Published by Elena Armas on 22nd February 2021
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A wedding. A trip to Spain. The most infuriating man. And three days of pretending. Or in other words, a plan that will never work.
Catalina Martín, finally, not single. Her family is happy to announce that she will bring her American boyfriend to her sister’s wedding. Everyone is invited to come and witness the most magical event of the year.
That would certainly be tomorrow’s headline in the local newspaper of the small Spanish town I came from. Or the epitaph on my tombstone, seeing the turn my life had taken in the span of a phone call.
Four weeks wasn’t a lot of time to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic–from NYC and all the way to Spain–for a wedding. Let alone, someone eager to play along my charade. But that didn’t mean I was desperate enough to bring the 6’4 blue eyed pain in my ass standing before me.
Aaron Blackford. The man whose main occupation was making my blood boil had just offered himself to be my date. Right after inserting his nose in my business, calling me delusional, and calling himself my best option. See?
Outrageous. Aggravating. Blood boiling. And much to my total despair, also right. Which left me with a surly and extra large dilemma in my hands. Was it worth the suffering to bring my colleague and bane of my existence as my fake boyfriend to my sister’s wedding? Or was I better off coming clean and facing the consequences of my panic induced lie?
Like my abuela would say, que dios nos pille confesados.
There’s so much talk about ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ as a poor cousin of Sally Thorne’s ‘The Hating Game’ that I probably went into it expecting more of the same. To an extent, it does feel like an incarnation of it right down to the work situation and the characters’ personalities but it did become easier to separate the two after a while.
I think the biggest issue I had was with the uneven pacing: slow and meandering in the first half of the book when it could have pretty much been done with in a few chapters before the more exciting stuff came. I wasn’t sure if sticking to the first POV here (in Catalina’s POV) did the story any favours, seeing as it skewed the narrative towards a hysterical protagonist caught so much in her own head that it not only dragged the easy drama on, and made Aaron the sum-total of a one-dimensional, stiff, reticent and unmoving tight-arse with a perpetual clenched jaw in contrast.
And without Aaron’s POV or a stopper to rein in Lina’s repetitive (and increasingly immature) musings, the first half dragged on in a similar manner: with Lina going back and forth with her indecision about dragging Aaron as her fake date to Spain or not, then later wilfully wrestling with her own attraction to him.
I hadn’t realised that the reviews of the book had been so polarising but after slogging through so much of it just to get to the finish line, I can understand why. The comparisons to ‘The Hating Game’ inadvertently kept coming—or at least in my mind—as Aaron and Lina had a lot to live up to but failed in most part. While I did like how many of Aaron’s lines had a deeper meaning than just the surface-level one that Lina takes so very literally, there wasn’t enough of the way both characters should have turned from their initial states to one where they come together—this was like a leap from zero to a hundred without the counting and build-up in between.
That Lina took, quite literally, up until the last ten percent of the book to come to terms with her feelings while making Aaron do the hard yard didn’t make this feel like a slow burn; instead, this came across as a frustrating grind on the merry-go-round leading nowhere.
I wished I could have liked this a lot more, especially given its rom-com potential. But all I could think of by the end was that it should have ended sooner and more sharply.