Kissing books with varying degrees of actual kissing (Ayesha At Last might be the most chaste book I’ve read all year, but it’s still very romantic). Ordered vaguely from least favorite to most.
(3 stars) Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’m always on the lookout for new Taylor Jenkins Reid, and after I finished Daisy Jones I had a definite hankering. Luckily, Reid published a story I’d never come across before, and it was available free through Amazon. Unfortunately, it was a short story and not terribly satisfying.
“It is as if I have lived with a hard shell all over my body and you have cracked it and it has all fallen off. I am fresh again.”
Told in a series of letter, Evidence of the Affair introduces us to Carrie and David in the mid-1970s. Carrie finds a stack of love letters in her husband’s belongings — love letters written to him by David’s wife. Carrie decides to write to David — she wants to warn him about his wife, and she also wants to see what her husband has been writing. After some deliberation, David decides to write back.
They develop a friendship, of course, and eventually meet in person. There’s a lot of dissecting what went wrong in each of their marriages, which I found interesting, but the length of the story was a problem for me. I’m often unsatisfied by short stories, but this one was more like a novella (115 pages) and still didn’t have much meat to it. The writing was lovely — it just lacked the content I expected from Reid.
(3 stars) 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
I know a lot of y’all really didn’t like this book. I was definitely disappointed in it as a follow up to The Hating Game, but on its own merits I thought it was perfectly fine. I also read the last three quarters of it in the bathtub with a bottle of wine, which I would highly recommend.
Darcy Bennett has been in love with Tom Valeska since they were kids, but he’s always been off limits because he’s her twin brother’s best friend. They’re thrown back into each other’s lives when Darcy hires Tom to renovate her deceased aunt’s house. Despite the fact that Darcy thinks Tom is engaged, she aggressively pursues him while he’s working on the house. Look, here’s the thing — Darcy is a goddamn mess. She drinks too much, she has casual sex with people she hates, she won’t let Tom do his damn job. She is not easy to root for, and she makes the book hard to get into. But I really enjoyed the writing here. Thorne’s descriptions of everything from Tom’s shoulders to a slice of pizza are so lush and…dirty. I mean:
I walk along slowly and drag my fingertips along the bars of chocolate. Goddamn, you sexy little squares. Dark, milk, white, I do not discriminate. I eat it all. Those fluorescent sour candies that only obnoxious little boys like. I suck candy apples clean. If an envelope seal is sweet, I’ll lick it twice. Growing up, I was that kid who would easily get lured into a van with the promise of a lollipop.
I’m telling you, that was fun to read. Also, I liked the dog.
(4 stars) The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang
So I loved Helen Hoang’s first book, The Kiss Quotient. I loved the characters and the set up and the way Stella’s mind worked. I was really excited for The Bride Test and while it maybe wasn’t quite as good, I definitely enjoyed it and I’m psyched to hear Hoang has a third book in the series coming out next year.
Khai Diep thinks he doesn’t fell anything — that would explain why he didn’t express the same emotions as the rest of his family when his cousin Andy died. Convinced he’s defective, he allows his mother to find him a bride from Vietnam. His mother brings home My (she goes by the American name Esme), who’s determined to make Khai fall in love with her so she can provide a better life for her young daughter in Vietnam. But seducing Khai is not nearly as easy as Esme expects.
I really liked watching Esme (who didn’t speak English very well, or know American customs, when she first entered the story) and Khai (unaware of Autism spectrum disorder or what that could mean for him) trying to navigate each other and eventually fall in love. Khai takes things very seriously, and while his reactions to events differ greatly from Esme’s (like the first time they have sex), he takes steps to find out what to do to make things better for her. In response, Esme tries to understand things from Khai’s perspective. It’s a really sweet book, and I love Hoang’s writing.
(4 stars) Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
This might be the most chaste “kissing book” I’ve ever read, but that doesn’t mean it was good and steamy. Lots of longing looks here, y’all.
Ayesha and her family moved to Toronto from India when she was young after her father died unexpectedly. Unlike many of the young Muslim women in her family and community, she has expressed little interest in marriage, preferring to focus on her poetry and substitute teaching gig. After her (incredibly annoying) younger cousin Hafsa bails on a project at the mosque and asks Ayesha to cover, Ayesha ends up pretending to be Hasfa and helping plan a singles mixer for Muslim youths. This brings her into contact with Khalid, a fundamentalist Muslim who’s perfectly happy working his software job and waiting for his (crazy controlling) mother to make him a love match.
Khalid and Ayesha do the rom-com thing of hating each other, falling in love, then almost losing each other when he finds out the truth of her identity. This well-known story is set against a fresh backdrop (or fresh to me, anyway) — a Muslim community in Canada filled with immigrants trying to balance their own customs against the country they live in now. I knew next to nothing about arranged marriages (despite having several friends whose parents were married in that way) before reading this book, and found the different viewpoints of the characters very interesting (at some point Khalid points out how unusual it is to fall in love with Ayesha prior to marriage, because he expected love to grow from the starting point of marriage).
Also, the food descriptions in this book are amazing and made me hungry every time I picked it up.
(5 stars) The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (look at all these yellow covers!)
I loved this book. The set up is so silly — unlucky Olive and her sworn enemy Ethan are the only two people at her sister and his brother’s wedding not to get food poisoning at the buffet. They hate each other for vague reasons (which mostly boil down to her being insecure and him being bad at expressing himself) but end up going on the non-refundable honeymoon together. They’re forced to share a hotel room, get massages and go on excursions together, and eventually (duh) fall in love. It’s ridiculous! It’s the stuff fanfiction is made of. But I loved it.
- I loved Olive. She’s very funny and very smart and although the whole thing with her boss (you’ll see) is kind of dumb, I appreciate that her flaws are less “oh I’m so clumsy” and more “accidentally judgmental and definitely insecure”. Because I can relate with those things.
- Her reasons for hating Ethan were legit. But the reversal comes naturally, too.
- The subplot of her sister’s kind of crappy marriage was something new — I actually really liked their own messed up family dynamic in general.
Apparently Christina Lauren (a duo of two writers) have written quite a few other novels. I’ve put a couple on hold at the library — I have a feeling they’ll be good, too!