The Comeback by Lily Chu follows Ariadne Hui as she falls for her friend’s cousin and unknowingly steps onto the world stage in the process, and the author is here to explain why celebrity romances are so alluring.
You might’ve heard Lily Chu’s name in association with her last book, The Stand-In, about a woman name Gracie Reed who has an uncanny resemblance to the movie star Wei Fangli. The actress asks Gracie if she’ll be her stand-in, whisking her away to a life of luxury and forbidden romance with the other half of Chinese cinema’s golden couple, Sam Yao.
Lily’s latest novel, The Comeback, stars Ariadne Hui, who is single-minded in her goal to make partner at Toronto’s most prestigious law firm. One night, she comes home to meet her roommate’s cousin, Choi Jihoon, who has arrived from Seoul to mend a broken heart. Jihoon is irresistible, but soon Ari uncovers a shocking truth—that he’s a K-pop idol—and finds herself at the scrutiny of the entire world.
In case you haven’t noticed, both The Stand-In and The Comeback deal in celebrity romance, so Lily Chu seems singularly equipped to talk about why this particular subset of the genre is so appealing to us. Find her essay below, followed by more information about The Comeback as well as the author herself.
The lure of celebrity romance
By Lily Chu
Picture this. You’re walking down the street, regular old you, with your favorite ball cap and comfy jeans. Maybe you’re holding a tote bag with a baguette like a fancy person. Maybe you’re eating ice cream. The point is, it’s just you being your normal, wonderful self.
Then, out of the blue, a familiar person walks by. Do you know them? Probably not, because you’d definitely remember someone who looked like that. But you know them, you’re sure of it. You look at them, and they look at you, and suddenly you realize that it’s an actor/singer/otherwise famous person.
Then the moment is over and they’re off doing famous person things as if you don’t even exist and you leave to finish your ice cream or get some Camembert for that baguette because why on Earth would a celebrity interested in you?* But part of you wonders, what if? What if they’d seen you. Really seen you? What would that be like?
To me, that is the lure of a celebrity romance.
Naturally, there are downsides to everything, and in real life, it would be terrible to have one’s privacy disappear, personal appearance be publicly scrutinized, and every action judged. While my books, The Stand-In (about a woman who acts as a double for a famous Chinese movie star at events) and The Comeback (featuring an ambitious lawyer who falls for a K-pop idol) both address that to some degree, here I want to focus on the fun stuff. The stuff I crave from a celebrity romance and makes them so addictive.**
Glitz and glamour. I don’t know about you, but the list of things I do not have includes: a huge house, domestic staff, designer clothes and a stylist, invitations to private events, a private jet, or a gym that smells of flowers instead of stale sweat. However, I can experience them through a celebrity romance, as our main characters waltz through a life made both exciting and easy with valet parking and concierge service. While wearing incredible shoes. Bliss.
Being wanted by someone the world wants. To capture a celebrity’s interest, solely by being yourself, is a charming thought. After all, this is someone with the means to hobnob with the most famous, talented, beautiful people in the world. Yet there’s something special about the love interest that they can’t find anywhere else. It’s very appealing.
Tapping a super attractive dude. Hear me out. I’m not talking about Chris Pine good looks, although most celebrity romances tend to feature traditionally visually hot people. But attractiveness isn’t always chiseled abs and broad shoulders. There are many swoon-worthy celebrities that gain attention because of their smile or talent or other unexplainable but charismatic quality. And in a celebrity romance, all that becomes yours.
The hope that your celebrity really does meet up to the standard in your mind. Too often, celebrities are put on very undeserved pedestals. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that it’s more than possible to be a fantastic singer or actor and a garbage human being. However, while a celebrity romance portrays a celebrity as a flawed person with realistic issues, they are fundamentally decent people who are willing to learn and grow. A good celebrity romance has a character arc for both main characters.
Seeing the secret man. This is my absolute favorite thing about a celebrity romance. I think we all recognize the difference between the public and private persona. In a celebrity romance, the trust and vulnerability that comes with lowering of protective emotional walls is a pivotal moment for both characters. From that point, they’re able to see and accept each other for who they are, and to grow together.
Celebrity romances are an easy way to live vicariously through others, and to cheer our characters on as they attend galas and relax in private pools. After all, a girl can dream before she has to go do the dishes.
*Hugest of huge notes here: For a PSA I’d like to say of course that fame doesn’t make any person inherently better, more valuable or more important than another. However, what fame does do is open doors to privilege and wealth that the vast majority of us will never experience.
**I write male/female romances and here I am using a male celebrity/female normal person as my examples. Feel free to change to your preferred hot celebrity gender!
About Lily Chu
Lily Chu loves ordering the second-cheapest wine, wearing perfume all the time, and staying up far too late with a good book. She writes romantic comedies set in Toronto with strong Asian characters.
The Stand-In, released through Audible, is performed by Phillipa Soo. It spent multiple weeks at number one in Audible Top Plus Listens in the All and the Romance categories, and was named one of the Best of 2021 by Audible. In print, The Stand-In was named Target’s Book Club Pick for May as well as an Amazon Book of the Month and Apple Best Books of May.
Her second book, The Comeback, is available as an Audible Original and was named one of Audible’s Best of 2022. It will be in print in May 2023.
About ‘The Comeback’ by Lily Chu
Ariadne Hui thrives on routine. So what if everything in her life is planned down to the minute: that’s the way she likes it. If she’s going to make partner in Toronto’s most prestigious law firm, she needs to stay focused at all times.
But when she comes home after yet another soul-sucking day to find an unfamiliar, gorgeous man camped out in her living room, focus is the last thing on her mind. Especially when her roommate explains this is Choi Jihoon, her cousin freshly arrived from Seoul to mend a broken heart. He just needs a few weeks to rest and heal; Ari will barely even know he’s there. (Yeah, right.)
Jihoon is kindness and chaos personified, and it isn’t long before she’s falling, hard. But when one wrong step leads to a shocking truth, Ari finds herself thrust onto the world stage: not as the competent, steely lawyer she’s fought so hard to become, but as the mystery woman on the arm of a man the entire world claims to know. Now with her heart, her future, and her sense of self on the line, Ari will have to cut through all the pretty lies to find the truth of her relationship…and discover the Ariadne Hui she’s finally ready to be.
‘The Comeback’ is on store shelves May 9, 2023
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