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Why, hello there.
I’ve been on a Jasmine Guillory binge for the last week or so. I read the OG, The Wedding Date, a year and a half ago, and then I got another recommendation from the BiPOC group at my church. So I read The Proposal, then The Wedding Party, and finally Party of Two. All of which I loved as much as Wedding Date. I was trying to do Royal Holiday, but it’s not for me, man.
There may or may not be spoilers in this review, depending on how I feel.
I love these books because of the classic rom-com structure they follow. It’s intriguing discovering and trying to guess how we are going to get to each landmark. Some notable Guillory checkpoints (and I didn’t even realize that I came up with exactly ten):
- The meet cute of instant attraction (even if they knew each other before)
- Taking it casual and keeping it secret so that no one gets over-excited
- Things are so perfect! He’s so perfect! This arrangement is working so great!
- One falls in love before the other, and they have to keep that a secret
- The breakup where one says something shitty to the other
- Each go and visit their respective friends/family to discuss the problem
- The grand gesture! (which may or may not go as planned)
- Talking it out, realizing where they all went wrong/realizing they both actually do love each other
- Happily ever after (even if it’s not perfect)
- The couply bliss cameo in the next book.
And hanging on this framework are various California hijinks, exploration of sexism and racism in America, and some sort of personal self-discovery. There’s usually some discussion of how past relationships shape the current one, and how our past baggage can have an effect. Oh, and lots of hot, steamy sex. Can’t forget that part! The great thing is that it usually involves communication and getting curious about each other’s needs. Chef’s kiss! Especially since many of these sexcapades usually include secret trysts involving food deliveries – don’t read these on an empty stomach, it’s the same as shopping while hungry. You might end up spending all of your savings on DoorDash.
So, I honestly don’t remember much from The Wedding Date, but I’ve placed a hold on it so I can review. What I really noticed about the way I read the books is how they just got better and better! I didn’t check, but it felt like I was more or less going in chronological order considering the events of the story.
The Proposal was pretty basic in terms of story progression and development. The tale was definitely enjoyable, and I was motivated to keep listening and find out what happens next, though I must say I missed a large section of it and didn’t bother going back to find out what I missed, but I got the gist through context. Nic and Carlos both decide they only want something casual, there’s some hijinks, and then happily ever after. Again, not remembering much about the first book, but I didn’t find the characters particularly special. Apparently Nic was known to be a “loud-mouth,” but I honestly didn’t get that vibe at all, even though that’s apparently supposed to be a big part of her character. Carlos was described as self-righteous and pretentious, and he definitely was, especially during Step 5, so that was good, at least. I kind of wish that after Nic’s conversation with Natalie about domestic abuse, Nic would have thought about that a bit after Carlos loses his shit on her for not wanting to say that she loves him. Even if it wasn’t the same, it would have been an interesting exploration and would have tied the Natalie Interview scene into the story more.
And then, The Wedding Party, with Theo and Maddie. Now things really started heating up. This book made me laugh so much. I probably looked like a crazy person, walking around with my headphones and smiling like a weirdo. All good. I just think these characters were much more dynamic, distinctive and developed, not just the classic, cookie-cutter rom-com characters. Maddie and Theo had so much chemistry! It was fantastic. And just getting back to the old characters that we fell in love with before in The Wedding Date really helped. The Berkley Bunch all play off each other very well. As a nerd myself, I was definitely attracted to Theo. Don’t all nerdy girls dream of a nerdy guy who’s also sexy, responsible, hardworking, a great chef, and a dancer? I personally wouldn’t choose someone as neurotic as Theo, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love reading his character, and as a fellow (occasional) neurotic myself, I could definitely relate. And I must say, him getting attacked and ending up in the hospital is something I didn’t see coming at all. I also could really appreciate Maddie’s character, not as someone I liked, but as someone who was distinct and played well off of Theo. I could also empathize with some of her struggles, such as self-esteem about her business. But, she was self-described as being “bitchy,” and again, we never saw that, except for that apparent incident during the interview for her TV job, which we heard about second-hand and didn’t actually get to witness. My one problem is that these two characters are pretty volatile and toxic to each other, and the fact that their friends encouraged them to rationalize that is problematic. This is part of the rom-com trope, but at least Maddie and Theo actually did have a conversation where they acknowledged that their behaviour was unacceptable, in a way their friends should have.
But that brings me to Party of Two. This book was one I couldn’t put down, and it was rarely background noise. This one was the most romantic for me, and cute, and heartfelt, and it actually had me in tears by the end. I think these characters were the most developed, and once again we got to revisit the Berkley Bunch a little. Olivia is similar to Theo in her practical personality, and I wish we had got to see them play off each other more in The Wedding Party. But I think Olivia is like me. Theo, without as much neuroticism. This was a character I could really connect with. And Max is actually the type of male love interest that I often write for my characters: playful, a little dopey, just a tad annoying, but sweet and loyal. Just like a puppy. Which is how he’s described. Take from that what you will, considering I’m not a dog person, but something about that combination of silliness, commitment, and affection just calls to me. I cannot get over that strawberry – rhubarb pie incident, because Max bakes exactly how I do: without reading the full instructions, and often resulting in frustrating inconveniences. And that was just the most adorable thing I’ve ever scene, I’m not even kidding. I’m not saying that because I’m starving and it’s almost dinner, I promise. Anyway, the reason that this is my all-time favorite Guillory novel is the manner in which the couple solve their problem in the end. I mean, you still have the classic bit where there’s a misunderstanding, and one character storms off and won’t even pick up the phone. They still went off and spoke with their respective friends, and eventually both come to the conclusion that they want to get back together before the grand gesture even happens. But what really got me with this book is that they both decided to actively learn something that would better not only their relationship, but themselves. And I love that Max kept fighting for what he wanted, even if he didn’t know how. And in the end, they decided to sit down and actually iron out everything in a contract! And I kid you not, I was crying a little more after each item in this document. It was the most poignant and romantic thing I’ve ever seen.
A lot of people don’t want to recognize that frankness, commitment, and structure can be romantic. Not that I would necessarily go as far as signing a love contract with someone, but the concept is so incredible. Just sit down and have a rational discussion. Some people (such as yours truly) really get turned on by bullet points and amendments and negotiation. Scheduling in time for your loved one. I want to see my name blocked out in a man’s calendar one day! And that’s okay. And this wasn’t just a token grand gesture that magically fixed everything. They actually had to do some hard work, and they kept going back to what they had agreed to. That’s sexy. Especially the commitment part. What is more attractive and romantic than patiently looking at a problem together and trusting that if they stay in it, and don’t give up, eventually they will find a win-win? Even if it means that they have to challenge themselves, and change a little? Because if I’m in a relationship, I want it to change me. And I want to be able to change and affect my partner. Especially by talking it through and deciding to try something a little different and see what happens.
One last finishing touch is that these characters still ended up having minor mishaps and annoyances right up to the end. Instead of the stereotypical, everything-is-beautiful epilogue, they were still having real-people issues even with their love and happiness. So it wasn’t a perfect happily-ever-after, but it was probably one of the most satisfying, gratifying romance novels I’ve listened to in a long time. I’m so excited by how Guillory is continuing to grow and get better (from my perspective – I’m sure there’s tons out there who disagree with my ranking and opinions of these books.)
One last major criticism is that Max kept his head and didn’t promise to become a vegan and make everyone in his life become a vegan to get back at one of his opponents – obviously, everyone should be vegan, no other choice is valid. And what better way to make that choice than as a spur-of-the-moment nose-thumbing on live TV?
Anyway, I’ve just read the description for her next book, When We Were Dating, coming out in July. It’s already in the “recommend” system on Overdrive, and I can’t wait for it to hit my library! But, who knows, maybe I’ll spoil myself and buy it.
That’s all, folks!
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