I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Also by this author: Roomies, My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other Words
Published by Gallery Books on May 14, 2019
Pages: 416 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley
Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.
Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.
Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.
Thanks so much to Gallery Books for providing a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Ever since I finally jumped on the Christina Lauren train in the second half of 2018, I’ve been obsessed with their stand along romance novels. They’re always sure to be full of witty banter, fun premises, and hilarious side characters. The Unhoneymooners checked all of those boxes, with the added bonus of being the first wedding-themed read by them that I’ve encountered, which is always perfect material for a romantic comedy.
Initially set in snowy Minneapolis, the story opens with protagonist Olive (love her name!) serving as the maid of honor in her twin sister’s got-everything-for-free wedding. While the idea of “free wedding” seems pretty great, her usually lucky sister’s luck runs out when the “free” seafood buffet ends up making everyone in attendance violently ill, with the exception of Olive and best man and brother of the groom Ethan (one of the many, many reasons I do not eat seafood). Unified only in their health (as they generally have a strong aversion to each other), Olive’s sister Ami insists that she and Ethan take their free honeymoon and pose as the newlyweds, because why waste an all expenses paid for trip to Hawaii when you can totally pose as your identical twin sister? 100% logic that I can get on board with.
As expected, the romance unfolds across the course of the ten day vacation in paradise with Olive and Ethan initially wanting to throw each other off the balcony but eventually coming to a begrudging tolerance and then eventual desire (as is the case in most hate to love stories). I really enjoyed seeing how Ethan and Olive slowly untangled the threads at the root of their animosity toward each other over time, realizing a revising of history was in order as both had huge misconceptions of the other’s perception of them. It was also fun to see this happen across the course of various vacation activities, from spa appointments to boat rides to paint balling (although to be honest they were much more adventurous in their vacation extracurriculars, when I’m in Hawaii I spend about 95% of my time on the beach with a book).
The story doesn’t end in paradise, however, and the last 20-25% of the book takes place back home which I appreciated as it didn’t have a neat “happily ever after” feel as Olive and Ethan had to deal with the repercussions of their newfound relationship back on the mainland as well as address some deep family drama that had come to light during their Hawaiian vacation. I actually found that this was one of my favorite parts of the book, getting to check in with Olive’s overwhelming yet well meaning Latinx family that readers only spend a few moments with at the beginning of the story. Though they were very much periphery characters, I loved how they were always in Olive’s business for better and for worse, from letting themselves into her apartment and cooking dinner unannounced to conjuring up jobs at the family restaurants whenever a relative fell on hard times. I feel like in romantic comedy stories it’s rare to see such a big family system (usually it’s just the snarky mom or cynical sister, etc) so it was super fun to read about this loud, loving family.
Though I loved Olive, I didn’t fall for the romance as much as I have in the past for Christina Lauren’s couples. Ethan never felt fully fleshed out to me the way their other male protagonists have, and I didn’t like how he handled the major plot conflict at the end of the book (and which felt explained away/forgiven by Olive a little too easily). I also had trouble feeling like his and Olive’s relationship had achieved a depth to it before the end of the novel. Despite these concerns though I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about their courtship (especially how they purposefully would call each other by the wrong name for the first half of the book, something about that was just so perfectly petty and hilarious to me).
Overall: Christina Lauren delivers exactly what I want every time I pick up a romance novel: a fun, quick read with a protagonist I want to root for and a touch of depth to make me fully invested even if the outcome may be predictable.