The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (Contemporary/Romantic Novel, 2018).
Successful freelance writer Nikole (Nik) Paterson has been dating a self-involved and shallow LA actor for only 5 months. It’s totally casual and that’s fine with her. A bad ‘serious’ relationship a few years back has left her gun-shy about the very idea of love.
Baseball isn’t her thing, but hey–it’s his birthday. So she goes with him, only to be blindsided when he pulls the ever-popular marriage-proposal-by-scoreboard gambit on her. Not only does he put her on the spot in front of thousands of strangers, he even misspelled her name on the Jumbo-Tron! When she rejects this emotional ambush, the jerk throws a fit and stalks off. Her public humiliation seems sure to worsen as a camera crew moves in to interview her.
Two nearby strangers impulsively intervene, whisking her out of Dodger Stadium by pretending to be her long-lost friends. Thus Carlos and his sister Angela enter her life. They provide safe passage to the bar where text messages have brought Nik’s two best girlfriends to provide comfort and support.
A doctor working at a teen-centered clinic, Carlos has relationship issues of his own–though stemming from very different sources from hers. Still, he and Nik find one another more than a little interesting. Of course, neither is willing to admit it to the other, nor to themselves for a while.
They do get together with mutual pledges of keeping it casual. Good friendship and, in due course, great sex ensue. Despite efforts to keep all this quiet, their family and friends realize the two are way more than the cliche ‘good friends with benefits’ that they assure themselves and each other that they are.
Emotional upheavals follow. One of the couple finally blurts out the dreaded “I love you” declaration; the other freaks. In time-honored romantic comedy tradition, they argue and break-up. Will they get back together? Will the other party realize and accept the truth about their mutual feelings?
Hey, is there ever any doubt?
The thing is that the author adds plenty of character depth to a very familiar plot. That includes the important people in both of their lives, as well as with the two principles. Guillory’s writing touch is light but not overly sappy, there’s genuine wit and genuine emotion at work here. The whole thing is stylish, sexy and takes some gentle but telling shots at the false passions, cynicism and self-delusions endemic in the highly superficial modern L.A. culture. There’s even a few touches on racial, gender and/or class misunderstandings and maneuverings here.
One could describe the book as Chic Lit with Soul, and not be far off-base. Guillory employs many tropes of that genre, along with category romance, even as she manages to pleasingly subvert potentially cliche-ridden subject matter.