When I started reading romance, I didn’t like contemporary romance because it all seemed to be Judith Krantz and Danielle Steele – ridiculously beautiful people, at least one of whom was incredibly wealthy, with high glamour problems and preposterous plots. If I was going to read that I wanted it to be set in the past. In the last 30 years, contemporary romance has become less focused on the jet set crowd. Angelina M. Lopez is bringing back the ridiculously beautiful, wealthy people with high glamour problems and preposterous plots and she is making me like it. She is a plot maximalist. She turns the emotions up to 11, and liberally sprinkles glitter on the whole party.
Sofia Maria Isabel de Esperanza y Santos is a princess of a small wine growing mountain kingdom on the edge of Spain. Aish Salinger is a bi-racial Japanese Jewish American man-child rock star. When they were younger, they were lovers for three intense months until Aish broke off the relationship because having a girlfriend was bad for a wannabe rock star’s image. While Aish wrote songs about her and tattooed images related to her on his body, Sophia went on with her life and pretended he didn’t exist. Now they both need a public relations win and the best way to get it is to have a fauxmance in front of the press. The plot gets very soap operatic.
In the flash and glitter of the setting and the plot, Lopez keeps her characters grounded through their emotions and motivations. Sophia desperately wants her wine empire to succeed. Aish desperately wants another chance with Sophia. They are both opinionated and stubbornly certain that they are right. Their clashes are painful.
My favorite thing (and I liked a lot of things that I can’t get into without getting spoilery) is that Aish recognizes and takes responsibility for his mistakes. He could blame them on a lot of circumstances, but he owns his choices. He asks for Sophie’s attention and her forgiveness a lot, but when he finally apologizes all the noise and flash of the plot fades away.
I received an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
CW: miscarriage, suicide, emotional abuse.
Hate Crush is out next week.