This book combined a lot of things I love about Jasmine Guillory, and a few things I didn’t love so much.
Isabelle is a likeable character, sympathetic and fairly well-developed. She works as an assistant in a publishing house, and I found the description of the work fascinating. Izzy actually gets to coach, prod, and cajole struggling writers, in addition to reading new manuscripts. It’s a dream job, though she struggles with a boss who’s demanding and uncommunicative.
While at a conference in California, Izzy volunteers to drop in on one of their long-overdue writers. Beau is a hot-tempered, trouble-seeking actor who has a contract for his memoir but who hasn’t yet produced a word. Beau initially refuses to talk to her, but then (inexplicably) invites her to stay and help him with the book.
I enjoyed the very tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (specifically, the Disney animated version). Beauty and the Beast is a hard story to adapt to modern sensibility (a captive falling in love with their captor, for one thing). But thankfully, Guillory doesn’t try too hard to fit her story to that one. Instead, she sprinkles fun references to the movie throughout the book, with off-limit rooms, struggling rosebushes, a yellow dress, and even a wifi password “Lum1ere”.
I also really enjoyed the contrast between New York and California, something that resonated as I’ve lived on both coasts. At one point, Izzy plots a course on her phone to walk a couple of miles to a bookstore and she discovers that walking a mile in NYC is completely different from walking a mile in California, where there are hills and no sidewalks.
The idea of Izzy staying with Beau doesn’t make a ton of sense though. Who moves in with someone on a business trip? Here’s where the adaptation felt a little forced, and even though Beau lives in a huge place, it felt like all kinds of privacy boundaries were crossed – but with a fairy tale adaptation you kind of have to go with things like that.
One thing about Guillory that drives many readers crazy is her near-obsession with food. I enjoyed that in The Wedding Date. It shouldn’t be strange to read about women who enjoy food without being self-conscious in front of guys, but sadly it is. But while I appreciate that, I found it annoying in this book. There’s a whole cabinet devoted to snacks, which would be fine if there wasn’t so much conversation about snacks.
I liked the slow nature of the story and I also found this a moving read in terms of Isabelle’s personal and professional growth. But as a romance I was left with mixed feelings. Beau and Izzy are two strangers who are forced to live together and rely on each other professionally, yet everything felt too easy and I never sensed any real sparks. While I appreciated that there weren’t a lot of forced situations or misunderstandings, I still think a good love story needs conflict. Here, all the conflicts were internal (Izzy’s fear of letting her guard down) or resolved too quickly (Beau’s sensitivity about his writing).
I also never felt like I got to know or understand Beau. He switches from growly and mean to sweet and understanding without much transition. The story focuses on one aspect of his life, but there wasn’t a lot of backstory to explain who he is. And his dialogue with Izzy is so focused on his memoir (and snacks), it didn’t feel like these two really got to know each other.
This was a book I enjoyed reading, it just wasn’t a romance that I found terribly memorable.
Note: I received an advanced review copy from NetGalley and publisher Hyperion Avenue. This book published May 3, 2022.