The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . .
Even if I had never read a previous book by Sandy Barker and she hadn’t become one of my favourite romcom authors of recent years, I would have wanted to pick up a copy of The Dating Game, just based on the premise of the book alone. I’m not a devotee of reality TV shows as such, except the annual car crash that is Love Island, but the idea of a book set behind the scenes in that world was too delicious to pass on.
So, I was frothing with anticipation when I started this book, but I have to say this book exceeded even my extremely high expectations. This book is absolutely perfect in every single way and I can remember when I last enjoyed a romcom as much as this one. I devoured it in what was basically a single sitting, interrupted only when I physically could not stay awake a moment longer and I dropped my Kindle on the floor as I fell asleep, and revelled in every single moment.
Even if you have never seen a single episode of The Batchelor, (the reality show that The Stag of the book is clearly based on), you will immediately be drawn into the ridiculously fake world of so-called ‘reality tv’ which is about as far from reality as you can get and the whole scenario is scripted to play out for maximum drama and ratings. This book explores in great detail and with excoriating commentary the ludicrous notion of trying to make real people behave in a scripted way to make other people watching it believe that it is all true. When you step back and look at it, the absurdity is clear and the author plays this to the max in the book.
The main character, Abby, is very likeable and carried the story, and the reader, easily, but the person I really loved is her wicked alter ego, Anastasia Blabbergasted, an online commentator on reality TV. This woman is a total goddess with the wickedest wit and the fastest mouth in the west and her recaps on the episodes of The Stag were my favourite parts of the book and had me laughing out loud every time. In fact, Sandy could make an absolute fortune on any reality TV show doing the commentary, if Ian Bentley retires and TV companies weren’t overly worried about being sued. I’ve set myself a reminder to check out Sandy’s Twitter feed next time an reality TV show comes on. I wonder what she could come up with for the new series of Bake Off that starts on Tuesday.
There is a romance involved in the book, with the geeky but cute Jack, but for me this was a secondary plot concern compared with Abby’s dilemmas of pretending to be two things she isn’t, her struggles over her friendships in the programme with the part she is forced to play in the show, and the blurring of fiction and fact in reality TV-land. There is so much to unpack and enjoy in this book that the pages fairly flew by and it was obver well before I was ready for it to be, I was enjoying the story so much.
As I said early on, I am a massive fan of Sandy’s writing but these is by far and away my favourite of her novels yet. A big, fat five stars from me and I urge you all to go out and buy it immediately if you are looking to be amused and entertained.
The Dating Game is out now in ebook format (currently 99p!) and will be published in paperback on 9 December. You can get your copy here.
Please do check out some of the reviews of the book by the many other excellent bloggers taking part in the tour. You can find them listed below:
About the Author
Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.
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