Bingo Square: Summer Read
I needed to a new romance author to try, and I remembered the reviews for this one piquing my interest, even though I didn’t end up picking it up for quite a while, and even had to ask for assistance in finding the right title. I’m not sure if this novel is an example of how all of Lauren’s novels are or if this is her (them – Christian Lauren is actually a writing duo) at the top of her game, but I loved it. It was funny, relatable, heartfelt, and I just cared about the characters, their hesitancy in getting together despite obviously being perfect for each felt real rather than angsty, and I generally enjoyed it.
The novel shifts between Hazel and Josh, who were college acquaintances and meet again almost a decade later when Hazel attends a barbecue at her best friend Emily’s house, and discovers that Josh, who she described as the perfect man in college and offered sex on their first meeting, is Emily’s brother. Hazel announces her goal to become Josh’s new best friend, and when a plumbing leak in her apartment leaves her temporarily homeless, Emily volunteers Josh’s second bedroom. Despite their completely different personalities, the two get along, and Josh finds himself missing his disorderly housemate when she returns to her home, leading to an experiment that lets them continue spending time together – double dates! Some go well, some are disastrous but Josh and Hazel find themselves on dating adventures together, less in the pursuit of love and more as an excuse to spend time together.
It was odd how much I related to Hazel and her internal view of herself despite the fact that she and I are incredibly different people. Hazel is outgoing, quirky, the crazy girl, extroverted, messy and willing to be ridiculous. For the most part, she doesn’t care what people think. The exception to this is Josh, who is her polar opposite, and her idea of perfect: he is sweet, organized, successful, thoughtful and ridiculously good looking, and neither want to take any steps that might risk their friendship. While Hazel is very secure in herself and in some ways seems to live in a fairy tale world, she is also very grounded and self aware. She describes herself undateable, and also discusses the fact that the same men that enjoy the dating the quirky girl get irritated when the quirky girl up for any sexual adventure doesn’t settle down and become more like other girls after a month or two. Despite this, she is happy with her life, and doesn’t feel like she needs a man to complete her, though she also thinks love would be a nice extra in her life.
I think the concept of undateable spoke to me, that idea that there just is something about one’s personality that doesn’t quite fit for a long term relationship. While Hazel’s fear is that she is too much to handle, my fear is always that I’m too much in the middle – successful enough to be slightly intimidating to some men but not quite driven and ambitious enough to be a fit with the men who want those qualities in a partner; slightly nerdy but not nerdy enough to actually want to date someone that is very nerdy themselves; my body type fluctuates at that line between “regular” sizes and plus size so basically just in the middle. Not to mention that I can be very restrained and keep my cards close in the beginning – basically the exact opposite of Hazel.
I think the reason Hazel appealed to me so much is that she with the exception of Josh, she wasn’t angsty with her idea of being undateable. She liked who she was and her life, and if she couldn’t find a man to fit into that, she wasn’t going to change herself. While in other romances, I might get irritated with a heroine with self esteem issues, Hazel’s view of herself didn’t strike me as a self esteem issue as much as a clear view of the dating world and relationships. After all, I know way more amazing single women who for some reason are unsuccessful in the dating world than the reverse.
I definitely recommend this one for someone looking for a fun happily after with appealing characters that builds up to an earned relationship between two characters with amazing chemistry, and doesn’t have too many fake obstacles thrown in. There are of course a few moments where it would be nice if the characters talked it out, but Lauren doesn’t drag those situations out too much, so they feel real and accurate to the character rather than a way to drag out the story and add to the drama.
Bingo Square: Summer Read