by M. Hollis
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Publication Date: January 7, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
When Dora receives a letter from the immigration service in Canada saying she will be deported soon, as her visa is expiring, a friend suggests she marry a woman. Since she doesn’t currently have a girlfriend, faking a relationship might be her only option since she can’t muster the desire to return to school for advanced photograph studies.
Abby is a reserved librarian who seems enthusiastic about helping with the marriage plan. As the two girls get to know each other through dates in snowy Toronto and meeting Abby’s family for Christmas, Dora starts to wonder how much of this relationship they are faking and how much is real.
Ok, first off – that cover is GORGEOUS. Secondly, a Canadian f/f fake romance novella? Heck yeah!
After graduating from college in Canada with a photography degree, Dora’s coasting along at her barista job when she finds out that her student visa is expiring. Dora doesn’t really want to go back to Brazil, so luckily her best friend has an idea – marry her friend Abby! From a date at a Brazilian restaurant to a Christmas family trip, getting to know each other is a lot of fun, but is a fake relationship enough to build a real romance on?
“I stared at the street ahead of us, thinking of how much I always walked on eggshells when it came to my life. Waiting for things to happen on their own wasn’t going to fix my problems anytime soon. Abby and I could go for it, and if we decided it wasn’t worth it, then we could stop. But as I looked back at the cute girl by my side, a new fear came to me.
Two years living together was a long time. Enough time to maybe fall in love with Abigail or end up hating her guts.”
I thought Dora was an interesting, if grumpy, heroine. She almost read as a bit depressed to me, though I’m not sure that was the intent, as she’s dissatisfied with her life even before the visa news. She wants romance – she browses Tumblr for pics of cute girls kissing and watches romance movies – but hasn’t had much luck finding a girlfriend in Toronto. Though she loves photography, an accident has left her camera-less and without a creative outlet. Even a few dates in, Dora’s still very unsure about their fake relationship, and some of that comes out as frustration at Abby. Though Dora states that she believes that you need to work to get what you want, she’s so passive at times that it felt like Abby cared more about her visa status than Dora herself did! Abby is a nerdy librarian, described by Dora as always surrounded by books. She’s constantly reading – even while en route to dates via public transportation with Dora – and is rather serious, though she has a gamut of interests, from Abba to heavy metal. Dora initially thinks Abby is straight, though I’m not sure why, and it’s a quite funny scene when Abby disabuses her of that notion.
Oddly enough, I felt like Abby’s growing feelings about the relationship were clearer than Dora’s, even though the book is solely from Dora’s POV. I did think the relationship felt a bit underdeveloped, even for a novella, as I didn’t get much chemistry between the two of them. And I think that comes down to my main criticism of the book. While it reminded me a bit of a Jackie Lau book (from the trope-y title to the Canadian setting), it’s more simplistic. While Dora’s obviously worried about her immigration status, it doesn’t extend to the depth of emotion you’d find in a JL book – it’s got neither the emotional lows nor the almost over the top silliness that balances that out. The premise also immediately reminded me of Christina Lauren’s Roomies, though, luckily, this nicely sidesteps the legality of the issue – View Spoiler »while they discuss the possibilities of a fake marriage and go through the motions of getting to know each other, the only people they try to fool with the fake relationship are Abby’s family « Hide Spoiler.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the book. It’s quite sweet, from their first date is at a Brazilian restaurant, to making flash cards with silly “get to know you” questions, to “acting” like a couple for a short film for Dora’s roommate. The crowning bit is when they go to Abby’s family’s house for Christmas. It is a novella, so it’s a quick read, and I thought it was well-paced. I also liked that each character had great female friendships. Dora and Abby share a good friend – the one who introduced them – and Dora also has a supportive roommate.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but think it was missing something, so I’m giving it 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3. I definitely think that Ms. Hollis has a great voice, though, and I’ll be on the lookout for her next book!