I’ve been hearing buzz about Alexis Daria’s You Had Me at Hola for weeks. I was very happy to see it on NetGalley and to receive a copy in exchange for an honest review. It’s wonderful, I finished it in just a few hours.
Actress Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is back in her hometown, NYC, to take the lead in a remake of an old telenovela, Carmen in Charge. She’s excited about the new roll and the career boost this could be, but her face is all over the tabloids after being publicly dumped (again) by her famous musician boyfriend. Ashton Suarez has been comfortable in Miami’s telenovela scene, but after being killed off his last show, he’s hoping the co-lead on Carmen in Charge will start his career moving forward again.
They have issues. Jasmine being in love with love has made her tabloid bait and Ashton is fanatically private. Jasmine recognizes her pattern of serial monogamy is a problem personally and professionally and vows to break the cycle on this show. She has two amazing best friends/cousins, Michelle and Ava. They are the kind of friends who tell you the truth about yourself and love you faults and all. Michelle and Ava ground Jasmine, both in her life and in the book.
As I read, I kept flashing back to some of the romances I read in the 80’s and 90’s with ridiculously good looking main characters with glamorous lives and glamorous problems. They were definitely escapist reads with fancy hotels, lots of name brands and bizarre plot twists. The main character was often a blankish slate so that the reader could insert themselves into the story. You Had Me at Hola gives us two ridiculously good looking people, who interesting characters. Their lives are not glamorous. Their problems are not glamorous. We can still escape into a world that is not our own, but we can feel the common human experiences of juggling professional ambition and family, and responding to our own past experiences.
One of the things I found intriguing about this book was the way Daria illustrated the layers of relationship between Jasmine and Ashton. They really had three relationships going at once – as people, as colleagues, and as their tv show characters. On top of that was the divide between their private selves and their public selves. It was really well done and a very good read.