I have really been blessed by the ARC gods, aka Netgalley and the publishers, Harlequin and Avon, and I’m excited to slightly belatedly talk to you about these three books I enjoyed! Marriage by Arrangement by Sophia Singh Sasson was my first book from the author, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. Just admire this gorgeous cover! Or go purchase it yourself because it released on August 1st. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria was absolutely brilliant and her first traditionally published book. I absolutely loved it and you can pick up a copy at Target!! Or like any bookstore near you or Loyalty Bookstore online. But the ones at Target are signed and who wants to pass up a trip to Target? Not me. (Although, admittedly, my preorder came in from my local Indie, which is actually how I read it.) Finally, Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay comes out on August 25th, and is the second book in her Girl’s Trip series. So, let’s talk about them!
Marriage by Arrangement by Sophia Singh Sasson
I have really struggled in how to rate or even discuss this book for many reasons. For one, I really liked a lot of the aspects of this book, but I also really didn’t like the hero or the way that the relationship progressed once it, um, took a turn. In my July wrap up, I think I was still riding a slight high from how much I enjoyed the other aspects, the food descriptions (I miss Indian food being easily accessible for me in ways I can’t fully describe because my very white attempts to make homemade Indian just keep ending poorly), Rani (usually), and the writing was engaging and kept me turning the pages.
But the further away I get from this book, the more aggravated I am about the actual plot points. I just really did not feel like Arjun displayed hero behavior. I can’t fully describe what I mean without spoilers, so I’m going to go ahead and encourage you to skip the next two paragraphs where I will discuss that and why the HEA felt especially unbelievable unless you’re okay with spoilers.
When Rani’s father gets sick somewhere between 50 and 66% of the book, Arjun flies with Rani to the hospital in LA with her. He gets mad that Rani’s parents are hateful to her about the fact that she got a divorce and then says they’re getting married. He doesn’t even really propose. Then he proceeds to not tell his own family and they wind up finding out through the media. So when Rani and Arjun fly back to Vegas, his parents are there to greet him and Rani. There are definitely cultural aspects I can’t touch on, so I tried to stay neutral about how he handled everything from this point forward, but essentially he stays very deferential to his parents and doesn’t really stand up for Rani at any point.
Now, Rani’s divorce from her ex-husband was essentially entirely about how her husband just let his parents be really cruel to Rani. So, obviously, this brings up some issues. But, like, she and Arjun love each other. Or something. So, without resolving any of these issues, there’s a break up and then they get back together. PLEASE tell me how I’m supposed to be satisfied with the HEA?
This is just one of those books for me that the further away I get from it, the less satisfied with it I am. I’m not sure if that’s fair and I highly suggest looking at Own Voices reviews given how much of a cultural component this book features. The book was fun and easy to read, which takes skill. So hopefully you will enjoy it more than I did! And regardless, given how much I enjoyed Singh Sasson’s writing, I know I’ll be picking up the next book in the series, which I’m already really looking forward to.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
I’ve talked about this book in two different Most Anticipated Posts (of the year and of summer), so you know I had ridiculously high expectations despite never having the most clear idea of what this book was actually about. I am so pleased to tell you that this book more than surpassed my expectations and I loved it! Now to finally describe well what this book is about. Maybe.
Jasmine Lin Rodriguez begins the books in the tabloids because of her break up with one name rock legend, MacIntyre, and she is over it. She’s about to start filming Carmen in Charge and comes up with a Leading Lady Plan to stay out of the press unless there’s a good reason. Unfortunately for her, aloof and mysterious Ashton Suárez draws her interest without even trying. And Ashton himself is a single-father desperate to avoid the media spotlight so, this is obviously a messy match.
One of the things at which Alexis Daria excels is creating characters where their motivations and characteristics feel so real and understandable that even when they’re messing up or causing conflict, you really get it and understand why the characters are doing what they are. That was absolutely the case here. Even when I wanted to yell at Ashton to make better choices, I completely understood why these were choices he was making. I really cannot extol the virtues enough of Daria’s ability to create characters.
Jasmine is also just such a fantastic heroine. I found her to be so relatable and I just adored her the most. From this line: “Jasmine tried not to take it personally, but taking things personally was one of her greatest skills.” to her sending out a text to her cousins that said, “Help. I’ve done something stupid.” I just fell in love with her. Also, for those of you who would love to see more of the Latinx diaspora, this cast of characters delivers! Additionally, Jasmine has Filipino heritage in addition to Puerto Rican heritage. I also really loved the way Spanish was used in this book in multiple contexts. For one, it’s not othered and for two, I really loved how Daria discusses the way not every Latinx person in the diaspora speaks Spanish.
And now to go reread Dance All Night because that little glimpse of Jess and Nik was just not enough. I need more. (Also, are we getting books about Jasmine’s cousins??? I hope so!)
Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay
Kind of like Daria, there’s just something about Livesay’s characters that speak to me and Nic was no different. Smart, driven, and intensely loyal, Dr. Nicole Allen is well on her way to being an orthopedic surgeon when politics look like they might stand in her way. Specifically, in the aftermath of her discipling an intern for not giving a basic shoulder examination resulting in a man having to return to the ER the next day, said intern goes running to his Daddy, a big donor to the hospital. Nic is given two weeks off to give this asshole enough time to rotate off of her service, but apparently that wasn’t enough for this jerk-face, who then gets his dad to call the doctor Nic is about to work under for her fellowship in Durham. When Ben, Nic’s gorgeous roommate, offers to have his parents call to intervene on Nic’s behalf, she’s ecstatic. But she wants to make it an even trade and offers to pose as his fake girlfriend for this trip to Martha’s Vineyard with his childhood friends and also ex that wants him back.
Although I know a lot of people are really over the evil ex trope, I liked the way Livesay used her to show some racial “micro”aggressions that can go over uninformed white people’s heads. However, Ben figuring out that’s what that was and then still defending Tinsley at other points had me ready to toss him out of the house. So YMMV on that point. But for the most part, I really loved this book.
I think the journeys for both Nic and Ben are really well done. The conflict was easy to set up in this situation because you’ve got Nic who refuses to give up her ambition for a man, to an extent that veers into unhealthy. And Ben, who based on his childhood, thinks that doctors make terrible parents and partners. So it was great to see the two of them and their respective friends and families talk to them about their perspectives and challenge them on their beliefs. I definitely recommend you pick this book up when it comes out in a couple of weeks! Also, someone please tell me we’re getting Ava and Lacey’s books??
ETA: Tracey Livesay responded to me and we are getting Ava and Lacey’s books! I’m so excited.
Have you read any of these yet? If so, what did you think? Let me know!