Howdy! This week I read Jasmine Guillory’s newest in The Wedding Date series: While We Were Dating. The more Jasmine Guillory I read, the more disillusioned I become with its quality. I enjoyed While We Were Dating, but it didn’t blow others out of the water.
Anna Gardiner is on a mission to get herself back to the Oscars. After a year facing anxiety and panic attacks, she’s getting back on the horse with an advertising campaign led by Ben Stephens, a sweet and funny flirt who also happily drives celebrities hundreds of miles in a family crisis. Their flirtation quickly blossoms into friendship and hookups.
When her manager catches their chemistry, he suggests a plan to help Anna launch back into stardom: the two should fake date in the months leading up to a huge movie premiere that will heavily influence the future of her career. It’s just what Anna needs…and maybe Ben is, too.
I have to say, I noticed last night that there were a lot of times where I genuinely laughed, like it was just too funny to keep inside, or how often I smiled at how sticky sweet the dialogue was. With the exception of Royal Holiday (review here, I’m sure you’ve all picked up how much I hate this one), this is what Guillory excels at: her characters are real, and feel real to the reader. Their emotions are accurate, not overstated. Their problems are legitimate. This book, in spite of being about celebrities, is genuine, grounded in reality, and lovely to read.
Like I said, it just didn’t blow me away is all. It’s a fun story! I love the de-stigmatization of mental health issues, and the healthy relationship behavior displayed throughout this book, too: too often you read romance and there’s at least one really problematic element that just makes you cringe, but Guillory is so good at covering all her bases. Even when behavior is unhealthy, her characters call it out and change. Their growth throughout the book makes the romance stronger, and their story feel more real. I love it. It feels grounded in truth and actual experiences even when the story is fantastical and whimsical like this one; for example, Guillory writes Anna with anxiety in this book. Her panic attacks sound like real panic attacks to me, a haver of panic attacks, lol. Her responses to the way people treat her in regards to her mental health also sound like real responses. I have a whole other level of appreciation for romance books where the characters have lives outside of their loves lives, and Guillory nails that time and time again. Ben and Anna both have their own set of issues that they’re working through, but it’s clear throughout that they’re stronger together, and make better decisions when they have each other to reflect with.
Even with that sticky sweet dialogue that made me smile as I cringed, I also must say that Anna and Ben’s chemistry was cute and didn’t feel forced. They have an easygoing friendship from the start, in part because of the way they both interact with other people. They’re both open and friendly, so there’s never any ice to break. They’re both very warm characters, and their dialogue was fun and humorous. I liked them both a lot (maybe not as much as Nik and Carlos, or Maddie and Theo, but quite a bit).
The more I write, the more I realize I just don’t have anything bad to say. It’s not a bad book! It’s just not my favorite. I don’t know if I love Guillory’s books as much as I used to, but after reflecting on my reading experience I still couldn’t tell you exactly why that is. Any other readers who have been around since the beginning starting to feel that way, or is it just me? Nothing wrong with tastes changing, I just couldn’t tell you exactly what it is that changed for me. I still like and recommend Guillory’s works. But I’m not knocking down the library door to read them anymore. You know?
So I feel comfortable giving While We Were Dating just 3.5 stars. Didn’t love it, definitely didn’t hate it. Would I recommend? Maybe. Depends on whether you’re a casual romance reader or if you’re like neck deep in all these new releases and new authors now like I am. I’ll let you make that call.
Happy reading friends. 🙂