Rant, Review

Review: Would You Rather by Allison Ashley (2022)

Heat Factor: They get hot and heavy (and naked) and then it fades to black

Character Chemistry: I recommend therapy. Probably separately and together. 

Plot: Mia and Noah have been best friends secretly pining forever, but when she has to choose between leaving her job to pursue her dream or staying to keep her insurance, Noah solves the problem by proposing a marriage of convenience

Overall: I cannot describe the level of rage I felt every time the “we’re committing insurance fraud” plotline came up

For starters here, I would like to talk about cover art, because when I first saw this book, I was immediately intrigued by it, and this is what the cover looked like:

Then on NetGalley, the cover looked like this:

I don’t know about you, but the current cover looks just like all the other teal-quoise trade paperback new releases that I have absolutely no interest in being a test subject to discover if they’re actually romance or something hovering on the fringes of romance. 

I’m a person who 1) is not embarrassed to read romance and 2) reads hundreds of books each year, so others (outside the Romancelandia circles that have been discussing trade paperback covers ad nauseum for the past five years) may not have the same feelings about it that I do, but the original option is going to make me pick up the book and read the back cover copy, while I might run screaming from the current cover. Why do I have it, then? Well, recalling that I was intrigued by that book I saw way back when, I did end up checking this book’s release date and found it available for request on NetGalley. A friends-to-lovers marriage of convenience is almost irresistible to me, so I did request it, but if I were just perusing bookshelves? I would walk right by. 

Why ruin a beautiful cover? I’m so sad about it.

Okay, so the premise here is that Mia and Noah have been best friends since they were seven, and there was a minute in college when something might have happened, but it didn’t, and they have been firmly friend-zoned ever since. When Mia gets a scholarship to go back and finish her degree but can’t because she needs the health insurance from her job, Noah suggests that they get married so she can stay on his insurance.

Sidenote here: I would really love it if authors would stop talking about getting married for insurance like it’s the equivalent of a green card marriage. It’s not. I have never in my life had to request from an employee or provide on my own behalf any validation of a marriage in order to qualify for insurance benefits. If the only requirement to obtain insurance is that you are legally married to the policy holder, and you are legally married and have legally obtained coverage according to the enrollment requirements for benefits, then a marriage of convenience for purposes of obtaining insurance is not fraud. IT IS NOT FRAUD. Fraud is attempting to obtain benefits to which you are not entitled. There is no level of “acceptability” for a legal marriage. It is or it isn’t. Besides, the insurance premium usually jumps significantly when it goes from a single to a family plan. It’s not like it’s not getting paid for. /end rant

Anyway. The book.

Look, if you love pining, they’ve been in love with each other for years but won’t tell each other because of Reasons, but when they have a reason to get married, suddenly things start falling into place, and hand holding leads to forehead kisses and then sweet “we gotta make it look real” kisses and lower back palm placement and then very intense kisses “because we should practice” and OMG FEELINGS, then the marriage of convenience part of the book hits every note pretty darn well. 

I will say that these characters feel very young, and they definitely need therapy. For a number of reasons. They have some serious baggage that doesn’t solely relate to their relationship.  All the reasons they feel they can’t be together (slash Mia feels they can’t be together) are understandable. But also they’re absolutely ridonkulous and take away agency and decision making from the other adult partner in the relationship. But mostly they need therapy. It would help a lot. So. If that’s a character struggle that is frustrating to you as a reader, this book might not be a great fit for you. 

Okay, team, I am not ready to leave the fraud rant. I have a really hard time with books that are supposed to involve a great work environment when the great work environment includes bad management practices or, you know, breaking the law because of discriminatory practices because people are too much up in their employees business (when that business is a protected class and does not impact job performance). That’s Noah’s (and early on Mia’s) office. It all seems great, but for some reason everybody thinks that it’s their business why people got married. Are they asking every newly married employee why they got married? If it was for acceptable reasons? Who TF decides what those are? If the policy states that spouses are eligible for insurance coverage, that is the extent to which the office should be interested in a marriage. 

This next might be a mild spoiler, but also the writing is on the wall from the minute “fraud” is something that’s raised as a concern. So maybe it’s not. You’ve been warned.

Honestly, the way Noah’s boss/mentor reacted when things finally came out made me think of listening to an employer complaining about how expensive an employee with a certain expensive condition was because those company-funded insurance costs cut into profit margins that later become bonuses. So really the only reason that upper management at Noah’s firm has a reason to be mad is because they could have unloaded a really expensive employee and now they can’t because she’s married to a current employee. Which is legal. They are legally married. And the reasons for the marriage are absolutely no business of the management of the company, and if they knew what was good for them in terms of liability, they would stay TF out of that conversation because marital status might not be a protected class federally, but it is in Colorado as I understand it from a very brief Google search. So basically any kind of retaliation against Noah for getting married when he’s within his rights to do so however he wants is absolutely gross, and he frankly shouldn’t want to work at a place like that.

I clearly could not get over the egregiousness of the “fraud” plotline; however, if you are willing to allow an absurdly manufactured tension point pull a story along, then as I said, the marriage of convenience component will undoubtedly hit every single button you’re looking for in that trope. They didn’t end up going to therapy (but they should have), but they did do a great job of processing their hangups at the end to allow themselves to be vulnerable to each other and not to act from a place of fear. So that was good. 

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 | Bookshop

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