Jasmine Guillory is BACK. Not going to lie, I was a little worried about this book – Royal Holiday was a royal flop, and I was disinterested in reliving that (see my full review here). But Guillory definitely has her spark back, and I’m even more confident that Royal Holiday was out of her control.
Olivia Monroe has just moved back to LA after working for a giant law firm in New York, in order to start her own firm with her best friend. In a chance encounter at the hotel she stays at when she first arrives, she meets a handsome stranger…who later turns out to be senator Max Powell.
Olivia isn’t interested in a relationship, but she just can’t seem to resist Max (and those incredible cakes he keeps sending!). And the feelings are mutual; Max is tired of being lonely, and wants a girl who will stick by his side as he grows his political career. But their jobs and the demands of life in the spotlight may be too much for the both of them.
Like I said, Guillory really rebounded here. I didn’t love it as much as The Proposal (I think that’s her best to date), but it falls right on par with The Wedding Date and The Wedding Party. I also think this book is quite timely and readily tackles some issues about race that the world is now turning our attention to, on par with The Wedding Date. It adds that extra depth in the characters and the plot that Royal Holiday was missing… which is what makes Guillory so good.
I liked Olivia and Max, but I think their personality traits were more alluded to than demonstrated. Often, when the two described each other, they said things that weren’t part of the impression I got from the story and dialogue. For example, Olivia tells her sister (oh yes…we get updates on Alexa and Drew!) that Max is too self-centered. I see no evidence of this, honestly and truly, and certainly not prior to Olivia making this comment. His entire work as a senator is dedicated to others, to making America and California better based on the opinions of others – he really listens to his constituents, his staff, and Olivia. Self-centered isn’t the word for him…he does become blinded by his idealism, but it’s never about him. This book makes a lot of passing comments like this one that aim to change what we know and understand about Olivia and Max, but provide no evidence through the writing. Essentially, the problem is a lack of planning this novel out, and including personality traits more organically or not at all. I wish it had been done better.
Other than that, this was definitely an enjoyable read. I liked Olivia and Max a lot, and I liked that we had this whole background story happening about criminal justice reform and racism. They were both change drivers, using their pasts to revise the future. This is what I absolutely love in new contemporary romance (as I’m sure you’ve seen me write a thousand times before!): an element of something real and feminist, where women are not powerless and men are woke. Guillory does that well.
Definitely recommend this book! What a fun read and a great rebound for Guillory’s series. I was given a copy of Party of Two by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be released June 23, 2020.