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Beyond the Bright Lights (Book 1 of 2: The Off the Script Series)

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Written By Settle Myer. Narrated by Avery Hackstedde and Deena Ingley

Tropes: Age Gap, Plus Size MFC, Emotional Scars, Redemption, 3rd Act Break Up, Break Up to Save Her

Relationship: MF

Kinks: Spanking, light D/s

Content warnings:

Graphic, or prolonged:

Major, on page: Grief, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse of a child and spouse

Minor, mentioned: Miscarriage, infertility, sexual assault, the death of a loved one, terminal illness, suicidal thoughts, depression, fatphobia, and homophobia.

Story: 4/5

Sex: 3.5/5

Narration: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Narrators: This was a duet narration. One voice actor handles the female lead and side characters, and one handles the male lead and side characters, even during the opposite character’s chapters. So, in Mylan’s chapters, when Lana is speaking, Ingley’s voice breaks in, and vice versa.

If there’s going to be more than one narrator in a book, I prefer duet-style narrations. With duel-style narrations, I find one character speaking in different voices jarring.

The voice actors did great. The characters’ voices were distinct enough that I knew who was speaking at all times, even when I kicked it up to 2.5 x speed. (Yes, I know it’s considered a sin among some of you, but I’m a busy guy with an ADHD brain.)

Story: What drew me to this book was seeing the author’s TikTok about shooting the cover for the second book in the series. Myer has plus-size characters, so if she wants real people on the covers, she’s not likely to find what she wants on stock photo sites. (The struggle is real. Unless you plan on writing a book about weight loss, they’re probably not going to have what you need.) When I found the first book had an audiobook, and read the premise, I snatched it up almost immediately.

Lana Young lost her high school sweetheart and fiancé to cancer when they were in college. Because he was such a stand-up guy and started a charity in his final days, his sister eventually wrote a book. The book is now getting turned into a movie after years in development hell. Myler Andrews, a troubled actor fresh off a stint in rehab, will play her dead fiancé. To get into character, he’s going to talk to her and eventually get into her pants.

Getting horizontal with her wasn’t the original plan, but if you’re reading a book like this, you know where this is heading.

I might have DNF this one quickly if not for the compelling premise. At first, I didn’t care for Mylan. I’m of a more eat-the-rich variety, so wealthy playboy characters aren’t my jam.

By the time he steals the first kiss, he’d yet to win me over. While she had some positive feelings about the experience, there’s some mixed signals stuff I was a little meh about. But as the story progressed, Mylan works through some of his issues and there’s a lot of chemistry between the leads.

She, of course, has feelings about that. She’s working through her own issues. It’s been a while since her fiancé died, but stuff keeps opening up old wounds. First, she was helming the charity he set up. Then years later, the book comes out, and she gets dragged through it again. Now, they’re making a movie and it’s another round of emotional damage.

What I liked about the plus-size rep in this one is that it avoided two conventions that crop up often.

The journey for self-acceptance can be a long one and there’s value in those stories. But when that acceptance hinges on the outside validation from the love interest, it doesn’t do it for me most of the time. But Lana is so over that shit. She mentions her journey getting there and deals with some comparisons to her younger self, but she’s confident in who she is. She was a little reluctant to ride him, but soon got over it.

And thankfully she avoids the more irksome trope of disparaging other women with phrases like “those bitches don’t eat pasta.” She doesn’t spend a lot of time comparing herself to other women. So that was nice.

The story touches on a lot of difficult topics but doesn’t dwell on them in ways that make it feel like trauma porn. The entire premise requires grief to be a central theme, but it does so in a way that makes it feel less like angst for angst’s sake and more like character development.

Myer portrayed most of Mylan's past traumas in oblique references, and even the one that gets a bit more detail wasn’t deep enough to set off my PTSD, especially since the books content warnings were easy to find and I knew what to expect. (Your milage may vary. Proceed with caution.)

The sex scenes were good, though a little brief at times. Granted, I was listening to it sped up while doing housework. There was a lot of focus on her pleasure, and they explore some light kink.

If age gap and plus-size characters are your jam and the tough topics the story dips into aren’t an instant no for you, I’d recommend this book. Great narration for complicated characters. The premise pulled me in, and the story was well paced. The characters were given enough time to breathe without dragging out the emotional torture.

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