This book is the last in the Beautiful series. I actually tried to get into it a long while ago and DNFd the first book for reasons I no longer remember. I’ve since read two Lauren books I’ve enjoyed (Unhoneymooners and Dating You Hating You) and another I DNFd (Roomies). So suffice to say Lauren is very hit and miss for me. This one is one of her highest rated books, so I deviated from my hard rule on chronology to see if I could get into this series sideways.
Plot: Manic Pixie Dream Girl is cheated on by her boyfriend, goes away on vacation, rambles to Stuck Up Workaholic Corporate Lawyer With Intimacy Issues on her flight who turns out to be part of the crew she’s joining on vacation in wine country. Shenanigans ensue.
This is a hard book for me to review. I liked it, in a way. I did. The writing was punchy. The characters were likeable. Even though I hadn’t read the previous books, I still got a sense of the protagonists of those books in the time they got in this one. The sex scenes were hot. But that’s pretty much it. That’s literally all there is to it. And that’s probably totally fine for a lot of readers, so the rest of this review isn’t really about anything objectively wrong with this book, but rather things that were missing in it for me.
I’ll break it down into characters, plot, and issues I have that have nothing to do with the book at all that nevertheless made it very hard for me to enjoy the book.
- You have the workaholic corporate lawyer. He was Cool In College because he partied a lot and went on a big road trip this one time. Now he works all the time because his wife left him. His house is decorated like literally like every rich guy’s penthouse, even though supposedly a lot of this stuff was chosen with his ex wife or given as wedding gifts? He has no hobbies or interests or causes he dedicates even money to let alone time. He didn’t seem to have any when he was Cool In College either.
- You have the ex-wife. She isn’t even one note. She’s no note. She’s literally described as cute but boring. The end. Can you imagine how boring someone has to be to be found boring by someone more bland than cucumber sandwiches (although apparently you’re supposed to put garlic salt in them?? What is this world!)?
- You have the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and our protagonist. She’s a tiny bit more layered than your average MPDG. She’s an engineer, which is cool. That said, we never see or hear anything about it except that she hates it and that having a degree in math isn’t actually that big an achievement. If downplaying your achievements isn’t quintessential MPDG shit I don’t know what is and in every other way, she is a classic. Flighty, easily distracted, easily entertained, imaginative and kooky and entirely nonthreatening. She dresses in bright colours that are described as “brave”. OK. She’s there to help the Workoholic find his zest for life again after his boring shrew of an ex shattered his confidence. She does this by encouraging him to shout that he’s bummed out in the rain once. Therapy? I don’t know her. Conveniently, her life in London sucks balls, so it makes it real easy for her to drop everything and move to Boston for him while he has to risk exactly nothing except his interior design.
- You have her ex. He cheated on her after taking advantage of her for several months (she paid for everything, did all the house work, and supported his start up). There is no explanation at all for why though she has never had a relationship, she suddenly dove into this one with both feet. I’m not saying there couldn’t be an explanation, but we never really get a sense of her as a person enough to make inferences and we don’t get any details about how they met or why they hooked up in the first place. He is a generic user who seems not to understand or gaslights over his behaviour.
- MPGD’s moms are pretty great, but they get very little time on the page and their only daughter seems to be totally fine leaving them with a moment’s notice. Their presence feels like little more than adding colour to MPGD’s backstory than characters in their own right. Also, her grandad is okay but again, he’s only there as a plot device.
- There’s the meet-cute – a generic MPDG pouring her whole life story to Workaholic and him being like, “ugh, she’s the worst” only for her to turn up for the wine tour as he’s complaining about her.
- There’s the fake marriage cliche. I don’t usually mind this one because I think it’s a decent device when used well, but it felt very tacked on, especially past the scene where it was set up. It made literally no sense for them to keep going with it past the first five minutes, and even the characters are confused by it.
- There’s the ‘ex-wife constantly showing up for no explicable reason’ cliche (to force the fake marriage thing to perpetuate). Her behaviour makes no sense (including why she left Workaholic) and is never explained. She is literally a plot device, and not a good one, particularly given the baggage that the relationship is supposed to have caused (for everyone, not just Workaholic).
- There is a karaoke scene and it is like literally every karaoke scene ever written.
These characters are so superficial and generic that it’s hard to get invested in anything they do. How the MPDG and the Workaholic deal with their respective exes also makes little sense, but more on that in the next section.
Issues I Have That Have Nothing To Do With The Book At All That Nevertheless Made It Very Hard For Me To Enjoy The Book:
- Corporate (Mergers and Acquisitions) Lawyer as a love interest. Ya’ll. In less than 2 months, I will be licensed as a lawyer (and have spent a few months doing corporate commercial law). Before law, I worked in human resources at a company that fucking loved M&As and spent a lot of my time patching the holes created by shitty lawyers who only care about getting the merger done and not the untold human cost left for us to clean up. I feel pretty well situated in saying that M&A lawyers can go fuck themselves. His job is to help large companies diminish what little competition there already is in late-stage capitalism to drive the prices on the acquiring company’s stock up a few points and make a few millionaires and billionaires a few more millions at the expense of the working class (including the people working for both companies and the smaller businesses who can’t compete against literal, actual modern day slavers). Not only that, but it’s not like our Workaholic is using the endless tap of money, resources and access his privilege gets him to do literally anything at all except work and buy expensive stuff. He doesn’t even buy his sister stuff. I’m so sorry the rich white boy who partied his way through college and never gave a passing thought to another human being is sad. I know I have a violin here somewhere…
- The plot is literally about a bunch of rich white people getting drunk in wine country. I just don’t care about these people and can’t relate at all to anything that was happening.
- I think it’s troubling when people normalize binge drinking as a coping mechanism.
- How Workaholic and MPDG deal with their exes. This is a bit spoilery, though I can’t say the plot matters at all or that the plot has even the smallest surprise, but if you don’t want substantive spoilers don’t read this…………… When we bump into Cute but Boring, she tries to pretend that they’re all just old friends who lost touch, where in reality, she had abandoned Workaholic without so much as a by your leave after nearly 10 years together. Not only did she hurt him, but she’d hurt everyone in his family, who after so long, obviously had become attached to her (though the nature of this attachment is not clarified, nor does it make sense since she’s apparently boring and always was). How do they react? By ALSO pretending everything is fine. They hung out together like this was a completely normal way to behave. Even more confusing, once they got tired of pretending to like her, they walked out of a bar they were all at together, and literally checked out of the hotel and left without a word. Like, she basically got up for a couple minutes and when she came back they were gone forever. This is a WTF onion with many layers.
- As a follow up on how they deal with their exes, the book also seems to promote the idea that giving your abuser access to abuse you some more if it makes them feel better is the Right Thing To Do? Thanks, I hate it.
In summary, if you want a book that requires absolutely zero thought, provides you with no challenge whatsoever, and remains comfortably in the culture of middle-upper class white Americans, this is the book for you. No shade, you will like this book. If you are looking for anything else in a book, this likely won’t work for you.