You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

One of the great parts of Spring Break is that I get some uninterrupted reading time.  And even though I have so many eBooks to read (my Netgalley ARCs list is out of control), this time I decided to dedicate myself to reading only print books on my TBR.  For Hanukkah, Mr. Librarian bought me the Fated Mates “Best of 2020” book bundle from Old Town Books.

<Side note: I just visited their new storefront over break and it is delightful!  Sunny, airy, cozy.  I just wish I lived closer.> 

Slowly but surely, I’ve been getting through the books.  This week, I finally got around to reading Alexis Daria’s You Had Me At Hola and it was a telenovela masterpiece!  A delightful rom-com!  I feel so silly having saved this one, as one would save a delectable dessert.  Something to savor.  And it’s kind of stupid – I mean the delicious dessert tastes just as delightful if you eat it right away, instead of waiting.  Anticipating.  Like a slow burn.

Enough of the metaphors.  I’m sad I waited this long to read it because it has everything I want to read.  Just like a telenovela, it has over the top drama, enemies (rivals?) to lovers, a story within a story, art imitating life, fiction blending into reality, steamy love scenes, hidden secrets, tabloids, and estranged twin brothers (Ok, this one is a bit of an exaggeration, but still).  I love a good telenovela retelling – I am a fan of Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin, and if you haven’t seen the Psych homage episode to telenovelas, “Lights, Camera, Homicidio” you are truly missing out.  I haven’t made the leap into real Spanish-language telenovelas because, well, I don’t speak Spanish (curse me for taking French in high school).

Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is a soap opera actress who yearns to take her career to the next level.  She’s on the cusp of it after being cast in the fictional version of Netflix’s remake of a telenovela about a PR executive.  If she can nail this show, the world will be her oyster.  After her leading man injures himself while on vacation, he’s replaced by Ashton Suarez, telenovela star and a man Jasmine has never met.  She worries because their on-screen chemistry needs to be spot on to ensure the show’s success.

Ashton, having been cast at the 11th hour, worries too.  His career hasn’t progressed the way he’s envisioned.  At this point in his career, he had hoped to be a Hollywood star with an Oscar under his belt.  Instead, in his last telenovela he was killed off before the final episode.  He worries that his career is at an end – or at least at a standstill.  Carmen in Charge is his chance to crossover into an American audience with exposure that is sure to revive his leading man status.  If only he can prove his acting chops with Jasmine while keeping his private life private.  He has secrets he’s trying to protect, including an attempted break-in to his house by a crazed, obsessed fan that threatened his life and the life of his then newborn son.  Because of The Incident, as he calls it, he is fiercely protective of his privacy and avoids the press to protect his secrets – he has especially worked to keep the existence of his now 9 year old son a secret from the public.  Sadly, this limits his ability to get close to anyone, especially Jasmine.

After an embarrassing first encounter, in which Ashton spills coffee all over Jasmine, their on-screen and off-screen relationship appears rocky.  Jasmine knows that they could be great together, if only she can convince Ashton to get to know her.  She attempts worming her way into his life.  And she succeeds, almost too well.  While their on-screen chemistry heats up, as does their off-screen relationship.  They find that they have more in common than they originally thought.  They enjoy each other’s company.  They make each other laugh. They actually manage to become friends. But, as their relationship blossoms, it deepens into a more intimate relationship – not only do they start sleeping together, but they start confiding in each other.  Ashton reveals one of his closely guarded secrets to her.  They fall in love.  But with their on-camera personas being promoted out the wazoo, the press starts getting closer and closer to Ashton’s private life.  

When all is eventually revealed, they have a choice to make.  Can they trust each other?  Can they accept each other for who they are?  Can they live a private life while maintaining a public profile?  Can they make room in their lives for each other?  What will happen with their emerging careers?  All I can say is that this book kept me up until the very last page.  And I wanted more!

The moral of this story is – Eat Dessert First.  Lesson learned, thank you very much.  I’ll never wait to savor again.

You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

P.S. The side character of Kitty Sanchez, the reporter who outs a lot of Jasmine and Ashton’s secrets, reminded me – personality wise – of Kitty Pong from the Crazy Rich Asians series.  A homage perhaps?  Anyone else feel like that?  Just me?

P.P.S  Have any great telenovelas that I can watch with English subtitles?  Post in the comments what I should be watching!

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