A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

on June 7, 2019

After what seemed like way too deliberate a rom/com movie opening (and closing) I was surprised by how much I liked this. It intriguingly plays with several romance themes that are catnip for me; I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or not, but it really worked.

The book starts with a classic opposite twins set-up. Ami is the woman so lucky, every item in her wedding was free; her sister’s ringtone for her is the sound of a jackpot. Whereas Olive is basically a Charlie Brown who always gets a rock instead of Halloween candy. With her history, it’s no wonder that Olive is something of a cynic and pessimist — or is it, as her family often contends, the other way around?

Olive’s seafood allergy turns out to be unexpectedly lucky when she’s one of only two people who doesn’t get extremely sick at her sister’s wedding. Not so luckily, the other is her new brother-in-law, because he’s much too snooty to eat from a buffet. Olive has hated Ethan since he sneered at her, a curvy woman, for eating cheese curds, but now she’s on a honeymoon to Maui with him, and thanks to some truly cosmic bad luck, they’re forced to pretend they’re married.

It’s not a surprise to discover, in an enemies-to-lovers story, that Ethan was actually attracted to Olive from the start, and his hostility and body-shaming was pretty much all in her head, at least initially. But there’s a little more to it: Ethan was discouraged from asking Olive out by his brother, who told Ethan she was always angry. And Olive’s own behavior has been justifying that comment.

Although the plot is exceptionally full of awkward coincidence, and Olive’s antagonism towards Ethan can be a bit much, the Maui section of the book is fun. Olive and Ethan have some wonderful banter, both when they’re hating each other and then when they’re really not.

His mouth makes its way down my body; hands already familiar with my legs now explore my breasts, my stomach, the delicate skin beside my hip bones and lower. I want to take a picture of him like this: his soft hair brushing against my stomach as he makes his way down, his eyes closed in pleasure.

“I think this is the longest we’ve gone without arguing,” he murmurs.

“What if all of this was just a ruse to get a great blackmail photo?” I am breathless as he kisses a string of heat across my novel.

“I’ve always wanted someone who appreciates the long con.”

But things take a turn when they return home, finding themselves in a relationship that suddenly has some very difficult family complications.

Here’s where the twins trope goes a bit sidewise. The good sister/bad sister dichotomy is one I adore, but it’s not what happens here. Olive and Ami love and rely on each other, as they do everyone in their large Latinx family, and neither “deserves” the shit that comes their way.

And then there’s my absolute favorite romance theme: one character betraying the other and breaking their heart. And it’s done here in such a… reasonable, understandable way, that is yet still truly painful and hard to forgive. Mmmm, modern angsty goodness! And it moreover leads to Olive re-evaulating her character and her life in positive ways. Although this is most definitely a romance, it has a bit of a chick-lit element, since the focus is on Olive and her growth as a person. Perhaps that’s just another way in which this is a rom-com.

 

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