Just look at this gorgeous cover. I follow Farrah Rochon on twitter, where she is a delight. I have been hearing excellent things about The Boyfriend Project, so I was excited to see it available for request on NetGalley. This is an honest review in exchange for an arc.
Often when starting a book by a new to me author, it takes me a bit to get into the rhythm of their writing. I didn’t have that problem with The Boyfriend Project. Samiah Brooks is getting ready to go on a date while her sister is waiting for her husband to come pick her up. Her sisters starts to entertain them both by reading the tweets of an awful first date aloud. Samiah realizes that the man in question is the boyfriend she’s getting ready to go out with and she knows exactly where he is – the sushi restaurant where they went on their first date. Samiah leaves to go confront the liar and while the confrontation is happening a third woman walks up and confirms she has been dating him too. The three women get sushi to go and leave the cheater with the tab.
Samiah, London and Taylor form a friendship pact in which they will refrain from dating and take care of themselves – find some hobbies, grow their business, and pursue their passion projects. Samiah is in research and development at a tech company and is one of it’s rising stars. She has put her own app project on hold, and decides to use the time she would spend on dating apps working on her own app. Into this no dating zone walks Daniel Collins a Fed who has gone undercover to find out who is laundering money using the company’s proprietary software. The attraction is instant, but they take their time going from flirtation and friendship to sex.
There was a moment when Samiah is getting sexy with Daniel and she calls him “Mr. Collins.” I cracked up, because of course, to me this is Mr. Collins:
I am all for reclaiming the name of Collins for misters who are not oily and obsequious. Daniel Collins is not Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins in any way. He looks out for Samiah as best he can while also lying to her (because he’s an undercover Fed). He encourages her to keep working on her own goals, offers to help, and then backs off when she says no thank you. He apologizes for his transgressions and shields her in ways that are appropriate. His instinct is to appreciate her and make her path smoother.
As much as I love Daniel, the heart of this story is Samiah. She’s a perfectionist because she has to be, Not only is she fighting for her own recognition as a Black woman in tech, she is smoothing the path for the Black women who come behind her. I loved that she struggles with workaholic tendencies and has to talk herself into making friends and leaving the office. She knows her value, but also what she’s up against. She points out to Daniel a couple of times that she is not looking out for just her career.
Women are often expected to sacrifice to make other’s lives easier and are often made to feel guilty for reaching for their own dreams. Samiah devotes more of her time and energy to her job than she would like to continue to be an asset to her company, to be a team player, and for those future Black women in STEM. As Samiah develops friendships with Taylor and London and a romance with Daniel, she prioritizes herself higher. She takes time to form friendships, she rethinks her goals, and she makes time for her own dreams. She makes a choice to grow and letting new people into her life is both a result of that and supports her growth.
I have quibbles (there hasn’t been jacket weather in Austin in August in over a decade, though you might take a parka for your hours inside), but they are so minor and I loved the characters so much. I am very much looking forward to Taylor and London’s books. I can’t wait to watch Taylor come into her own and see someone appreciate London