Hi Mich. It’s Gabe.
After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.
It’s been a long time.
Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.
I’ve missed you.
Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?
Second chance romance is my kryptonite. Second chance romance in which the partners connect via writing together is even more my kryptonite. Thankfully for my angst-ridden Pisces heart, A Lot Like Adiós’s Michelle and Gabe are childhood best friends-turned-almost lovers, who reunite one day many years later. When they were in high school, they also worked on fanfiction together called Celestial Destiny, based on a sci-fi show featuring Latine characters. I figured I would love this book going into it, but I did not realize just how much until I had finished reading it.
The book opens with Gabe, a Mexican and Puerto Rican bisexual man who lives in Los Angeles, being essentially forced to open a New York location of his gym, which is called Agility, and needing to refresh his marketing. Michelle, a Puerto Rican and Italian bisexual woman, currently works freelance in marketing. After Gabe’s best friend Fabian hires Michelle, Gabe flies out to New York where she is located, and they begin to rekindle their spark from when they were younger.
However, Michelle still harbors resentment, anger, and sadness from when she felt abandoned by Gabe’s departure to LA when they were 18. Throughout their relationship unfolding (and some VERY hot sex), they work through these lingering feelings together. Michelle struggles with vulnerability due to her fear of being hurt by Gabe again, and even though she has a strong pull to him physically, she also struggles with being guarded in their sexual relationship. When Gabe left for LA, he ignored her and his family’s efforts to reach out thereafter, and they somewhat dance around the subject for fear of ruining what they have now. Michelle’s character growth largely surrounds her learning to become more vulnerable and rebuilding her trust in herself and Gabe. Gabe’s character growth surrounds his individuation and development as an adult, in both standing up for himself, but also allowing himself to see where he could have done things differently.
Along with second chance romance and childhood friends to lovers, Alexis Daria also uses the forced proximity and workplace romance tropes. This combination sounds like a lot going on, but they blend so seamlessly together and each one adds another layer of complexity that seems completely natural and not muddled. A lot of the relationships she writes are workplace romances, including the relationships in the Dance Off Series, which takes place on a Dancing with the Stars inspired TV show, as well as Jasmine and Ashton in the first book in the Primas of Power series, who are both actors and work on the same telenovela. I particularly liked this trope in A Lot Like Adiós because so much personal growth and realization of what feels truly authentic takes place in the evolution of both Michelle’s and Gabe’s work.
Alexis Daria also approaches setting boundaries with family members in Gabe’s narrative regarding leaving his parents and sister for LA, especially his father, who had internalized and enacted upon toxic masculine beliefs. We see later in the book that he acknowledges and reconciles for these thoughts and the way that he tried to enforce them with Gabe, and we also see that Gabe gains more understanding of his father’s history as an immigrant and a parent as he got older.
Like in You Had Me At Hola, the big family dynamics are both hilarious and complicated. They have a huge family party about two-thirds of the way through, and some of the interactions had me laughing out loud. As well, in the beginning, Gabe has to sneak around because he feels nervous about running into his parents, and the scene where they first bump into each other, by accident, of course, is truly hysterical (and I won’t ruin it for you)! At the end of the day, although the history is complex and full of a spectrum of emotions, there are some heartwarming scenes where they support one another and come to a mutual understanding.
Of course, I could not end this review without talking about Celestial Destiny, the fanfiction that Michelle and Gabe began when they were in high school. They were both overjoyed that the TV show Beyond the Stars featured Latine characters in space, and lamented about the lack of Latine representation in sci-fi. There were interstitials of messenger chat transcripts where they would talk about the construction of their fanfic, and I truly swooned. There is really nothing better to me than two people who are attracted to one another connecting years later through self-insert writing. The way the process of writing the fanfic fits into the plot was so well done.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
It goes without saying that this book was set up for me to love, but I am not mad about it. In fact, I feel quite warm and fuzzy knowing that Alexis Daria has created yet another one of my favorite books. (And a shoutout to the Dance Off Series, which made me fall in love with her romances!)
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Michelle and Gabe, childhood best friends, reunite many years later, when Michelle is hired to do freelance marketing work for Gabe, after their friendship abruptly ended when Gabe suddenly left for LA, and their romantic spark picks up almost right where they left off.
Genre: Adult romance
Trigger/content warning: Estrangement from family, toxic workplace dynamics