Review: This Is Real by Barbara Elsbourg

Rating: 3.75🌈

I like Barbara Elsborg, so I didn’t want to pass up her latest holiday romance, This Is Real.

A contemporary romance, it’s got a late coming out element, a snarky Englishman, a closeted American actor and a holiday movie set that brings them together.

I found it entertaining and sweet with characters that engaged me with their different backgrounds . Pasts that included aspects to their histories that were painful and believably difficult so they felt realistic .

Murdo Jenkins is a maths lecturer at Harvard. He’s got a vacation booked to see his bestie who’s also an Assistant Producer on a holiday film. He’s English with a painful history as an orphan whose adolescence was one of torment and neglect. Christmas is not his thing for reasons that will be revealed.

I liked the character of Murdo, feisty and highly intelligent. He had a welcome depth and interest to his personality that kept me involved in his life.

Lukas Olsen, actor and deeply closeted gay man, was a bit harder to get into. Not that he wasn’t understandable but at first I simply didn’t like his character. That changes as the story progresses and we get more of the background that made him into the man he’s become.

Their relationship and developing romance is fun, the dialogue is lively, personable and charming. It pulls us into their lives with a warm immediacy. The pitfalls to trying anything with a closeted partner is out front in both men’s minds. It won’t work.

Obviously the obstacles and drama will occur to change that. It happens towards the end of the story and I suppose that’s where my issues set in.

I realize this and others like it are holiday stories. That they come with a certain amount of glow and holiday spirit that sometimes glosses over some of life’s harsher realities.

But maybe it’s a bit of the Scrooge in me that thinks a holiday spirit shouldn’t be the panacea for all the things the bad people do or troublesome events that occur in these stories. That there’s another way to work through these elements realistically without having to do the whole “ let’s forgive the incredibly stupid or highly irresponsible/illegal acts that happened “ in order to have that golden moment(s) at the end.

Spoiler Alert. If someone in a position of authority takes advantage of a severely wounded person to then use that to a monetary advantage to potentially inflict great emotional harm as well as huge damage in other avenues? Then it’s , aww , it’s the holidays, and his excuse, well , doesn’t hold water either. So no, please stop with this type of narrative nonsense. Just because it’s a holiday story doesn’t excuse this behavior. Let’s be real.

So you had me almost to the end. I liked the epilogue. It’s just that bit towards the end. Eliminate that or change how it’s handled, and my overall opinion would be different.

Maybe you will find that aspect not as off putting as I do and will love this.

I will leave it up to you. I did enjoy the majority of the story.

Goodreads › showThis Is Real by Barbara Elsborg


A snarky English nerd. A hot American actor. When Christmas brings them together, they have more in common than they know…

Murdo doesn’t do Christmas, but this year, he’s looking forward to spending time with an old friend. Elodie’s working on a film starring Murdo’s Biggest Crush, the gorgeous Lukas Olsen. When Elodie asks him to give Lukas a lift from Logan International, Murdo can’t believe his luck. Lukas might be straight, but ogling’s acceptable—right?
Lukas arrives at the airport to find a gaggle of fans but no driver waiting and when he does turn up, the snarky Englishman can’t even remember where he’s parked. When they finally reach their destination, Lukas tries to tip him and Murdo makes his current opinion of Lukas very clear. His crush is over.

Things move from bad to worse when Murdo tells the director that Lukas’s English accent isn’t authentic. But a pang of guilt, and maybe a remnant of lust, has Murdo offering to give dialect lessons to a resentful Lukas. Only once they’re in Lukas’s house, annoyance turns into something far more dangerous, because Lukas isn’t out and never will be. He has too much to lose: career, fans, family and friends.

Yet something about Murdo makes Lukas want to risk it all…

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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