Reel by Kennedy Ryan is the story of Neevah Saint, an up and coming actress who is working as the understudy in a Broadway show. When the lead of the show goes on vacation, she gets to step into the spotlight for a week, showing off her talents and is basking in the energy from the stage. Unbeknownst to her, in the audience was a ticket to her future.
Canon Holt, a movie director on the hunt for the right lead to cast in a Harlem Renaissance biopic, catches the Broadway play Neevah is starring in and is immediately captured by her talent, her light, and her beauty. The stoic and regarded Canon is sure he’s found the lead for his movie, and is prepared to fight tooth and nail with the studios to make sure this unknown actress gets her shot in the true spotlight. What he didn’t expect was that Neevah would end up being more than just the lead role in his movie.
Neevah meets Canon after the show as he’s introduced by their mutual friend, Monk. Despite being standoffish towards Neevah, the chemistry between them was buzzing and Neevah felt an attraction immediately. After this initial meeting, Canon calls Neevah to offer her an audition for the role in his movie, where she undoubtedly earns it as she breathes the character of Dessi to life. Canon remains in awe of her talent and her beauty, and tries to fight off the attraction. As she begins working with him on set, it begins to get increasingly difficult to fight the attraction, especially since Canon previously made a mistake that could have cost him his career by dating his lead actress.
With this hanging over his head, he’s still unable to fight off the attraction and Neevah and Canon start hooking up. It’s quickly established by Neevah that this is more to her than just a hook up and that she wants more. Though Canon wants the same, he’s reluctant to move forward as the news of them being together will inevitably get out and cast a shadow on Neevah, her talents, and his movie before it even gets to the screen. While Canon tries to keep his relationship with Neevah under the radar, she begins to struggle to get a grasp on her lupus diagnosis, where her illness escalates causing her and the film harm. Neevah and Canon’s relationship gets tested by her deteriorating health, where the movie is now up in the air, and Neevah is tasked with facing her past as she fights to cling to the future.
Common Themes + Opinions:
Neevah’s lupus becomes an overarching presence in the story, building up from minimal symptoms to a full blown flare up. At first, Neevah does her due diligence to manage her symptoms and keep them practically nonexistent, allowing her to work as normal as long as she maintains her routine. However, the stress of filming a big ticket movie and starting a new, and at first secret relationship with Canon, caused a flare up of epic proportions. Neevah was faced with difficult decisions and felt like she was on the verge of losing everything, Canon included. He surprised her by showing her that he’s sticking by her side no matter what, because he loves her and not out of pity.
However, Neevah still missed the closeness of her mom and her family, and was forced to face their troubled past together head on in order to move into the future. Neevah is portrayed as a strong woman in control of her life, and once things go left, she ends up breaking. This was a great reminder that despite how strong people are on the outside, everyone should be allowed to break at some point in their lives. The challenge with doing so is with feeling safe within your support system to ask for help in picking up the pieces. Neevah felt unsupported by her family given their past, and had to bravely confront this with her mom and her sister before she ran out of time.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, I really enjoyed Reel. This is my second Kennedy Ryan read and I loved it as much as the first (read my review for Before I Let go here!). Though somewhat of a slow burn, Neevah and Canon’s love felt real, and it was clear that once Canon realized Neevah was the love of his life, nothing would get in his way in making sure it stays that way. I seriously felt for Neevah when she got sick. Even in books, its tough to see someone who’s typically in control of their lives lose their grip due to illness. I was also hoping we’d get to read that the movie was finished but the book would have been twice as long if that were the case!
All in all, I give Reel five stars for its captivating story, multidimensional characters, and steamy scenes – they are in there and 🥵 Have you read Reel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!