Heat Factor: Possibly the greatest quantity of non-explicit hot sex ever encountered
Character Chemistry: Now that I think of it, it might have been lust, but I still bought it
Plot: It wasn’t meant to be, except that they were MFEO!
Overall: This book made me so happy
This is a true Romance Novel. You know what’s going to happen, so the author had better make the story and characters compelling enough for you to stick around, right?
Alexa Monroe walks into a hotel elevator on the way to meet her sister, and the elevator gets stuck. With a SUPER HOT GUY also stuck on the elevator. So they start talking. Flirting. (Is he into me? / She’s so cute and she has amazing cleavage!) He’s in town for a wedding, and this is totally crazy, but maybe she could be his date? He really could use a security blanket at this wedding.
Drew Nichols is in town for the wedding of his former best friend and ex-girlfriend, and he really doesn’t want to be there, but this is penance for past sins. It’s super crazy, but maybe this cute, funny stranger would be willing to go help him through it.
They go to the wedding, and when it’s time to say goodbye, they say to themselves, “S/he is totally smokin’ hot,” and to each other, “Maybe we should go to the hotel room and take off all our clothes.” (I paraphrase.) The relationship simply spirals from there.
The story is told by a 3rd person omniscient narrator who switches perspectives back and forth between Drew and Alexa so we are getting both perspectives, although the story focuses a little bit more on Alexa than on Drew. The portions told from Drew’s perspective make him a much more three dimensional character, which helps to prevent us from thinking of him as a commitment-phobic, playboy and also from agreeing with some of Alexa’s relatable but less mature reactions to situations. This also helps us to see that these people are simply flawed humans trying to figure out love and happiness, which makes the ending much more enjoyable (none of that, “how could she possibly forgive…” or other character hangup unpleasantness we see when the conflict is driven exclusively by the characters themselves).
A product of our modern times, Alexa is a single, professional, workaholic with a dating drought stretching into all of recent memory. She’s also insecure because she’s short and voluptuous in a world of skinny blonde women. And she’s black, which definitely lays a cultural foundation for the reader, but Guillory likes to be a little subtle, so she doesn’t even acknowledge this until chapter 2. She’s a lawyer who’s currently the chief of staff for the mayor of Berkeley. In her work sphere, she’s powerful, confident, organized, amazing. But even those of us who are amazing can have insecurities that hold us back, and Alexa’s belief that Drew is totally out of her league is completely relatable, especially when we also learn that she’s a woman with voluptuous curves in a world where thinness is worshipped. How many women have worried about some jiggly bits not being attractive or sexy? How many have avoided positions in the light (or the dark, let’s be honest) because of those fears? What about thoughts that there’s no way someone you’re into could possibly be into you, too? Alexa is totally. relatable.
Of course, there were also a few eye-opening moments for me with this heroine. At one point the narrator says that Alexa had “more than once turned down social invitations because she didn’t have the energy to deal with her hair.” As she and Drew went into the rehearsal dinner, Alexa asked, “Am I going to be the only black person at this party?” Whoa. I really appreciated the understated, matter of fact approach on Guillory’s part.
Drew trips over these unconsidered considerations as well. In response to Alexa’s question about the guests at the party, he replies, “Huh. I don’t know. I didn’t think about that.” He realizes he doesn’t get things right from a sensitive-to-his-privilege standpoint a few times, and he tries so hard. It’s sweet. A few stumbles as they try to navigate their bizarre not-relationship at the wedding transform into a what-exactly-are-we-doing whole-hearted acceptance of each other as they navigate their extremely physical actual relationship. Alexa doesn’t even worry about her jiggly parts because Drew is so obviously into her! It’s freeing!
So what’s the problem? Once upon a time, Drew’s ex thought he was going to propose, but he wasn’t, so he broke up with her, broke her heart, and decided to try to avoid having any other woman think of him as an asshole again by ending things after a brief period while everyone was still friendly. He told Alexa when they first met that he wasn’t a girlfriend kind of guy, so they both think there’s no “serious” to their long distance, weekend-only relationship. He thinks he’s going to have to end things before he does something to make her think he’s an asshole, and she thinks he’s going to get tired of whatever it is they happen to be doing and go back to dating tall, skinny blonde women. Of course, things hit the two month mark and Alexa decides she just doesn’t want to hear Drew actually say he’s done with her, so she refuses to let him speak and runs away. And Drew lets her!
As with the running away, there are a couple of “Really, Alexa?” moments that cause problems. Both in the book and in my head. One little one occurred when Drew questioned Alexa about her big work project and she got angry with and disappointed in Drew for not understanding what she’s trying to do. To a certain extent this is understandable because she is passionate about the project, and she thinks Drew’s coming from a place of privilege. Which, honestly, he is. But instead of educating him (which she should TOTALLY be able to do with elan if she’s advocating this program as the mayor’s chief of staff), she yells at him for a minute then changes the subject. This contention was never really resolved. Drew just worried he handled the situation poorly and then became Alexa’s cheerleader.
The bigger “Really, Alexa?” moments related to the Drew pessimism about relationships and Alexa’s insecurity about how serious Drew could be (because of course Alexa is the one who has to worry about wanting more out of the relationship). At one point Alexa texts Drew to ask if he’s sleeping with anybody else. TEXTS HIM. He does not respond correctly, which naturally pisses Alexa off, so she’s like, “OKAY, NVM, guess you can sleep alone this weekend!” Which is a style of fighting with which I am quite familiar, so I get Alexa here, but come on. Texting Drew? On a weekday? Out of the blue? Really, Alexa? So Drew’s like, “Well I guess it had to end sometime, so that’s over.” Because Drew is actually Eeyore.
J/k, j/k, it’s not over. Drew goes to a conference in San Francisco and just happens to end up at the same bar Alexa’s visiting. And, you know, when you actually communicate about problems instead of just taunting each other to anger, great things happen. Drew and Alexa are so cute together. Extremely physical, but there’s enough also happening between A & D that we feel them becoming emotionally closer as time passes, too. But of course we have to get to the really big “Really, Alexa?” which is the point described above where she basically freaks out, decides the relationship is over…because she doesn’t want it to be over?…yells at Drew, doesn’t let him explain his feelings (which he really wants to do), and then leaves. At least her best friend calls her on it when she gets home, because yeesh. Poor Drew is totally confused and heartbroken. But there’s one moment that Guillory nails it, so we understand why he wouldn’t reach out to Alexa, even if he weren’t relationship Eeyore, which is: Drew wonders to himself, “Is this how all those other women felt when I ended things with them when they weren’t ready for the relationship to be over?” Drew! His insecurities are also pretty bad, amiright?
Fear not, gentle readers, these protagonists have friends who are primed and ready to whip them into shape. Especially Drew’s best friend, Carlos, who takes a great deal of abuse while Drew frankly does a very poor job of dealing with his emotions. It takes a little doing, but fear not, you’ll see the story’s ending a mile away, so it’s really about the journey, and it was a lovely, scenic trip, I assure you.
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