Enemies to lovers done competently! Hurrah!
Plot: Shay Goldstein is a public radio producer, but her real dream is hosting on the radio, even if her voice isn’t exactly standard for on-air personalities. Even though she’s been there for a decade, Dominic Yun, who literally just graduated (but with a masters) is already getting treated better than she is. He’s a patronizing dick and she’s a bitter bitch. But their bickering is so fun to listen to, they end getting maneuvered into hosting their own show about relationships, based on the false premise that they used to date and are using the show as a way to figure out what went wrong. Shenanigans ensue.
There is so much Solomon does well in the book. The hard line to walk with an enemies to lovers storyline is to create a compelling starting point that (this is where most books with this trope fall down) doesn’t make the reconciliation completely unbelievable. It’s usually either a weak start or too strong for us to buy into the characters getting together. Here, Shay and Dominic are low key enemies in a way that completely makes sense and that can absolutely be dealt with using good old Communication. Shay’s resentful of Dominic’s unearned star treatment and he’s in a bad place because of a breakup and overcompensating because of his lack of actual experience. Once they actually start talking to each other, their interactions naturally help them past these superficial impressions.
That’s another thing the book does well. Characterization is mostly done quite well – Shay has a couple of weird deviations from established behaviour seemingly just for Plot Reasons, but on the whole, I could see just about everyone in the story as actual people that exist outside the page. If anything, I ended up wishing the book was longer just so I could get more time with Shay’s best friend and mom, both of whom seem to have more interesting things going on.
Also, I love me a diverse story that has characters who are informed by their background but not defined by it. Also Steve the dog.
What will make or break the book for you, outside of the typical things like whether the characters and their struggles resonate with you, will be whether you buy into the drama of the fake relationship. I like a good forced proximity and fake relationship trope but there were a lot of small contrivances that built up to force this story to work that culminate in a third act that ramps up the emotional drama to a point that didn’t seem to flow from the run up and then ramped it up even more for the resolution. Which is weird, because Solomon is clearly a very talented writer that I don’t think needed to lean on these tropes as heavily as she does. It felt like events were proceeding because the plot demanded it rather than because it made sense for the characters, but I know that sort of thing does not bother most readers the way it takes me out of a story, so take this critique with a grain of salt.
I think I might just be wearying of stories about people in their 20’s trying to find themselves. #adulting should be banned from human speech.