A fake relationship is on the menu in Natalie Caña’s debut, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse, which follows a passionate chef and a whiskey distiller as they plot to save their business while outsmarting their grandfathers. It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance with a heaping spoonful of meddling families.
Talented chef Kamilah Vega feels held back at her family’s Puerto Rican restaurant, El Coquí. Their customer base has been dwindling, and Kamilah thinks that modernizing the restaurant and getting it on the upcoming Fall Foodie Tour is just the thing to breathe new life into the business. Her grandfather, the restaurant’s owner, gives Kamilah the green light on one condition: He wants her to marry his best friend’s grandson, Liam Kane.
Liam’s grandfather’s dying wish is to see his grandson married, and he’s not above concocting a bit of blackmail to nudge Liam along. Liam works for his family’s Irish whiskey distillery, which shares a building with El Coqun. And if Liam doesn’t get married to Kamilah, his grandfather will sell the building that houses their businesses. Once childhood friends, Liam and Kamilah’s relationship severely soured as they became adults. But now they are united with a common goal: fake their way through a romance until they can figure out a Plan B.
Liam and Kamilah are wonderful, prickly fun together, especially when they’re bickering (which is most of the time). They gamely play along with their grandfathers’ outlandish demands, and it becomes increasingly obvious that there’s some lingering fondness under their antagonism. As the two rediscover their old friendship, Caña fills the world around them with nosy relatives, opinionated friends and plenty of workplace hijinks. No detail is spared when it comes to describing Kamilah’s bright, flavorful creations in the kitchen or the heady and luxurious ways whiskey is distilled and consumed. Foodie romances are having a moment, and A Proposal They Can’t Refuse is a particularly delicious addition to the trend. Be prepared to get hungrier and hungrier with each page.
A Proposal They Can’t Refuse is a mouthwatering delight with a lively and winsome cast, snappy banter, cooking as foreplay and two romantic leads worth rooting for every step of the way. The only thing readers will be left longing for is a corresponding cookbook or cocktail guide.