This was fun!
I liked but didn’t love her first book. This one worked much better for me. I loved the telenovela TV set background. I really liked both characters, and thought they had great chemistry with each other. The secondary characters could have used some rounding out, but the book was pretty short, so there might not have been time. I would actually have liked this to be longer so it could be more fleshed out in general.
The basic plot here is that Jasmine Lin and Ashton Suárez are going to be starring in a streaming show from Netflix analogue Screenflix, and this could bring telenovelas, and both of their names, to the attention of Hollywood. Ashton has been working to make it big since the beginning of his career as one of the most famous telenovela actors, and Jasmine is hurting from a very recent public breakup with a pop star. Ashton is famously private and press-shy. Neither one of them want to date a co-star, let alone fall in love with one, and neither one of them want to make the front pages. So of course they have ridiculous chemistry and are attracted to each other right away.
I appreciated this didn’t go the insta-love route. They get to know each other, and Ashton gradually starts to let his walls down. And despite her explicit plans otherwise, Jasmine starts to fall for him. Their desires, and the press, inevitably come into play and provide a push of outside conflict.
I love the way Latinx people and culture is portrayed here, very real and lived in, but not idealized or stereotyped. There are a huge variety of Latinx actors and other characters in the book, many of them of Puerto Rican heritage. We also get snippets of scenes from their TV show, Carmen in Charge, which is a remake of a telenovela reimagined for American audiences, much like Jane the Virgin. I had some quibbles with their conflict at the end, but they were all addressed before I finished the book, so they don’t feel worth bringing up. My only remaining criticism is that especially at the beginning of the book, Daria relies on telling instead of showing quite a bit. The reason show don’t tell is a writing mantra is that showing something directly engages the reader’s emotions. Telling puts it at a remove, and I did feel at a remove for the first third or so of the novel, until things started happening in the plot. SPOILERS A huge example of this is that Ashton has PTSD from an incident with a stalker breaking into his house, and specifically in the room of his infant son, and as a result he is anxious and withdrawn, protecting his son at the cost of lots of other things. We only hear about this incident as he narrates it to us and others in brief, we don’t actually “see it.” A flashback here would have been invaluable in getting us into Ashton’s head. And getting directly into his head somewhere in the middle of the book, flashing back to that moment again, would have made us more aware of what he was going through, instead of the narration just telling us, and us being just like “okay” and not FEELING it. I want to FEEL it. Huge missed opportunity END SPOILERS. Lots of other moments like that could have been fleshed out in a similar way and this book would have gone from fun and entertaining to *brain candy unputdownable yes*, which is how I most like my romance novels to feel.
I’m still rounding up to four, though, because what was there was fun and I liked it more than three stars. Definitely worth checking this one out if you like romances.
[3.5 stars, rounding up]