The Boyfriend Project, Book #1
Heat Factor: Perfectly suited the relationship
Character Chemistry: Usually I don’t miss the uncertainty of new romance, but the joyful comfort between these two made me a bit nostalgic.
Plot: After being catfished, Samiah decides to prioritize working only on her non-romantic life goals. Meanwhile, Daniel is on an undercover assignment to crack a case for the Treasury Department.
Overall: Solid and satisfying
This is one of those books for which the cover marketing is only the tip of the iceberg. It all begins when Samiah Brooks discovers that the man she’s been dating has not only been dating other women, he’s been lying to them about this identity. She confronts him while he’s on a date with another woman, as do the other two women he’s been deceiving, and the video of the confrontation goes viral. The three women befriend one another and decide to take a break from the social pressure they feel to succeed and to work on what makes them happy for six months.
The Monday following Samiah’s discovery, she’s the talk of the office. It’s also Daniel Collins’s first day of work. But – of course – Daniel is not what he seems. And – of course – he’s also the only person who talks to Samiah about her experience like it might have been difficult for her. Because he’s a legit cinnamon roll. Daniel could be earning the big bucks in tech, but instead his family’s tradition of public service was passed down to him – cinnamon roll, remember? – and he’s an undercover agent for a financial crimes and terrorism department within the Department of the Treasury.
While Samiah’s happiness project is a constant throughout the book, it doesn’t form the foundation of the conflict. The crime Daniel is investigating, and the fact that he’s lying to Samiah while completely incapable of compelling himself to stay away from her is obviously the problem that their relationship might not be able to overcome. Also, he lives in Virginia, not Austin. Basically, there’s very little going on that will make this relationship work unless our protagonists really want it to.
Beyond the romance, there’s a thought-provoking conversation about success and what is necessary to get there. I tend to be frustrated by characters who think they’ll be happy if they measure their level of success against ambiguous societal expectations, and when Samiah and her new friends talk about their lives, it’s clear that they’ve bought into a narrative about what success looks like, and that happiness comes after. Their pact appears to be a means of overcoming that ridiculous internalized pressure. And it is. But there’s more to it than that. Samiah has a really hard time letting go. She is a Black woman in tech, and Daniel is bi-racial (Black-Korean), so he is able to have some conversations with Samiah about her perfectionism and independence that perhaps the reader would like to have with her, and we are better able to understand how privilege and implicit racial bias impact our jobs and our definitions of success.
I also found it interesting that Samiah is affronted by the lack of privacy she is afforded when a painful moment in her life went viral on the internet, but she doesn’t seem to think that the same privacy should have been applied when the date went viral while it was being live tweeted (which is how she found out about it) or when she and the two other women who were duped by this villain made a scene in the restaurant. Is it because she’s in the right and he’s in the wrong? Is it the scale of the invasion of privacy (millions of views rather than thousands)? It’s one of those things that make me think: sure, people are entitled to their feelings, but I still want to turn it over in my head.
Anyway, the romance was swoon-worthy, but there’s a good deal of substance to chew on as well, from the morality of Daniel’s necessary lies to all the stuff I wrote above. The pace is engaging throughout, and when things start to come to a head, the suspense is just the right level of anxiety-inducing. How are they going to have the careers and lives they want with Daniel’s job and all its secrets coming between them?!?!?!?!?! Eek! There are enough tendrils floating out in different directions as the tale progresses that the solution is not immediately apparent. Things could go any of a number of different ways and still get these two to our promised HEA. I was on tenterhooks, truly, which always feels a little absurd when one is reading romance, but it’s also how you know the author is doing her job. The fun is in the wrap-up, and it’s just lovely. Score one for the emotional maturity crowd.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
Buy Now: Amazon
Looking for something similar?