I recently read two Christina Lauren romances back to back: her newest, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and one of her bestsellers, Dating You/Hating You. After reading both, I certainly understand the hype. Lauren’s books are fun, breezy, modern romances. I flew through both and really enjoyed them.
I dropped the ball a bit so I don’t have photos of the books here. One, because my copy of Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is an advanced copy I got from the publisher, so I didn’t want to take a photo of it. And two, I got Dating You/Hating You from the library and forgot to take a photo before I returned it. So you’re left with only my words. I’m not sure if it’s the case with all of Lauren’s books, but both of these were narrated in the present tense and the first person. I think this style kind of spurred me to read the books even faster and with more urgency than I read other novels because I felt like I was experiencing the story along with the characters, which was fun. On the other hand though, I feel like it’s difficult to include a lot of setting and backstory when you’re writing in the present tense, so these books were a bit light on that, particularly Dating You/Hating You. But depending on what you’re looking for, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
First, into Josh and Hazel. Josh and Hazel knew each other in college then cross paths years later when Hazel becomes best friends with Josh’s sister. Shortly after, Hazel decides she will also be Josh’s best friend, and the two decide to set each other up on a series of blind double dates. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be sweet. Both Josh and Hazel were incredibly endearing and relatable and I liked them both equally, which is rare for me in a romance. Hazel is a proud oddball, a fact that the reader is told over and over again, but to a good end—the emotional payoff that results is heart-wrenching. Josh is a pretty average guy, but perfectly kind and delightful. Unlike many romance heroes, Lauren didn’t force any terrible qualities on Josh, and it was refreshing to not be frustrated reading a hero who was constantly putting himself down. The sex scenes were rather forgettable, I suppose because there was alcohol involved. Personally, I would have enjoyed a little more detail and a little more fun on that front, given Josh and Hazel’s unique yet complementary personalities. Overall, this book was delightful. I did have a gripe with one pretty big plot point late in the book; it seemed like Lauren glossed over what should have been a concern for the characters. But it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book.
Second, Dating You/Hating You. This book came very highly recommended, and I had to wait a little while before it became available at my library. Evie and Carter hit it off at a holiday party and go on a perfect first date—only to discover the next day that their talent agent companies have merged and they might be competing for the same job. Naturally, hi-jinks ensue. I think my favorite part of this book was Carter; I loved how easygoing he was, how willing he was to talk about his emotions and how readily he recognized and admitted his feelings. I actually think we spent more time in Evie’s head than Carter’s, and I could have used a little more Carter. But don’t get me wrong, Evie was a bad-ass. She was strong-willed, confident and great at her job. And Evie and Carter had incredible sexual chemistry; Lauren really perfectly captured the balance of how two people can be so frustrated with each other yet so attracted to each other at the same time, and it was a lot of fun. Where this book did lose me a little though, was with Brad, Evie and Carter’s boss and the book’s villain. The way he treated his employees was so awful that it made his scenes uncomfortable to read and pulled me out of the action of the book. I wanted the payoff with him to be more satisfying. But this was a fun, sexy romance that I would recommend.
Christina Lauren is a great modern romance writer. She has a great balance of comedy and drama. I’ll probably pause from her for a bit, but only because I’m writing my book in the third person past-tense, so I want to read more of that first. She’s delightful and her books are a delight to read!