In this exuberantly charming romance from Christina Lauren, the talented writing duo does the seemingly impossible. They take the classic, much-maligned stereotype of the “cool” girl—the gorgeous, wild, sexually-liberated, adventurous madcap that men go crazy for—and they make her feel real and engaging. Hazel Bradford knows perfectly well that she’s the type of woman that men adore at first sight. She also knows that it only takes a few weeks for the bloom to come off the rose as her exploits start to seem embarrassing instead of entertaining. She’s pretty much resigned herself to being wanted very badly but never for very long. Her best shot at companionship, aside from her menagerie of pets, is friendship. Enter Josh Im.
Though they first met—in an epic series of disastrous encounters, of course—when they were in college, it’s only when they reconnect ten years later that they truly bond. Naturally, the bonding includes its own series of grand catastrophes, such as when Hazel moves into Josh’s guest room after her apartment floods, and then accidentally knocks Josh unconscious when she thinks he’s a burglar. But as Josh learns to see past the chaos to the warmth and kindness at the core of Hazel’s personality, he sees a woman who deserves to be loved. By someone else, of course—not by him. And thus begins a series of hilariously awful double dates that they set each other up on, and because they both crave the excuse to spend time together, continue to do so despite the terrible results.
In so many stories of this type, the journey is about the free spirit woman helping the more buttoned-up man let loose and learn to enjoy himself. And yes, there’s a little of that here, as Josh learns that pretty much everything is more fun with Hazel along for the ride. But Lauren deepens his character beyond the handsome straight man by exploring his experiences as the son of South Korean immigrants, and makes the canny choice of having his reactions to Hazel fall much more on the side of bemused affection, rather than an annoyingly superior disapproval.
The real growth is on the other side of the coin, as Hazel slowly relaxes into the idea that Josh genuinely doesn’t expect her to apologize for being herself. He’s not infatuated with some idealized image of her—instead, he loves her for everything she is. The fact that that’s such a surprise to her is a little heartbreaking, but the impossibly sweet conclusion washes all the pain away.