Published by Berkley Books on October 30, 2018
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The author of The Wedding Date serves up a novel about what happens when a public proposal doesn't turn into a happy ending, thanks to a woman who knows exactly how to make one on her own...
When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise--or happen in front of 45,000 people.
When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part--they've only been dating for five months, and he can't even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...
At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up--in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes...
For the bulk of the book, my inner rating was stuck somewhere around “eh, this is fine and good, nothing earth shattering, nothing horrid.” I was thinking three stars all the way, and that’s not a slight. It was a decent contemporary romance, and the world needs solid books. Then, something happened that really shocked and impressed me. I’m warning you right now, SPOILERS. I’m sorry the bulk of this review is spoilery. I try not to do that often, but this was the most captivating part for me. Well, that, and the enchiladas, which I want a recipe for more than anything (although my momma makes the best ever I’m sure). Seriously, stop reading if this sort of thing bugs you. Last chance!
“Would she see Carlos again? He didn’t seem the type to sleep with her and then disappear, but you never knew with men. She hoped she saw him again, though. The sex was fantastic, and he made her laugh. That was a pretty rare combination in her experience.”
Ok, still with me? I tend to read romances featuring strong women if I can help it. In my personal life, I am also strong-willed (read: stubborn AF). I like to speak up for what I want and need from others, romantically or otherwise. These waify and submissive heroines that live and die on the whims of the man…um, hard pass. And despite how much lovey dovey stuff I read, I am super noncommittal. Dating is fun, love is the worst. So when we get to the first “I love you” exchange, it was Carlos having that realization and the first to say it. While I was briefly awshucksholycuteness about it, my inner heroine was also like, “wait…wasn’t she really clear about what she wanted out of their relationship, aka sex and friendship, nothing more, and he just expects her to be grateful because he loves her first??? Carlos don’t be a lil bitch.” When Nik tries to discuss this yicky love stuff with Carlos, he flips out and leaves. She sums it up nicely:
“What the fuck was wrong with him, springing ‘I love you’ on her like that and then getting mad at her for not falling all over herself being thrilled about it? Trust her to get involved with the kind of guy who was so full of himself he imagined his love was God’s gift to any woman.”
Now, I know the genre. We’re ever marching toward an HEA, and I fully expected this snag to resolve itself within a chapter or two at most. (Second spoiler: it does.) However, I’m also used to progressive, powerful women typically having the “oh shit I love him but it’s supposed to be casual” epiphany, or if not reciprocating immediately, very quickly saying, “I love you, too.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it when that happens. I mean, I have a romance blog after all. I’m not some angry troll under a bridge rooting for devastation, destruction and death. Every now and then it’s nice, but I digress.
“He leaned forward the few inches between them and kissed her. It had been so hard to not kiss her in the hospital. She kissed him back hard. They dove into each other like they were parched, like it had been just weeks and not hours since they’d last kissed, like she’d wanted to kiss him in these last few hours as much as he’d wanted to kiss her.”
When Carlos said, ” I love you” and Nik didn’t say it back, I felt so represented. As she explains to him what she wanted/wants, all of which she had clearly put on the table with him earlier in their relationship, I felt all of that. I have been there as a young, independent woman who wants to experience and enjoy the company of others, without giving her heart away. The dialogue in this chapter, and the one that follows where Nik confides in her friends. It was perfection. I sent snaps of the conversations to my friends and we all joked about how refreshingly real this moment was. Granted, Nik actually loves Carlos the whole time and doesn’t realize yet, but I am still thoroughly impressed by this chunk of the book.
“I’ve spent so long being afraid of love, because the last time I was in love, the man I loved only loved one part of me, but not all of me, and I thought love meant having to sacrifice a part of yourself. But then I was with you, and you loved every part of me, even the parts I don’t like. And that scared me more, because I thought there must be some trick and that I couldn’t let myself believe it or I’d fall into the trap. But finally I realized it wasn’t a trap.”
Nikole isn’t the only example of a badass lady in this book. Both of her besties, as well as a few of the side characters, pack a mean punch. Pun certainly intended. The best example is Natalie, who is a gym owner where Nik takes self-defense classes and someone she later interviews for an article. In just a few pages, Natalie gets a rich backstory and an uplifting path to self-empowerment. It was incredibly moving. There are lots of other small flourishes throughout the book that helped push it from solid to something a bit more special.
At the time I read The Proposal, it was my first Jasmine Guillory. By the time you read this however (because I’ve been sitting on this review for months, ooph), I’ve gone back and read The Wedding Date. Pro-tip, if you care about spoilers, which you probably don’t if you read this far, read The Wedding Date first. They are baby spoilers for the main couple found in The Proposal. Despite my two mid-range ratings, I will be keeping an eager eye out for whatever Guillory writes next. The romances might not completely spark for me, but her characters bring a hefty and refreshing dose of realism and feminism to the genre.