Thursday, October 19, 2023

Review - - Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations
by Andie J. Christopher
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Reviewed by Hellie

When a relationship therapist gets dumped right before her new dating handbook hits shelves, she fake dates to save face in this spicy romantic comedy.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong on an author's publication day, but breaking up with her long-term boyfriend might just be at the top of Jessica Gallagher’s list. She also didn’t expect to run into her old crush, Galvin Baker, the very next day. When Jessica goes into crisis mode about the PR nightmare, she proposes the first solution that comes to mind: fake dating. Luckily, Galvin seems game. 

Galvin Baker is used to being a constant disappointment, which is why he can’t—and won’t—commit to a relationship. Unfortunately for him, his last girlfriend used her vast social media power to make sure everyone knows how much Galvin "underperforms.” Fake dating for Jessica’s book promotion seems like the perfect cover—and maybe she can teach him something along the way. 

Hookups “for science” and some seriously sweet gestures later, Jessica and Galvin’s fake dates are feeling more authentic than any of their previous relationships did. Have they replaced unrealistic expectations with unexpected realness? 

Hellie’s Heeds: 

TLDR: This book is for readers who relate to late-blooming heroines, enjoy reformed rakes, and don’t mind HFN (happy for now) endings.  

I really like Andie’s writing style and smart-alec heroines. I really like that her heroines enjoy a judicious placement of an F-bomb in their everyday conversation. They are some of the more relatable heroines out there for the modern rom-com. And honestly I would love to actually read Dr. Gallagher’s self help book, Ten Things Not to Do If You Ever Want to See a Naked Girl Again: The Straight Man’s Guide to Not Dying Alone in a Pile of Dirty Underwear. I think this is a book that really needs to be out on stands right now, if Tinder and Hinge are anything to go by.  

I can easily imagine Jessica’s unease and sheer shock when she returns to the apartment she shares with her fiance, only to find said-fiance is moving out of the apartment without telling her. I can easily see her concern that she has a book coming out, indicating she knows the ins and outs of keeping up a successful relationship, and apparently her fiance would rather die in a pile of dirty underwear. The panic is real. So yes, the premise, while perhaps a little hinky, fits. Both she and Galvin Baker, who has his own very real reasons for wanting to show a successful relationship, leap into fake dating to save their reputations in the social media world.  

Andie’s writing is easy to fall into: we see how good Jessica and Galvin were together: the banter, the tension, the growing friends-to-lovers like relationship relayed in a believable way–with only a gnawing adage we all know: “rebound relationships never work out.” And for a while, I was much more concerned about Galvin’s potential broken heart–because it was quite clear he’d never been in love before (or at least not for nearly 20 years) and he was quite a hot mess as he realizes his vulnerability with his fake-dating girlfriend who doesn’t seem to need him nearly as much as he needs her.  

When it came time for the black moment, I was glad it was not something jerkish–like the hero is mean to her to “protect her because he’s not a good guy and she can do better.” While we all cut our teeth on such a hero, we can do better these days. Instead our hero blows up the relationship just as one would expect: by his insecurities and his inability to communicate effectively, neither of which he hasn’t had to really worry about before since he wasn’t sticking around. Now he wants to make this one stick, but horrors, what if she understandably dumps him? He can’t tell her he loves her–she’ll definitely run. You know, the normal issues. However, I expect this a bit more for a couple who is under 30. For a pair of 37 year olds, I expected a little better from them, even if he had never had a long term relationship and she had recently realized that in her past 15-year-relationship, she had continually made herself smaller to make sure Luke loved her.  

Perhaps unfairly, I expected a bit more of Jessica because she was a licensed therapist who counsels couples just like her and Galvin. But I think the author would be the first to point out, most of us walk around with blinders in regards to ourselves, blundering around in our relationships and not doing what all the studies say to do to maintain a good relationship. None of us like being vulnerable. (I love that the author quotes Brene Brown mid-book–hilarious!) 

I don’t know if Andie’s books usually have a Happy for Now type ending–but this one definitely fits that. I think they are good for each other, especially considering where they are in their lives, but I’m not sure I would mark them as a Happily Ever After couple. Mostly I want to recommend couple’s counseling to them if they’re going to continue dating, which I would hope Jessica recommends once she and Galvin work past their black moment. 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the review. This may not be my type of book, but I can appreciate a person's writing talent.