by Kim Fielding
Publisher: Carina Adores
Publication Date: December 29, 2020
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:
Some people search their whole lives to find love. He just wants to avoid it.
Teddy Spenser spends his days selling design ideas to higher-ups, living or dying on each new pitch. Stodgy engineer types like Romeo Blue, his nemesis—if you can call someone who barely talks to you a nemesis—are a necessary evil. A cute necessary evil.
Working together is bad enough, but when their boss puts them both on a new high-stakes project, “working together” suddenly means:
- sitting uncomfortably close on the same plane
- staying in the same hotel room—with only one bed
- spending every waking minute together.
Turns out Mr. Starched Shirt has some hidden depths, and it’s getting harder to ignore the spark Teddy feels with every brush of their hands, with every knowing glance. He might not have been looking for this connection with Romeo, but will he ever be ready to let him go?
This is a zany and heartwarming sort of rom-com that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but there are some things that didn’t sit well with me. Due to that, pretty much this whole review is spoilers for the book.
“Romance was overrated—fine for Hallmark movies, yes, but this was real life, where True Love was about as practical and attainable as pet unicorns.”
For starters, it’s very predictable. Eccentric rich lady makes the employees of a start-up company fly out to her home in Seattle to pitch the product to her in person before she’ll invest in the company. Eccentric lady is concerned that the two employees don’t work well together, so she asks them to take part in three challenges. Employees fall in love over the course of the challenge, and when the eccentric lady demands an even more ridiculous thing before she’ll invest, they both make a grand gesture, and then, voila HEA! This entire setup is a bit weird and required a lot of suspension of disbelief, but I did enjoy the challenges and watching how the characters overcame them – or not.
“Romeo was the annoying snob who’d claimed the second-most-prime office and who ruined Teddy’s designs with bulky tech stuff. It was immaterial what—or rather, who—floated his boat. Except…over the past twenty-four hours, Teddy had learned that his previous assumptions about Romeo were off base. And hey, shock! Romeo was a human being with wants and needs. And desires.”
Teddy reads as very young. He starts out very prejudiced against Romeo, and it’s only the trip to Seattle that makes him start to consider him in a different light and realize how wrong – and how much of an asshole – he was. He also has some very amusing daydreaming digressions, like what he’d do if he was as rich as eccentric lady. While Teddy’s working in marketing at the startup, his true love is fashion. While he doesn’t have a lot of money, he knows how to make the best of his budget by mixing and matching vintage secondhand pieces. There’s several thrift store visits, including ones where he basically builds a new wardrobe for Romeo, and I absolutely adored the energy and obvious care Teddy took with it.
There’s so much about Teddy’s and Romeo’s relationship that really worked for me. I liked that the conflict was completely external to their relationship. Rather than let the stresses of the challenges drive them apart, it only brought them closer together. Once they become a couple, they communicate well, and they’re just so adorable together. They’re constantly giving each other compliments and being all sweet and vulnerable, and I practically melted into a puddle of goo reading some of their scenes together.
“You think that about me?”
“I know that about you, Teddy Spenser.”
“Well, that’s funny. Because when I’m with you—Well, you’re sort of almost too perfect. It should scare me away. But when I’m with you, I feel like I can be my best self.”
Because of that, I didn’t mind the insta-love at first. At the start of the book, after his misadventures with his last ex, Teddy is adamant on focusing on his career over a romantic relationship. It’s obvious from the first on-page interactions between Teddy and Romeo that they’re both attracted to each other, so I didn’t mind how quickly they went from “enemies” – which is a misnomer, as the animosity is completely on Teddy’s side – to lovers. But then, in the course of a week, they’re suddenly at the “meet the family” and “let’s be together forever!!!” stages of their relationship? I wanted to root for them, but that bit felt too unrealistic to me. I loved the epilogue, though.
“Well, his name is Romeo Blue—”
“Is he a celebrity? That sounds like a celebrity’s name.”
Teddy snorted. “Right? Or a spy. But he’s a software developer.”
“That’s much more practical.”
We only get Teddy’s POV through the book, and it makes his treatment of Romeo, including some glaring microaggressions, even worse. While I liked Romeo as a character, as a middle-class white woman, I was uncomfortable with some of it. He’s Black, and he grew up very poor. His dad died when he was twelve, and he and his four older sisters were raised by his mother. He only knows how to cook southern food and his general response to Teddy asking about whether he knows how to do something is that his family was too poor (too poor to own a TV, too poor to have gone on vacation, etc). He frequently quotes various things his mother has said, which while very adorable and sweet, also struck me as a bit weird. Even his name – his parents had a thing for Shakespeare and named all their kids after characters – feels a bit caricaturish. I tried to find something from a Black reviewer, but I couldn’t, so I’m just going to leave it that all of this together made me really uncomfortable.
“No problem, babe, ’cause we’re not a tragedy. I think we might be a romantic comedy instead.”
“Can we be a musical rom-com?”
Good. Because that meant they’d get a happy ending, right?”
Overall, while I enjoyed the book and its absolutely zaniness, I struggled to rate it given the above issues. I’m settling on a three, and will be keeping an eye out for an ownvoices perspective on Romeo.