To the Moon and Back by Melissa Brayden is a celebrity romance focused on the theatre world.

Carly Daniel may have been a leading lady in Hollywood, but partying and entitlement issues on set have made it hard for her to keep getting work. When a director wants her to co-star in a play at a highly regarded theatre in Minneapolis, Carly heads off for a new adventure. Hopefully her first time on stage will get her career back on track.

Acting had been Lauren Prescott’s childhood dream, but when a bunch of auditions didn’t pan out, she’d found a fulfilling career that kept her close to the stage instead. Now, Lauren is the best stage manager at The McAllister Theater because her warm personality and top-notch organizational skills can fix any problem. Lauren knows Carly will be a massive challenge, and she’s proven right when the starlet is perpetually late and doesn’t seem to take things seriously (even if she has the best smile).

A chemistry problem between Carly and her leading lady, Evelyn, is solved by replacing Evelyn with Lauren. Because Carly and Lauren? Have no shortage of chemistry. And now that Lauren isn’t the stage manager, there’s no reason not to explore it…

The Characters

Lauren and Carly each have their own journeys in this book and both are equally satisfying.

Carly, though charming and determined to get her shit together, is thoughtless and self-centred. She takes a hard look at herself after her best friend points it out, recognizing that she needs to change if she wants to continue to work as an actor. Her ability to think about others gets challenged even more when she’s with Lauren and I appreciated seeing her work at herself.

Lauren’s journey is more around accepting that she IS good enough as an actress. Having so many rejections when she was young clearly hurt her in the self-confidence department—at least, with regards to her acting ability, since she’s beyond capable as a stage manager. If competence porn is your thing, you’re going to love Lauren, because she’s good at pretty much anything. Also, I loved seeing her reconcile what she’d always thought she wanted with what she actually enjoys, because that can be a real thing when people attain their dreams.

The Writing Style

This is a very easy book to get into and I’m blaming it for the very late night I had last night. I couldn’t put it down once I got into the last third.

The Narration

I’m so glad Melissa Sternenberg is the narrator for this, because she really is the perfect fit for Brayden’s stories. Her energy makes every word sing and I enjoyed the audiobook even more than the ebook.

The Pros

There’s a lot to love about To the Moon and Back. Great characters, snappy dialogue, palpable chemistry, and so much great kissing. Also a pug named Rocky IV!

The Cons

The book was predictable at points, especially around the conflict (although I was happy with how it resolved).

My other issue is that there’s a moment in the book where Lauren says “[…] I’m human, and I saw the dollar signs and leaped. I could use that cash, and now I’m an official whore in stage manager’s clothing, and you should feel free to call me such.” This really rubbed me the wrong way because not only is she cracking a joke about sex workers, she’s inviting her friend to join her too. I’ll spare you all the rant that ran through my head, and instead share a plea to everyone creating things: let’s finally stop making jokes at the expense of sex workers.

The Conclusion

Melissa Brayden’s first book took place in the theatre world and it’s great to return there with To the Moon and Back. I enjoyed my time with these characters, their heartbreaks and triumphs. It may not have unseated Beautiful Dreamer and Kiss the Girl as my favourites, but I had a fun time reading it. If you’re looking for a book to sink into and hide away from the world, this would be a solid choice.

Excerpt from To the Moon and Back by Melissa Brayden

Good God. That stage manager, Lauren, didn’t mess around. That’s what Carly had come to understand in just the few days she’d known her. When she’d arrived for their third rehearsal six minutes late, only six minutes, Lauren had pulled her aside and felt the need to point that out, too. How important were six minutes in the scheme of life? That was actually a great step in the right direction. Why had Lauren not noticed that? The progress. The day before she’d been twelve.

“We need to talk about your tardiness,” Lauren had said calmly to Carly during a quiet moment the day after that. “This is the third time in three days. It’s eating into our rehearsal time, and I need you to make more of an effort to be here before we begin. Shoot for fifteen minutes early, maybe? And if there’s anything I can do to help the process, please tell me. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Are you offering to wake me up in the morning, Lauren?” She’d said it playfully, because let’s be honest, Lauren was really cute, a little too serious, and Carly was a harmless flirt. The comment fell flat. Ouch. Not that kind of environment, apparently. A shame, too. Lauren was probably very straight, and likely taken. She was a looker with all that thick brown hair paired with a really pretty pair of green eyes, or were they hazel? No, definitely green.

Lauren blinked patiently. “If that’s what you need, I will happily be your wake-up call. I’m serious about making sure we’re able to begin on time each day.”

For the love of a good martini! She’d been only six minutes late. Since when did that constitute a crisis? Their play would still come together. In fact, she’d been impressed with herself lately when it came to focus and responsibility. She’d been hours late for film shoots and heard less about it. People tended to give you whatever you wanted when your name was on the poster. The theater world, she was finding, was way less forgiving and uptight as hell. She swallowed her reaction, however, remembering Alika’s advice to be good.

“Got it, coach. I’ll work on punching the clock more to your liking, so you don’t have to worry about me so much. I mean, unless you want to.”

Lauren smiled. If the coach nickname had rubbed her wrong, Carly never would have known. Lauren-the-organized-beauty was a puzzle, never giving away too much of what she was feeling. It made Carly want to find out and unwrap that mystery one piece at a time. There was a real girl underneath all of the business, and maybe one day, she’d get to meet her.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781635556186
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Narrator: Melissa Sternenberg
  • Melissa Brayden Online 

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Note: I received a free review copy of To the Moon and Back by Melissa Brayden. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site.

About the author

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Tara Scott lives in Calgary, Canada with her family. If you don't find her with her Kindle in her hand, she's probably busy talking about what she's currently reading.