Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022 (read Mar. 2022 on Audible)

So far 2022 is turning out to be the most off brand reading year for me. I feel like I’m reading a lot of different type books than I normally do and I am loving it! Whatever the opposite of a book slump is, that has been my 2022 so far! 

Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? is maybe a little less off brand than some of my other reads and I was drawn to it because it sounded a lot like Queenie. It’s definitely a different book than Queenie, but like Queenie, it has been compared to Bridget Jones, and also like Queenie, people are pissed about the comparison. Honestly, it seems like everything is compared to Bridget Jones these days, but I disagreed with the haters about Queenie and I disagree with the haters about this one too. In my opinion, Yinka has the most similar voice to Bridget Jones, while solidly still being her own original character. Yinka has the self deprecating humour or Bridget, without being quite as self sabotaging as Queenie.

Yinka, Where is your Huzband? is set in London and features a British-Nigerian family. Yinka grew up in Peckham, is Oxford educated, and has a great job in investment banking. Unfortunately, despite her career success, she’s still seen as the black sheep of her family because she is in her 30’s and still not married. While her sister, cousins, and friends are getting married and having kids, Yinka hits a tough spot at work and struggles to get over her last relationship. For the most part, she is content with who she is, but the repeated pressure and embarrassment from her family to settle down spurs her to make a plan to do whatever it takes to get a date to her cousin’s upcoming wedding.

I read this as an audiobook and it did take me a little while to get into it. Things aren’t too bad for Yinka at the start of the novel, but they slowly start to fall about and the more she tries to fix things, the worse it seems to get. There are a lot of cultural expectations placed on her and it’s sad that while her family is very proud of her achievements, she is still seen as a failure for being unmarried and childless. Her mother’s greatest fear for her is that she will be an old maid who never gets married, as if marriage is the pinnacle of achievement. I thought it was a great look into the Nigerian diaspora in Britain and I both loved and was extremely frustrated by Yinka’s family, especially her cousin. Yinka gets shit on a lot, and while she had some growing to do, I do think her outbursts and anger were entirely justified.

Like I said, this is a more subtle book than Queenie. Whereas Queenie drowned her pain and depression in abusive sexual relationships, Yinka is still looking for her Prince Charming and tries to change her looks and personality to be more attractive to the men in her life. She has a deep rooted insecurity about being dark skinned and equates her self worth and beauty with not having lighter skin. She disappears into trying to be who she thinks other people want her to be, yet I admired that there were still some things she wasn’t willing to compromise on. Faith is a key part of this novel and Yinka isn’t willing to compromise her decision to remain chaste until marriage. Sometimes it felt a bit preachy, but I feel we don’t often see characters like this in mainstream literature, so I liked that it was different. Plus Yinka was never pushy about her faith.

I wish this book wasn’t being marketed as a romance though. I kind of knew going in that it wasn’t a romance and I liked that instead it’s a book about learning to love and take care of yourself. But if you’re going into this looking for romance, you will likely be disappointed. That said, I had whiplash from how many romantic interests are presented throughout the story. I kept trying to guess who Yinka was actually going to end up with, but in the end it didn’t really matter because it’s not really what the book is about. 

As with any kind of book like this, I think some people will struggle with Yinka’s character. I really liked her and found her struggles to be very relatable. I understood the complicated relationships she had with a lot of her friends and family, but loved that she also had some solid relationships in her life too, namely Nana and Auntie Blessing. Her relationship with her cousin (I can’t remember her name now… Oola? Oona?) was really frustrating, but I liked the exploration of how friendships can turn toxic and how family dynamics can create unhealthy and competitive environments with the people we should love. Her cousin is looked down on by her mother for not having an education, while Yinka is looked down on by her mother for not having a husband. It’s hard for anyone to feel good about themselves and it really pitted the two cousins against one another. 

So there was a lot I liked about the book, but there were also some things I didn’t like, the first of which was Yinka’s career trajectory. It was tiring how everyone kept pushing Yinka to switch careers – on the one hand, it’s great to have friends that encourage you to pursue something you’re passionate about, but I didn’t really get the vibe that Yinka was passionate about helping the homeless. It just read more to me that the author thought there is something inherently wrong with being an investment banker and that Yinka should so something more “meaningful” (as is constantly preached to us through characters like Dominic). I don’t like attaching this kind of social or moral value to jobs because most people aren’t privileged enough to have the luxury to choose since, like Yinka, their number one priority is paying the bills. Working for a homeless charity is great if that’s what you really want to do, but it doesn’t necessarily make you make you a better or more virtuous person.

In addition, I feel like Yinka was chastised a little too much for changing and experimenting with herself. Like I get the whole “be true to yourself” thing, but I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with trying new things. Like, if Yinka wants to try having a weave or learn to make Nigerian food, is that really so bad? She shouldn’t suppress and lie about who she is, but I felt she was unfairly criticized for trying something new. The poor woman just lost her job, let’s cut her a bit of slack.

Likewise I didn’t blame her at all when she freaked out at her cousin and I was a bit annoyed at Nana for her whole “you’re better than this” speech. I think that kind of attitude likely goes back to the whole Christianity aspect, that you should always self-sacrifice and take the high ground, but Yinka’s cousin was a bit of a bitch and honestly I was glad to see Yinka stand up for herself. I just feel like everyone held Yinka to an unreasonably high standard and she was always in the wrong in every interaction.

For example, you’re not a bad person for having a few drinks because you’re sad and then showing up drunk at your sister’s house. If anything I was pissed that her sister was only concerned about Yinka exposing her apologetically drunk self to her newborn baby and then putting her in a cab home. How about instead, she have an honest conversation with Yinka about what’s going on in her life and how she is coping with being jobless and husband-less in such a toxic and challenging family environment. Only one of the two sisters was being a jerk in that interaction and it wasn’t Yinka. So give me a break, Yinka was only in the wrong half the times she was made out to be. So overall, I found it to be a bit too preachy and felt the rest of Yinka’s family could also do with a bit of personal growth.

But it did feel real. The author accurately captures the unfair pressures we put on women and how we de-value each other based on social achievements and milestones. Single women can be just as fulfilled as married women, as can childless women be just as fulfilled as mothers. It was a good exploration of the pressures women face and how sometimes the easiest way to achieve happiness is through self reflection and acceptance. Overall, the novel had some flaws, but I still enjoyed reading it and admired Yinka for her perseverance and personal growth. 3.5 stars.

One Italian Summer

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Rebecca Serle
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pub. Date: Mar. 2022 (read Mar. 2022)

This book was a bit of a bummer for me. I’ve seen some really excellent (and some not so excellent) reviews, so I was a bit on the fence, but impulsively decided to give it a go. The book did improve throughout, but I knew almost as soon as I started reading it that I wasn’t going to love it.
 
One Italian Summer tells the story of 30 year old Katy Silver, who has just lost her mother to cancer and has in turn, lost a piece of herself. Her Mom was her best friend and she doesn’t know how to move on without her. The two women were supposed to take a trip to Positano, Italy together, a place that was special to her mother Carol, but unfortunately she passes away before the trip and Katy decides to go to Italy alone to try and heal her broken heart. However, while in Positano, something magical happens and the 30 year old version of Carol stumbles into Katy’s holiday, bringing truths to light that Katy never realized about her mother.

It’s a book about love and grief, so I was ready for an emotional and moving read, but sadly, the writing style just didn’t work for me. I don’t want to totally slam on the book because I can see how some people might love this, Serle definitely crafts a very vivid portrayal of Italy in her writing, but the style was so straight forward and matter of fact that I was left feeling like I was reading a dull travel diary rather than the emotional, grief-stricken self discovery story that I was hoping for.

To put it simply, the writing is boring. Everything about this was a classic example of telling instead of showing. It’s overwritten and I thought we got so many details that were just unnecessary. If you’re looking for a good detailed itinerary of what to do in Positano, this is great, but I wanted to go on an emotional journey with Katy and that just wasn’t happening. I found it extremely hard to relate with Katy and the whole narrative was a bit insufferable. Everything about Positano is incredibly beautiful, from the scenery, to the sunsets, to the food, to the luxury hotels – so it’s hard to empathize with a bunch of faux-sad white people living a dream holiday. We’re told about Katy’s grief, but we don’t really experience it. 

It also comes down to Katy being a pretty unlikeable character. There’s nothing wrong with a good unlikeable character, but Katy is not intentionally unlikeable. I believe we’re supposed to like and empathize with her, but it’s very hard because she seems totally unaware of her privilege and it’s hard to buy that a 30-year old woman would be this out of touch with reality. One of the key themes is centered around how Katy and Carol are best friends and Katy’s discovery that, surprise, her mother actually had a life before and outside of her. She’s shocked by this 30 year old version of her mother and spends so much time in awe of the ways in which her mother is both the same and different. I’m sorry, but what 30 year old woman is unable to imagine that their mother might have had a vibrant life before them? Plus I thought the whole my-mom-is-my-best-friend thing was a little tired.

A lot of women love their moms and would consider them a best friend. But come on, mother-daughter friendships are still going to be based on a totally different foundation than peer-to-peer friendships and I would it extremely unrelatable that Katy didn’t have ANY friends outside of her Mom and husband. She mentions one girlfriend in passing, but as far as I can tell, she has no other friends, so that’s probably why she’s so shocked to find out that her mother actually had a life before her. So mostly Katy just read as juvenile and bit dense to me.
 
The one thing I did like about this book though was the exploration of the erasure of women through motherhood. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as more and more of my girlfriends have children. I’ve been noticing that some of my friends almost seem to disappear into motherhood. They’re still them, but all of their passions and interests have become secondary to that of being a mother. Their children become their number one priority and personality. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing, I just personally find it very scary because I have a lot of things that I’m passionate about and the idea of losing or having to give up those things in motherhood is one of the primary reasons I delay it. Some people are able to find a good balance between being a mom and being a woman with your own dreams, but it seems it’s easy for who are before being a mother to get lost in the chaos of parenthood.

What Katy is grappling with more than anything is the loss of who she thought she was and the fear of having to suddenly be her own person. Her mom was a comfort to her because then she never had to think too hard and her suddenly realizing that her mother had her own hopes and dreams is scary for her. The realization that our parents can want things for themselves beyond the hopes and dreams they have for us. I don’t fault children for this, but it’s hard to watch a grown woman suddenly figuring this out.

The other issue I had with this book was with the romance. I won’t get into it to avoid spoilers, but I thought it was an interesting choice to give a married woman a love interest. We’re told Katy and her mother are best friends, but we’re not shown it. Likewise, we’re told at the beginning of the novel that things aren’t really working out between Katy and her husband, but we’re not told why and we’re definitely not shown it either. We’re just told that she’s so depressed over the loss of her mother that she has no interest in any of her other relationships, which is really only her marriage because she has no other friends.

Anyways, the only other thing I’ll say is that the book has a bit of a twist, which I thought was well done. I really should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Unfortunately, none of the positives were really enough to outweigh the negatives and I wouldn’t recommend this book. But if you like it and Rebecca Serle’s writing, then all the more power to you! It did have some very evocative descriptions of Italy, but the writing style along with Katy’s immaturity make it a pass from me.

People We Meet on Vacation

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Emily Henry
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pub. Date: May 2021 (read Mar. 2022)

So many people told me to read Beach Read, but I just had a feeling this was the one for me. I’m still planning to read Beach Read, but after a slew of enemies to lovers books recently, I really wanted to read one about friends to lovers because I had a sneaking suspicion I would really like it. And I did!

This book is a lot more subtle than some of the other romances I’ve read, but it’s the one that felt the most real to me. Poppy was a more relatable character – as sexy as the enemies to lovers trope was in books like The Love Hypothesis and The Spanish Love Deception (and as compelling as those plots were) – I do really think this is the better book. Every person I’ve ever loved has been my friend first and there’s something so lovely reading about two people that genuinely like each other. 

People We Meet on Vacation is about two friends, Alex and Poppy, and their relationship over the past 12 years. They’ve been friends for a long time and even though they live in different cities, they’ve always taken the time to travel together once a year… until something happens on their most recent trip and they don’t talk for 2 years. Poppy realizes she misses Alex and invites him to take one more trip with her, to which he agrees.

This book is subtle and I liked that about it. It’s not as quick paced as some of the other romance books I’ve read because the present day storyline is constantly interrupted to return to one of their past trips. This slowed the pacing down initially, but as you progress further into the book, you realize this friendship is not quite the relationship you thought it was. There is just as much romance in the development of their friendship, because it never really is just a friendship. Just-friends don’t bring this kind of complicated conflict into your other relationships and you can’t help but root for these two people to be together. 

I say this is a subtle book because it is also very much about loneliness and allowing people the space to say and be who they really are. Poppy and Alex recognize that love isn’t always the most important part in a relationship. Relationships are also about making the space for your partner to communicate their needs and being willing to compromise on your life together. That two individuals still need to take the time to work on their own shit before they can be what the other person needs. I felt like this had a lot more maturity and that they had the kind of solid foundation that a successful relationship would be built on.

I also liked that both characters were well developed and flawed. I really think Alex is one of the strongest love interests. To talk about romance we must acknowledge that they are primarily written by women, for women, and so the men are often a bit more fantasy than most of the men I’ve met in real life. We read romance for the escapism of it – because we are human and we want to read emotional stories about people falling in love. But so many of the men are almost so perfect in their love for the protagonist they become caricatures. Alex felt very real, like someone I could honestly fall in love with myself. He’s quiet and a bit weird. He has anxieties and he’s afraid to put himself out there. He knows what he wants, but isn’t quite sure he deserves it and recognizes the ways in which he’s not willing to compromise. 

Likewise, Poppy is chasing after something she thinks she wants without realizing that it’s really that she’s running away from something instead. We’re sold this ideal and she thinks filling her life with travel and new people will make her happy – that it will compensate for the inadequacies she felt when she was younger. We all like to think our bullies go on to make nothing of themselves, but they are just flawed people too and we are only holding ourselves back by trying to prove ourselves to them later. If you make decisions based on the way you are perceived by someone else, you are still not living for yourself. Was it unrealistic that two friends could be so blind for so long? Maybe, but these two people wanted such drastically different things that I could believe it. 

It’s also a subtly sad book that made me reflect a lot. I really wasn’t sure if we were going to get a happy ending or not. I wish the author had dedicated a bit more time to the ending because she introduced several new themes in the last 50 pages about self care and compromise, that I really would have loved to see explored further. So overall I really liked this book, perhaps even more than The Love Hypothesis. I did rate that one higher because it was so compelling and I couldn’t put it down, but I do think this is the better story. The other books I read were that fun, all-consuming love, this was gentler, but it also felt a lot more real. It’s nice to get swept up in a love story, but it’s also nice to sink into one, and that’s what I feel like I did with this one.  

Running Wild

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: K.A. Tucker
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022 (read Feb. 2022)
Series: Wild #3

I’m honestly quite shocked to say that I loved Running Wild. I feel like the tagline of this book should be “don’t write it off, give it a try”, because even the author felt like she had to convince her readers that they should care and want to read about Marie. That was never the problem for me though. It never really bothered me that Marie was into Jonah, though I know some people were really offended by it. Her and Jonah were good friends and who isn’t disappointed when the friend they were hoping to be ‘end game’ with doesn’t pan out. As Marie uses to defend her actions, I always thought she was “only human”. 

So I wasn’t nervous to read this book out of a fear of not liking Marie, more I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to how much I love the books that came before. I’ve read a few of Tucker’s other books outside this series and I didn’t like any of them. It wasn’t even so much that I didn’t care for them, I actively didn’t like them and it made me question how she can get some of her books so wrong and continue to get this series so right. I have loved everything she has done with this series, it’s honestly like she can’t go wrong. In her bio, Tucker describes herself as writing “captivating stories with an edge”, and I think what I like about these books is that they are NOT that. What makes them captivating to me is the very fact that they do not have an edge at all. In some ways they are even mundane, but it’s that they’re so honest and genuine in their telling and that the mundane is actually incredibly relatable. 

Running Wild is the third book (fourth if you count the novella) in the Simple Wild series. The first two books focus on the love story of Calla and Jonah, which Tucker concludes in the novella. Running Wild is the first book about Jonah’s friend Marie, a side character in the early books. She was in love with Jonah before Calla and is sidelined in the original books. She is heartbroken that she isn’t the one for Jonah, but genuinely happy to see him so happy and tries very hard to set aside her feelings for him. But even though she’s been able to move on from Jonah, she is now 38 years old and mostly sad and afraid that she’s going to miss out on her own great love story. She desperately wants to get married and have children, but she doesn’t want to settle. She wants her own fireworks and passion, but she can’t ignore that her biological clock is still ticking.

Enter Tyler, a competitive musher who has just moved to Alaska to race in the 1000 mile Iditarod dog sled race. Marie and Tyler get off on the wrong foot after a misunderstanding, but quickly realize they were both wrong and begin to question their feelings for one another. The problem is, Tyler is still pining over someone else and is only interested in being friends, while Marie is not willing to go down that road again after Jonah. 

I don’t think I can get into talking about this book without getting into spoilers, but I can assure you it is absolutely worth your time to read. Like the Simple Wild and Wild at Heart, I don’t believe that Running Wild is a romance book at its core. It’s really a book about finding yourself, but also knowing yourself, which I think is just as powerful. At 38, Marie has already discovered a lot about who she is and this book is more about her knowing herself and knowing what she wants. She still questions herself, but it’s also about the maturity to know when to protect your heart and when to chase after something you want. 

So if you don’t want spoilers, I suggest you go read my review of The Simple Wild instead and pick up a copy of this series as fast as possible! Okay, let’s get into it. Spoilers ahead
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First off, this book is definitely a slow burn. It didn’t surprise me that much, but I was surprised how little Tyler seemed to feature in it. We meet him quickly and get to know him at the Iditarod competition, and then he somewhat vanishes from the narrative when he offers Marie friendship and she declines him. Instead, we spend a lot of time with Marie’s family and I can tell you, I adored this just as much!

I could maybe see some readers finding this to be a bit boring, but it’s where my comment about the mundane and relatability come into play. Marie’s family dynamic seemed at times so loving and at times so frustrating – exactly like a real family. I loved her parents for their unconditional sacrifices for their children and I was frustrated by her sisters’ shortsightedness and frankly, selfishness. They had all the love and tension of any family – people who love you more than anyone else in the world, but also drive you crazy. We want to support our sisters, but sometimes it also feels like we need to compete with them and complicated relationships can grow between parents and each of their children. Marie’s future is put in an uncomfortable position by her family when they want to sell her business and while you felt bad for her, you could also totally empathize with why her family might ask that of her. 

No one wants to give up their home and business, but it’s also not up to our parents to provide for us forever and despite wanting to give the best to their children, it’s also reasonable to want to cash in on some of your own happiness when you retire. This is something I feel like I haven’t seen portrayed in many books, at least not in the sensitive way that it is in this book. I feel like these types of scenarios in other stories are often motivated by a feeling of resentment of a bad relationship that a character had with their parents. Marie’s predicament isn’t motivated by any of these things, but rather by honest love and respect that this family has for one another and the desire of both Marie and her parents for the other to be happy and taken care of. I thought it was really beautiful and even though it’s not quite resolved, I liked that there was really no easy fix. That’s what made her family so relatable. There’s not always an easy answer or a happily ever after, eventually we often end up having to find a compromise that works for both parties. 

Now let’s talk about Tyler because this story also really worked for me. When I first read the synopsis and read that Tyler wanted to just be friends, I wasn’t really interested in going down that road again. I figured he had an ex that he was trying to get over and I wasn’t really interested in reading a story about someone who comes around to love Marie (I wanted them to just love her). But Tyler’s hang up is that his wife died. In some ways this is even harder because as Marie says, how is she supposed to compete with a ghost? It’s not possible. But in this story, it just kind of worked. Tyler genuinely likes Marie for who she is – there’s never really any discussion about him comparing her to Mila or vice versa. He loved his wife and now unfortunately she is gone, and now he also loves Marie. It’s both complicated and uncomplicated. I felt bad for both him and Marie having to navigate that kind of heartbreak, but also that it’s something that could be worked through with time and respect. 

The only thing that irked me a bit was when he asked her on a date only to basically dump her again the next day after they had sex (unprotected sex – which was also irksome – let’s not pretend people are just willing to knock people up like it’s nothing). I understood that it was hard for him being with someone else and feeling like he was betraying the memory of his family, but at the same time, I wish he’d had the maturity to just ask to take it slow, rather than to cut it off altogether. Especially when he then does another 180 as soon as she starts dating someone else. I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t just keep dicking her around again while he tried to work out his demons. He needed to be in therapy to work on himself before he would be properly ready to be there for Marie. Also, I didn’t love when they had sex in the truck. I was too much, too fast after such a slow burn. I wish they just kissed – but whatever, I guess we’re all adults here and it sounded like it had probably been a few years since either of them had let off some steam.

My only other minor complaint is that I think the plot moved a little too quickly at the end after such a slow pace throughout. I would have liked to take a bit more time building up the relationship before parting ways with these lovely characters. In some ways I hope Tucker writes another book about Marie and Tyler, and in some ways I don’t think we need it. But I didn’t think we needed Wild at Heart either and I ended up loving it. Tucker seems to excel in this setting and I think there’s a lot more we could glean from Marie and Tyler, so it might be worth the investment.

In conclusion, the simplicity of The Simple Wild series is what makes it so special for me. Tucker isn’t afraid to tackle complex human emotions, but she does it in the most relatable settings. I think it demonstrates that we don’t need wild storylines to trigger those complex emotions because it’s complex people that trigger wild emotions in our own normal, mundane, and everyday lives. Fill your life with those kinds of people.

The Spanish Love Deception

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Elena Armas
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pub. Date: Feb. 2021 (read Feb. 2022)

I don’t know how long this phase will last, but I’m officially on the romance train. We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, so I guess my timing is appropriate. I wasn’t sure what to follow up The Love Hypothesis with, but landed on The Spanish Love Deception because it also has a fake-dating trope and is super popular on Booktok. I didn’t like this as much as The Love Hypothesis, but I have to give it a shout-out because I learned after the fact that it was originally self-published! I think this is amazing and probably means the author had limited resources (like an editor?), so keep this in mind through my somewhat critical review.

First off, I did like it. I think it suffered from some pacing issues at the start, but once we arrived in Spain, I could not put this book down. I think that is the main reason I’ve been drawn to romance recently, because it makes for a very quick and enjoyable read. It’s not great literature, but it requires a bit less effort to commit to. I really liked Catalina’s family and thought the portion of the novel set in Spain was really fun. It’s a slow burn (which I love) and the love interest is pretty damn sexy. If you’re here for the smut, I thought it was better than The Love Hypothesis, but was a bit overdone towards the end. I’m more about the smoldering lead up than excessive sex scenes, but you do you!

So what’s this book about? 28-year old Catalina is an engineer (I don’t recall it being stated which kind of engineer, which was pretty annoying to me, a civil engineer) in America and is returning home to Spain for her sister’s wedding. The problem is her ex, who is newly engaged, is going to be there and she doesn’t want to show up still single after so many years of heartbreak. When her work nemesis, Aaron Blackford, offers to be her date for the wedding, despite her trepidation, she feels she doesn’t have any other options and asks him to accompany her.

If the plot sounds predictable, it’s because it is, but I mean we all expect that from a contemporary romance anyways don’t we? Sorry to repeatedly compare it to The Love Hypothesis, but it’s my only other frame of reference, so I’ll say, the only other thing I thought was a bit more well done in this book was the “fake dating”. I thought that the simple explanation of not wanting to attend a wedding alone was a lot more straightforward and believable than the convoluted shenanigans Olive and Adam got up to.

So overall, it was fun. It’s not meant to be high brow literature, so take the rest of my criticisms with a grain of salt, because there are many, but they’re a bit tangential. I knew what I was getting myself into with this book.

So what didn’t I like about it? Mostly Catalina. It’s not that I didn’t like her as a person, I found her relatable and I empathized with what she had been through. But oh my goodness, I couldn’t deal with her inner monologue sometimes. Catalina is stuck in her head, ALL THE TIME. This book is almost 500 pages (another criticism, it could have been shorter), and it’s mostly because Catalina stresses and overanalyzes absolutely everything. We’re told repeatedly that she’s very smart, but the author did absolutely nothing to show us that she’s smart. She comes off as vapid and a bit of an idiot to be honest. It was somewhat endearing the way she would accidentally blurt out the most inappropriate things at times, but I just wanted to yell at her to get a grip.

I don’t think she was helped by the author’s writing style. Some parts were confusing because the author gets so inside Catalina’s head that I felt she was getting ahead of the storyline and missed describing what was actually happening. Like I would lose sense of where we were and what Catalina was doing because she was so lost in her inner monologue.

One of the other issues I had was with the pacing. We spent a lot of time in New York – more than I think we needed. I thought the majority of this book was going to be in Spain and we don’t even fly there until 50%. I liked the inclusion of the side plot with sexism at Catalina’s workplace, especially the meeting where she asked to plan a big event. I was honestly gutted by this scene and think it brought more depth to the story. But the whole thing with Aaron’s fundraiser seemed completely tangential and unnecessary to the story. I felt like Armas needed something to fulfill Catalina’s “half of the deal” and I didn’t find that it really added much to the overall book. I would have been happier with Aaron offering to be her date and not asking for anything in return.

Which brings me to my last point: Aaron Blackford. I know, everyone loves Aaron, I did too… in the second half of the book; but hear me out, he read like 2 completely different characters! First of all, I thought it was kind of creepy how insistent he was about coming to Spain with Catalina, I wanted to be like, “dude you offered and she said no, back off already!”. But mostly, I found that in the start of the book he is so stern and angry, not giving anything away about himself (even at the fundraiser), and then all of a sudden it’s like he flips a switch and is all suave, pulling moves on Catalina left, right, and center! When he came on to her in the coffee shop in New York I pretty much choked on my tea, it took me so much by surprise! I liked sexy, suave Aaron, he was a fun character, I just couldn’t reconcile the sudden personality change.

I also have to question what makes this book “fake dating”. It’s clearly only Catalina who views the exchange as fake. I’d kind of like to go back and see if Aaron ever even uses the word “fake”, because I could easily see him being like “I’ll be your date” and Catalina being an idiot and just assuming he meant “fake date” because she couldn’t conceive of a world where he would want to actually date her. I mean I get it, the dynamic of it and why readers love it, but at no point did it ever seem like it was a two-sided arrangement.

Anyways, I think I’ve gone into enough detail about this. It’s a flawed book, but whatever, go ahead and read it anyways, it’s a sexy good romp and I wouldn’t be deterred from reading it again. I can’t help but think critically about books, but it’s just meant to be a good time! Please give me your other romance recs because I don’t think I’m done yet! I’m thinking maybe People We Meet on Vacation next because I suspect “friends to lovers” is going to be more my style than “enemies to lovers”.