I’m going to preface this by saying I do not regularly read romance novels. In high school, my friends and I would visit our local Borders (may it rest in peace), trolling the aisles of the romance section for the most outlandish cover. Hint: anything about Christmas and the Highlands will win every time.
Now working at a publisher that releases romance novels with the same frightening regularity as Hallmark Channel debuts a movie with Lacey Chabert, I’ve become more educated in the space. It helps having a coworker who unabashedly loves these and, as she says, is now back on her bullshit. Late last year, she passed along a title that was my first foray into the genre, which I later discovered had the DD Stamp of approval (official insignia to come).
Readers, if you have not picked up the gem that is The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, please do. I know, you don’t want vapid female characters and love interests with plenty of sex appeal but the personality of a rock (or maybe you do–no judgment here). But if you’ve ever been slightly curious to read a romance novel, and want one that will also stimulate those little gray cells, Guillory has the goods.
The premise: complete strangers Alexa and Drew get stuck in a San Francisco hotel elevator, and by the time they’re rescued, Alexa has agreed to be Drew’s fake girlfriend at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. What ensues is a juicy long-distance relationship with two people who couldn’t have more different lives, but share one thing in common: they’re falling in love with each other, and they have no freaking clue how to handle it.
Guillory’s characters are three-dimensional people you could see yourself sharing a margarita with at happy hour. What is even more fantastic and necessary about this book: it has a wide cast of diverse characters. Alexa is black, Drew is white, and their friends are black and Hispanic. You may recall that your writer is the whitest of white girls. I’m working to make sure I read more stories about and by people from diverse backgrounds who have different experiences than my own. My conclusion: I want more of these kick-ass, kind women in the literary world.
I was heartbroken when I turned the final page. However, anyone who follows Reese Witherspoon on Instagram recently will know there is a sequel. Praise the romance gods.
The next installment, The Proposal, draws us into the world of Drew’s best friend Carlos, who we meet in The Wedding Date. His world gets more complicated, and steamier, when no-nonsense Nik gets proposed to by her actor boyfriend during a Dodgers game…and rejects him (wouldn’t you, if a man-bun-wearing bro proposed after five months of dating?) If it’s possible, I loved this even more than the first book. I got to read it this weekend when, after a few months of unfulfilled promises, my coworker brought me her copy that had been lent to another friend. She had been too busy to read it, and in the process, she had scared her boyfriend enough that he thought she had left it lying around their apartment as a not-so-subtle hint.
There is more from the wonderful brain of Jasmine Guillory to come this year. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, listen to Roxane Gay. She loves these books. Would she ever lead to astray?
The correct answer is no.