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Before I start this review I want to be clear about something: I was excited to read this book. When I got the giant box of books I ordered from Gulf of Maine Books I knew that once that Stephen King’s Later was out of the way, it would be next. I am a sucker for an enemies-to-lovers story and it’s been awhile since I read a decent romance. I was in this book’s corner. All good? That’s clear? Okay.
This is one of the worst romance novels I have ever read. PERIOD. Wow oh wow I only finished it so I could have the full weight behind this review. I didn’t want anyone to be like “well she didn’t even read the whole thing, it gets better later!” Reader, it does not. I promise.
In true teacher form I will start with something Lily Menon does very well, which is writing the steamy scenes. Very descriptive and realistic, A+. They were the only moments in the book where my emotions lifted at all in response to the writing.
The problem is that the main character is an adult toddler. They are supposed to be in their early twenties (and honestly, people – including past me!- in their early twenties are the most idealistic idiot babies out there, so Menon’s got it right) but the main character Annika is constantly acting like a petulant teenager from a mean girls group. Every sentence is either how much she hates Hudson Craft (the CEO of Break Up and her nemesis/lover in the story) or how her app Make Up isn’t going down without a fight despite having no money and no completed product to bring in revenue. This constant attitude of “I am going to will what I want into existence” becomes grating after about three or so chapters.
What makes Annika believe that she and Hudson are enemies is that at some point before the story in the book, they had met and hooked up for a week at a conference in Las Vegas where they slept together and talked about all their ideas for apps and technology.** She told him about her idea for Make Up, and after they returned to their lives, he suddenly became super famous for his development of the app Break Up. Annika thinks he stole and twisted her idea, and this idea is reinforced by his success juxtaposed against her struggles and imminent failure. But you, the reader, can understand immediately that this app is nothing like Annika’s app. I know NOTHING about coding or developing but I could see that his app was nothing like hers and so again, within the first 3-5 chapters that motivator of the enemies-to-friends setup crumbles pretty quickly and makes Annika look like a petulant baby who just wants to blame her ineptitude in her own efforts on something, anything else.
**Side note: without any information of that steamy week in Las Vegas, we have no foundation for their chemistry. Annika is always “thinking of Vegas” but we get no more information than that other than it was amazing and they were vulnerable with each other. The first part of this book should have been their trip in Vegas, then the rest of the book is “One Year Later” or something. Then we’d know more about BOTH Hudson and Annika, and maybe their actions and relationship/rivalry would make more sense.
Annika constantly stomps around like a baby having a tantrum, starts fights with Hudson when his team is mostly leaving her and her friend/developer June alone, and honestly Hudson is portrayed like an actual adult. He’s running his business, an app that provides closure to couples who are over, making money, doing interviews with major publications – he’s the picture of success. Every time Annika does something he might as well pat her on the head and just go back to what he was doing. You feel embarrassed for her because she’s showing her entire ass for the majority of the book. I found myself rooting against them getting together, because Hudson deserved better. They had absolutely no chemistry except in the steamy moments, which if not so well written, would have been even more cringey and unbelievable. They felt forced, because I could not picture the two of them together.
Something that Lily Menon tries to do to make up for all of this petulance (I’m sorry but it’s the perfect word) is to dump Hudson’s history and family issues on us within like 50 pages of the end of the book. Like maybe all of Annika’s tantrums and monologues about how his app hurts people were actually helping him out of a tough spot, but that’s hard to stomach because we’ve already been through the entire book. Even if he thinks his app is hurting people, Annika is still a whiney tool who shouldn’t be with this adult, mature person.
The “happily ever after” would have been delightful if the rest of the book had been better. The third act of the book followed the typical romance structure (fight, tragedy, separation, realization, reconnect, HEA) but it felt forced because of everything I’ve already discussed. I was angry that this story wasn’t better, because the bones were good. Menon knows her structure, but without characters we care about or can root for, it’s just going through the motions.
If you want to test my review, definitely try to get this one at the library first. Don’t pay to be disappointed like I did.
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