AUTHOR: Alexis Daria
RELEASE: August 4, 2020
LINKS: Goodreads | Bookshop
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After being trashed all over tabloids for a messy breakup, up-and-coming actress Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is ecstatic to start over on a new soap opera. She’ll be acting opposite Ashton Suárez, seasoned telenovela actor and major cutie–albeit, a slightly cold cutie. But Jasmine has concocted Leading Lady Rules to keep her career on track: leading ladies do not end up on tabloid covers, they don’t need a man to be happy, and they definitely don’t date their new costars. As Jasmine and Ashton settle into their new roles, the heat between them is undeniable, but is it worth Jasmine breaking her new rules? While she tries to answer that question, she might find out that Ashton has some rules of his own–all to guard a very big secret.
You Had Me at Hola is a fun rom-com set in the world of telenovelas. It follows Jasmine and Ashton, two actors trying to keep things professional on set while they really just want to tear each other’s clothes off. Fans of workplace romances will love this tension as the two rehearse together and pretend the attraction isn’t there. I loved that Jasmine and Ashton were completely different characters with shared experiences: Jasmine is a young Puerto Rican & Filipino woman still trying to build up her career, while Ashton is a Puerto Rican man nearing forty (what he notes is considered “old” in television) and is trying to transition from one area of television to the next. This novel touches perfectly on aging and finding sexiness whether you’re in your twenties, your thirties, your forties, or beyond.
Jasmine was a strong, fierce lady who still struggles with self-doubt, vulnerability, and worrying that she isn’t enough. I found her so relatable, and I loved how passionate she was about her career. You Had Me at Hola deals with gendered and cultured expectations in the television industry, and I loved how the narrative explored how both Jasmine and Ashton navigate this. I also loved that there were excerpts of the television show they’re acting in, “Carmen in Charge,” throughout the book. This was such a fun addition that really pulled the reader into Jasmine and Ashton’s world, and created a new level to the story. Jasmine is not a fluent Spanish speaker, and she often feels like she’s not Latinx enough because of this and worries that this will impact her career in bilingual roles. This novel asserts that she is enough and that her imperfect Spanish does not make her any less Latinx.
Ashton is also a complex character who deals with self-doubt and vulnerability in a unique way. He’s guarding a secret, and without giving away too much, I’ll simply say that You Had Me at Hola deals heavily with family and how far we’re willing to go to protect the ones we love. Ashton also struggles with PTSD from an incident in his past, and I think it’s very important to see complex themes around mental health dealt with in a romance novel.
While it may sound like it’s full of heavy themes, at its core, You Had Me at Hola is a sweet, contemporary romance. The chemistry and heat between Ashton and Jasmine is palpable. It definitely has some steamy scenes and I love that consent and safe sex is treated as an important part of each of these scenes. It was also refreshing to see non-penetrative sexual experiences treated as valid and satisfying. This romance novel is perfect for fans of workplace romances like Sarah Smith’s Faker or steamy contemporary romance like The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. It’s also perfect for fans of soap operas & telenovelas, as well as readers who like Mia Sosa, Aisha Rai, and Tessa Bailey. This was my first Alexis Daria read, but it definitely won’t be my last.
Thank you to Avon and Edelweiss+ for the digital review copy!