The fluffiest of fluffy romances. The description calls it somewhere between the Unhoneymooners and the Hating Game, and that’s bang on.
Plot: Henley is a classic Type A workaholic. She has a full time job as a marketing manager for a cruise line where she pulls long hours and has a heavy part time course load in an MBA program, leaving time for nothing else. Graeme is a social media manager that works remotely in Michigan. They’re both up for the same promotion and are tasked with going on one of the company’s tours and come up with a proposal of how to improve the numbers as their application. The about the only interaction they’ve had with each other is snippy emails. Shenanigans ensue.
There are a few things that I think this book does well. It is particularly timely to create misunderstandings and miscommunications arising out of interactions online. Tone is so difficult to get right in written communication, and technological issues can often affect one party but not another, creating effectively two different conversations. It’s a very clever and unusual way to set up an enemies to lovers trope because it makes the inevitable change of mind more believable. The misunderstandings are believable, and for the most part, when presented with conflicting, reliable information, the characters behave rationally and adjust their own views, a little bit at a time.
Hockman also does an excellent job making you feel grounded in the Galapagos islands. She mentions in her author’s note that part of the inspiration for this book was her own visit there, and that affection for the place and a respect for the people who dedicate their lives to its protection is palpable on the page. Descriptions of the flora and fauna, the history, the risks the area faces, are all described vividly. I’ll admit it’s gone up on my list of travel spots to visit, especially since I now know you don’t have to take a thousand-person toilet through the place just to see it.
The characters did not work well for me, mostly because they are not written consistently. Henley is selfish and snippy and demanding one moment and a doormat the next. She prizes family, when she’s not ignoring them for years at a time to prioritize her career. She gives people the benefit of the doubt they haven’t earned, except when she doesn’t. Graeme is equally uneven. He’s a feminist paragon who understands consent when he’s not patronizing women about how they should behave in the workplace and ignoring brazenly sexist conduct in his presence. He is honest and upfront when he’s not being deliberately provocative for the sake of a reaction from a total stranger. Henley’s sister, too, is much the same way. She’s a loving, intuitive, actively supporting sibling when she’s not being a flake who acts unilaterally with no thought at all to how it will affect others, or acts unilaterally specifically because she knows giving people a choice guarantee she doesn’t get what she wants. The characters are defined by whatever the plot needs them to be in the moment.
It is a book that not only allows you to put your brain on autopilot, it encourages it. And I think for a lot of people, after a year of quarantine and a loss of travel, that kind of story will be a balm to the soul.
That said, for my money, Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren makes much better use of the enemies to lovers trope and the workplace competition trope, Unhoneymooners makes better use of the closed proximity on vacation trope, and the Hating Game creates a more convincing development of the heroine’s feelings (the hero’s feelings make no damn sense in either) and all three are funnier. But if you’ve read all those or waiting for those books to come up at the library, you’ll have a good time with this book.