Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Published by Avon on February 4, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.
Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning —absolutely off-limits — ex-fiancée. And she loathes him.
If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.
But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again...
Sometimes, families are the absolute worst. At other times, they’re the greatest! In Lina Santos’ experience as a wedding planner, they can be both, entirely too frequently on opposite sides of the aisle at one of the weddings she has planned. Or rescued. (Three little words, “chartreuse wedding gown”. Enough said)
But the one wedding she couldn’t rescue was her own. Not only was Lina left at the altar, but she was left with the task of letting all of the guests know that there wouldn’t be a wedding after all. Because the groom had bailed, leaving his brother to inform the bride and the bride to deal with all of the fallout.
Fast forward a few years. Lina has put the wedding-that-wasn’t behind her. In a lot of ways, fairly easily. She chose Andrew because he didn’t really touch her heart, so his runaway from the runway was more of a blow to her pride than any other part of her.
Which didn’t mean that she was overcome with joy to discover that Andrew and his brother Max, the best man forced to deliver the news to the no-longer-a-bride Lina, were the PR team for the luxury hotel chain that was looking to hire a full-time wedding coordinator.
A job that Lina desperately both wants and needs. What she doesn’t either want or need is to expose their collective and seriously messy past to a possible boss. So she panics and pretends she doesn’t know either of them.
Even better – or worse – or both, they go along with the ruse.
A ruse that Lina and Max are going to have to maintain for six weeks while the hotel’s new owner goes through a very thorough vetting process. A time period that is more than long enough to strain both the ruse and Max and Lina’s ability to tolerate each other for the length of time necessary for Lina to get the job and Max to prove to both the hotelier and his mother-the-PR-boss that Max is a different and separate person from his conniving, competitive older brother Andrew.
Not that Max is any less competitive, or possibly any less conniving where Andrew is concerned. But this level of connivance, deception and, surprisingly temptation is big enough to bite them all in the ass.
Especially once Max and Lina figure out that the heat in their back-biting is masking a desire to bite each other in an entirely different way!
Escape Rating B+: Max isn’t so much the worst best man as this scenario is the worst nightmare for a wedding planner – being forced to work with the erstwhile groom who left her at the altar and the almost-best man who was stuck giving her the news. Not that Max didn’t take some of the blame for Andrew’s actions, and not that Lina wasn’t more than willing at the time to shoot the damn messenger.
But in spite of the scenario beginning as soap opera worthy and descending from there, Max isn’t even the worst best man that Lina’s ever dealt with, on the job or off.
And they do begin this mess with something in common – they both want to get something over Andrew. In a whole lot of senses, he’s a professional embarrassment for both of them – Lina for the obvious reason, but Max because Andrew has been riding on his intellectual coattails their entire lives, and managing to take all the credit for Max’ hard work into the bargain.
This enemies to lovers romance is billed as a rom-com, and it is filled with the kind of witty banter that makes rom-coms so much fun. But underneath all of that, there’s more going on in this story than first meets the eye.
At the beginning, Max’ attitude towards Andrew, their mother, the job and Lina all come off as very manipulative. His desire to get one over on his brother seems to be driving his actions, and his thoughts are more than a bit on the ugly side.
Max’ relationship with his brother is toxic for both of them, and it seems as if their mother doesn’t see just how much poison she’s adding to that brew. The situation underpins the whole story, as Max is a bit unclear at the beginning whether he’s helping Lina or just using her. And it feels like a bit of both. Max’ manipulativeness soured me a bit on the story at that point, but so many people said so many good things about it that I stuck with it and I’m glad I did.
When Lina and Max become involved with each other, there are plenty of questions all around about whether their emotions are real or whether they’re both using the situation to get back at Andrew. There’s also a heaping helping of concern about whether any relationship they might have can get itself out from under Andrew’s shadow.
At the same time, there’s also a lot that gets said, and needs to be said, that doesn’t get clearly articulated near enough. Max wants Lina to show more of her emotions, but Lina – and every other woman reading this story – is very clear that being able to display your emotions in a professional setting is very much a male privilege. If she gets righteously upset, she’ll be seen as merely a stereotypical “angry black woman” or a typical “hot-blooded Latina as she is Afro-Latinx. If she cries in a work setting, she’s labelled as a “hysterical female” who can’t control her emotions. It’s happened to her. It’s cost her a job and a career. It’s happened to all of us so we do our best to clamp down our emotions at work. As Lina successfully does.
The resolution here is for them to find a way to deal with the very real situation that their relationship drags into the light. Not to paper them over, not to magic up a happy ending, but to earn one.
And that they definitely do!