Friday, April 30, 2021

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria


Reviewed by Ambrea

After a very messy – and highly publicized break up – soap opera star Jasmin Lin Rodriguez is searching for a way to salvage her reputation and create a new plan.  She returns to her hometown of New York City to star in a new bilingual romantic comedy and she also comes up with a new “Leading Lady Plan.”  She decides Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers, Leading Ladies do not need a man to be happy, and Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.  Too bad a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela darling Ashton Suárez and threatens to upend her latest plans.

I’ve actually had You Had Me at Hola sitting on my bedside table for a few weeks.  I bought it on a whim, because I loved the colorful cover and I had a serious craving for a good romantic comedy, and then I promptly covered it up with other books and forgot about it.  I recently rediscovered it and decided to give it a read – and, now, I’m left wondering what took me so long?

As I’ve quickly learned, Alexis Daria is a phenomenal romantic writer.  You Had Me at Hola is a wonderful romance novel – and, even better, it had seriously likable romantic leads.  Jasmine and Ashton are not perfect people, but they’re good people.  When they make mistakes, they do their best to make amends.  They learn, they grow – and, dang it, they actually act like adults with priorities and responsibilities.

I genuinely liked them.  I cared about their problems and their stories, their dreams and aspirations and goals.  I was actually very glad I had the chance to meet them and read their story.

I also enjoyed the way Daria incorporated the threads of her soap opera into the book.  Similar to the Bromance Book Club, which creates a dual storyline with romance novels, You Had Me at Hola dips into Daria’s invented soap opera, Carmen in Charge.  You actually have the opportunity to see Jasmine and Ashton as they work behind the scenes and you can see snippets of this secondary story they’re creating.

It was a very interesting tactic that, I think, sets You Had Me at Hola apart.  It also gave it the distinctive flavor of the 90s rom-com I love so much – like I could seriously envision watching this story in a back-to-back marathon of While You Were Sleeping and You’ve Got Mail. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading You Had Me at Hola.  I liked the diversity it portrays – Jasmine and Ashton have very different lives and backgrounds – and I liked the sweet, complex romance that develops between the characters.  It had just enough drama and sweetness to keep me hooked, but not enough to give me a toothache.  It’s a fun novel with a solid story and a lovely cast of characters, who I hope I get to see again.

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