Book: A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Caña
Source: I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 7th, 2022
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This book follows Kamilah, a chef working at her family’s Puerto Rican restaurant, and Liam, an artist who runs the Irish whiskey distillery with his grandfather. Kamilah’s abuelo and Liam’s Granda are best friends who are prone to mischief, and upon deciding that Kamilah and Liam aren’t taking enough time to find love, they threaten to sell the building housing the restaurant and distillery if Kamilah and Liam don’t get married to one another. Since there are various complicated matters that both Kamilah and Liam need out of their grandparents, they reluctantly end up faking to be engaged and shenanigans continue to ensue from there.
When I first started reading, I was a bit taken aback at how ridiculous the premise was. Yes, both characters needed something out of the arrangement, but the fact that it was their grandparents plotting had me a bit incredulous. However, something I appreciated was how the book itself addresses how absurd the whole scenario is. The characters are more than aware that this takes meddling families to a whole new level. So it really does end up working, despite some suspension of disbelief required at the very beginning.
One of the things that I really loved was how fiercely passionate each of the two main characters were towards their chosen career. Kamilah had her restaurant, and Liam had the distillery, and they each made their place of work a home for themselves. That’s part of why when the restaurant and distillery are threatened, the two agree to fake an engagement. They both have a lot of themselves and family members who are no longer alive tied into their workplaces and I really love how you’re able to see that so clearly. Not only that, but both Kamilah and Liam are so proud of their heritage and use their work to share that pride with others. I learnt so much about Puerto Rican cuisine as well as Irish lore and I was so happy to see two such vibrant cultures showcased in this book!
As for the two of them together, I like how their relationship progressed. A bit slowly at first, but with enough nudging from their grandparents, their animosity towards one another turns into a tenuous friendship with a hint of lust. These two were friends growing up, but a lot has transpired since then, so it made sense that they had what to work through, but it also made sense that once they worked through that they were easily able to fall into a comfortable relationship with one another again.
Besides for the main relationship, I also really appreciated how much of a focus there was on friendship and family. These characters had all sorts of complicated relationships going on, not just romantic ones. They had friends to rely on and spend time with. They had family members that supported them, argued with them, but always loved them. I found it really impressive that with so many side characters in this book, each of them had a unique personality and was well fleshed out.
This book only let me down in one area, and that was the conflict. I’m not a big fan of conflicts in romances, and unfortunately this book wasn’t an exception to that rule. I really wish the characters had talked things out and had natural, normal arguments that couples have instead of letting things build and blow up at the end. There were several times where I was just frustrated that the two weren’t talking things through. That being said, the conflict was realistic enough, and I did appreciate how it was resolved, with both parties needing to acknowledge their flaws and insecurities before attempting to make up. In that sense, this book handled the conflict much better than the romances I tend to read, where conflict can get brushed under the rug in favor of a quick resolution. In this case the characters really had to work for their happy ending and I appreciated that.
There was so much to love about this book that I couldn’t consider giving it any less than 4 stars. Yes the premise was a bit ridiculous, and yes I wasn’t a fan of the conflict, but everything else about this book was top notch. We have messy family dynamics, supportive friend groups, hints of enemies to lovers and childhood friends to lovers, an engaging plot, and a cute romance. What more can anyone want from a book!