The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 36. Recommended by a favorite author
Other Possible Prompts: 6. Household object on the cover, 25. A wealthy character, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022
Meh. That’s how I’m feeling about this one.
Grace is an interior designer, finally leaving her life of let-downs behind, pulling herself up by her bootstraps, and beginning the renovation of a lifetime on her very own home. Unfortunately, mega rich guy Noah next door won’t stop asking to buy it…to put in a pool, no less.
Looking to begin renovations on his own home, Noah seeks an opportunity with a design magazine to have his own reno featured and help him grow his name in the real estate business around California. Much to his chagrin, they ask Grace to do the designing, because the two have such an electric chemistry…but once the pair start the project, they realize they work well together in more ways than one.
Reading the synopsis you kind of get the impression this will be an enemies-to-lovers romance, but very little of this story fits that trope. I would definitely classify it as a slow burn, though, and those aren’t typically my jam.
However, I really liked the first half of this book: the slow burn and banter from the beginning of this novel sucks you right in. I was really enjoying it, until they actually got together, oddly enough. Sullivan nails the lead in, but their actual romance flops. Flops hard. It bored me and I became more invested in the reno and the family drama than in their picture-perfect romance.
I think it flopped hard because it lost the humor. To me, there’s just something authentic and funny in enemies-to-lovers stories because they’re constantly nitpicking or cracking jokes, and it makes the relationship more natural and real, even if it is strained. When Noah and Grace flip sides of this relationship, it loses its natural tone and takes on a far more forced one through dialogue and action.
Because of this observation, I can’t help but wonder how Ten Rules For Faking It plays out. That one’s been in my NetGalley ARCs for…a while, let’s say. Long enough that she wrote a second book, so. Reading the description now, it sounds like The Ex Talk but with less humor and more nervous energy. But because there’s no hatred, no banter, I can’t help but wonder if that one also falls flat.
I have to say, though, that reading this makes me want to redecorate my house! Bahahaha. The design details and that fun background story element makes the book enjoyable enough. Grace is a likeable character and Noah’s not all that bad either. They’re just boring.
I also have to commend Sullivan’s recognition of family strains. Both Noah and Grace have strained parent relationships from the start of the book, that come to a head by the end. I half expected to read that everyone made up and got over it – but (SPOILER ALERT) I’m really glad I didn’t. Not only does it teach you that some people will truly be there for you, but it also teaches that sometimes blood won’t be, not in the way you need. Plenty of people in my life have strained family relationships, and I’m constantly letting them know that their worth is not determined by this other person, and the decision to keep them in their life is theirs alone, and they owe no explanations. I like that that was represented in a novel, and particularly one about love, because it shows that you don’t need those who hurt you to be happy or successful – even if they are blood relations. You just need your close inner circle.
Overall, though, I don’t think I would recommend this one or pick up Sullivan again. I’m actually positive I’ll be skipping the first one now, too. This was a drag for me to get through and the payoff didn’t do it for me in the second half…so I think I’m all set with Sullivan’s work.
Have a wonderful week, friends!