When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part—they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…
At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up—in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…
I have always loved reading romance novels, and in early 2018, I read THE WEDDING DATE by Jasmine Guillory and instantly fell in love. However, I am notoriously bad at only reading the first book in a series and then completely abandoning the rest of the series (or in this case, I guess the companion novels), so I made a conscious effort to forge on. So here I am, reading THE PROPOSAL five months after it was published! (Oy.)
THE PROPOSAL begins with Nikole, or Nik, Paterson, whose boyfriend of 5 months, Fisher, suddenly proposes to her on a Jumbotron at a baseball game. They had never spoken about marriage before, and worse, her name is misspelled. She declines and he becomes angry. Carlos Ibarra and his sister Angie pretend to know her and swoop in, walking quickly away from the cameras that are following Nik.
Right off the bat, Jasmine Guillory tackles two important subjects. First, I am of the belief that if marriage is on the table, ideally it should be talked about and agreed upon between both parties. The proposal may be a surprise, but not the introduction of the concept of marriage. Secondly, in a self-defence class I took in college, I was taught that, if I have the spoons and capacity, it may be helpful to talk to someone who is being harassed or victimized to build support and avoid bystander apathy. Both points were addressed in the opening scene. After this day, Nik and Carlos start spending more time with one another, and tentatively, they consent to begin casually dating without the label of a relationship.
My favorite thing about Jasmine Guillory’s characters is that you can remove them from the context of their romance and they are still fully realized. In this case, Nik has a very familiar struggle to feel validated in her work, as writing as a freelancer requires inspiration and motivation. Carlos is also equally committed to his work as the assistant director of the teen unit at Eastside Medical Center. He loves to cook and we see this in the smallest details, for example, his TV can swivel 360 degrees to where he can watch it while he cooks.
In terms of secondary characters, Nik’s two best friends, Dana and Courtney, form a tight-knit trio. Courtney identifies as bi and begins a budding relationship with another woman. Carlos’s family is extremely realistic in both their love of and frustration for one another. He has a sister, Angela, and a cousin, Jessie, who is diagnosed with pre-eclampsia when she is entering her third trimester. Readers also get to see Drew and Alexa from THE WEDDING DATE again, and it was nice to see some familiar faces.
In THE WEDDING DATE, and even more so here, race is spoken about frankly in the context of the main relationship. Nik is a Black woman and Carlos is a Latinx man. Fisher is a White man and there is discussion about Nik’s very public and viral rejection of him as a Black woman, and how the media portrayed them. A recent event that comes to mind as somewhat of a parallel is how the media treated Serena Williams as a harmful stereotype: aggressive, defiant, and cold. Carlos also discusses how his parents were made fun of for their accents and didn’t want the same thing to happen to their children, so they chose not to teach them Spanish and now Carlos regrets that he cannot speak Spanish well and feels that he can connect with his family and ethnicity less.
Nik and Carlos’s relationship was definitely a slow-burn romance. Compared to Alexa and Drew’s relationship in THE WEDDING DATE, which played on the fake to real relationship trope and started off immediately fiery and sexual, Nik and Carlos were slower to warm to each other. Having just experienced Fisher’s mortifying proposal, Nik isn’t ready to jump straight into a relationship. However, I wish the “burn” part of the slow burn had been cranked up. Although I believed their chemistry, several sex scenes were fade to black, and I think especially because of the gradual build, readers could have benefited from explicit sex scenes so as to really become invested.
Another aspect of THE PROPOSAL that I appreciate is the different scenarios that involved health and bodies. My favorite is the body-positive self defence gym which employs a sliding scale payment policy, so women of all socioeconomic statuses can have access to their services. Although I wish we could have seen more, Carlos appreciates his job working with teens and in one scene talks about his duty as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse and how it affects him personally. Because his father passed away from a heart attack and his sister was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, he is enmeshed in the medical system and in cannot fully compartmentalize career from personal matters. In one scene, Jessie is being cared for in the hospital and I saw the different ways that pregnant and delivering women are treated in hospitals.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Jasmine Guillory brings the same down-to-earth, multifaceted character construction to THE PROPOSAL as she did in THE WEDDING DATE. However, if you’ve read THE WEDDING DATE and expect a hot and heavy relationship right off the bat, know that this is a slow burn and an entirely different feel, so set your expectations accordingly. Nik and Carlos’s mutual interest and trust is gradual, but no less valid or full. Necessary social issues are tackled in a complex, yet subtle way while not sacrificing levity that I like when reading romance.
Side note: Jasmine Guillory has a holiday romance (ohmygod, ohmygod) called ROYAL HOLIDAY coming out in October! I just put my Christmas tree away a couple weeks ago, and grumbled while doing so, so you can probably guess how excited I am.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Nik rejects a proposal on the big screen at a baseball game and Carlos rushes her away from the center of attention, and they begin a romance.
Trigger/content warning: Pre-eclampsia and other birth/pregnancy related conditions, character death due to a heart attack, grief, past examples of racism