The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

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The Seat Filler

by Sariah Wilson
April 27, 2021 · Montlake Romance
Contemporary Romance

After I finished reading The Seat Filler I had two important questions: 1. WTF did I just read and 2. Is Adam Driver ok?

The Seat Filler turned out to be a self-insert RPF (real people fiction) about actor Adam Driver and it had the most ridiculous conflict ever. It had moments where it was genuinely cute, but I couldn’t get over the squickiness of the RPF angle or the fact that the conflict could easily have been resolved a thousand other ways.

Let me set the scene for you. It’s like 3 a.m. and we have a bunch of thunderstorms rolling in and my cat, Chips, who was a bottle baby I raised after he was found in a thunderstorm separated from his mama, is not having a good night. With typical bottle-baby codependency, he has to sleep draped across my neck or half on my face. So I’m not going to be sleeping. I open up The Seat Filler because I love celebrity romance and I’m excited for this one.

Also if you were all like,

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Here’s Chips:

So anyway, the book starts off just fine. Juliet Nolan is working as a seat filler at an awards show. Seat fillers are volunteers who get dressed up and if a guest is late or needs to use the bathroom or something, temporarily take their seat so when the camera pans over the audience it’s full.

She’s sitting next to movie star Noah Douglas, an actor she’s had a huge crush on for years, but he comes across like a pompous jerk and she pretends to not know who he is or even be remotely impressed by him.

There’s some genuine rom-com silliness when Noah’s date shows up and Juliet can’t get out of the aisle before they’re live again and winds up sitting squished down by his feet.

“The number one rule is I either have to be in a seat or backstage when the lights come on, and obviously I can’t do either one of those things right now. So I’m …here. Until the next commercial break.”

“Which makes you …what? Schrödinger’s seat filler?”

When Juliet finally gets backstage she tells her friend Shelby (also working as a seat filler) that she met Noah Douglas and says:

“And I think I might have completely freaked him out. Like a sewer clown with a red balloon.”

That got a genuine LOL out of me, which isn’t easy when you’re being smothered by a tabby with anxiety.

So initially, I’m enjoying the book. Shelby makes Juliet give Noah her business card for her mobile dog grooming service because networking and later she gets a call because he has a dog grooming emergency.

I’m reading along and you know how sometimes you get the general idea of an actor that may have been used as inspiration for a book? Sometimes it’s not based on an actual actor but the type of character they tend to play. So a lovable himbo might be Chris Hemsworth- or Channing Tatum-esque.

That’s not the case here. As I’m reading we find out Noah starred in a trilogy of movies and that his character was a bad guy but love redeemed him at the end, but the character died and some fans were upset. That, plus his physical description, made me think, “I’m getting Adam Driver feels here.”

Then…then…then as we got a little further along and Juliet and Noah became friends it was like I was reading parts of Driver’s bio in the book.

Noah joined the Marines but couldn’t deploy because of an injury.

Noah runs a foundation for injured veterans.

The series he starred in could be named Smar Swars except in the book it’s fantasy instead of sci-fi, though his character is essentially the same.

He has all the same physical characteristics as Adam Driver.

I’m all,

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Adam Driver is an actual person and while I know RPF exists on the interwebs, it’s always felt intrusive and gross to me.

And if you think I’m overreaching, the acknowledgments not only thank Adam Driver himself, but also Julliard, HIS PARENTS  and the US Marine Corp for making him the man he is.

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK.

So right then was clearly the right time to stop reading. Maybe it was the cat pushing on my carotid artery or the fact that I clearly make bad choices for my mental health, but I kept going.

Noah is clearly into Juliet but she can’t be in a relationship because…I shit you not, she has a phobia of kissing. Her first kiss was a seven minutes in heaven sitch and her braces cut up his lips or something and then the other kids caught her practicing on a pillow of a character Noah played as a child actor, so due to that collective embarrassment, she has a panic attack whenever she’s about to kiss someone.

And Noah, being the upstanding dude that he is, is like “OMG I have this script for a rom com about a woman who has a kissing phobia” and he suggests a plan where he gets to do research for his movie by teaching her how to kiss without passing out from anxiety.

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Okay, so Juliet has this phobia that’s prevented from being in a relationship and she never…IDK went to therapy? She has literally resigned herself to spending forever alone because she thinks no one would want to be with a woman who can’t kiss on the mouth. And the phobia is limited to mouth-kissing. Hasn’t it occurred to her that you can actually be intimate with someone without kissing on the mouth? Assuming she chooses not to go therapy and figure this out, which seems pretty reasonable to me, that still doesn’t mean she can’t be in a relationship. The conflict here is so weird.

It’s also weird that Noah feels prepared somehow to help her work through full-blown panic attacks while they practice kissing. Why does he think he’s qualified or capable of that type of care? I have no idea.

So they do a bunch of practice kissing and start having feelings for each other, but they never make it to the exit ramp for Bonetown. So this book has no sex in it which maybe makes in a teeny bit less squicky? Maybe?

Then Noah and Juliet are in a full-fledged relationship but the crisis moment comes when he meets Juliet’s mom. She shows him Juliet’s scrapbook about him because he was her childhood crush and he storms away because he thought she didn’t know he was an actor and can’t trust her now.

Yet another very flimsy, over the top conflict.

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Obviously there’s a HEA, which is followed by that super weird acknowledgements thanking Adam Driver himself (who the author met IRL) and everyone involved in his life, while omitting his wife and kid. LOL but also…no. Just no. Like I said, Adam Driver is an actual person. And consent is a real thing. The explicit lack of it coupled with the objectification made this experience feel very exploitative.

Which brings me back to my original two questions. WTF did I just read? I don’t know but I think I’m still in the “processing my feelings” phase of coping. Is Adam Driver ok? I’m hoping he doesn’t know this book exists, but has someone working for him who filed the no contact order.

And that’s it. I’m going to shotgun a coldbrew to make up for a night of no sleep and find a palate cleanser to read. Parts of this book were cute and funny, but I just couldn’t deal with the RPF aspect or how flimsy the conflicts were.

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