What’s the best part of vacation? Is it sugar-white beaches and lots of tropical-themed drinks? Maybe the real allure is just the chance to get away from your everyday life: no alarm clocks, no deadlines, no crowded cubicles or the smell of fish cooking in the office microwave. But if that’s the case, then what would you do if you got all of the expected perks of vacation—but the worst, most annoying part of your job came with you?
That’s the situation Margaret finds herself in when she wins the coveted office quiz prize—an all-expense-paid trip to Zanzibar—but is forced to share it with the officemate she detests, Jagger. He’s everything she can’t stand: a clickbait writer at the same South African newspaper where she writes hard-hitting journalism; a popular playboy while Margaret’s love life is dead in the water; and worst of all, someone who coasts through life even as Margaret struggles with the one-two punch of her divorce and the death of her father. Jagger’s lighthearted attitude seems like a taunt, and tension between them has risen so high that Margaret added an actual, physical partition to their shared workspace to avoid having to see his smug face. But there’s no hiding from him at the beachfront Zanzibar resort, no matter how hard she tries . . . and it becomes harder and harder to ignore the way irritation is giving way to attraction—and maybe something more.
If you like an opposites-attract story, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more clear-cut example than Jo Watson’s What Happens on Vacation. The enemies-to-lovers vibe delivers: Margaret doesn’t have a single kind thought toward Jagger until quite far into the book, with Watson leaning in to humor and sharp repartee during their interactions. It’s a bit too sharp in spots—Margaret’s assumptions can be rather judgmental and harsh, especially since Jagger never retaliates. But Watson portrays Margaret’s struggles so honestly, especially her grief over the loss of her father, that it’s easy to understand why Margaret feels the need to build walls around herself. And Jagger is genuinely charming as he works to bring those walls down. Vacation’s really about letting yourself let go—of stress, cares, worries and doubts. And that’s exactly what happens on vacation for Margaret as she opens the door to love.