Before quarantine, I had never stayed in my house for a week straight, nor had I taken bubble baths on a semi-regular basis, nor I had ever eaten two bars of chocolate in one go and called it "dinner." But alas, life is… kinda weird now, as evidenced by the endless questions about what constitutes our "new normal," and I have now done all of the above.
So following that line of "shaking up my life thanks to state-mandated lockdown," I read my first romance novel, a category that had eluded me ever since I worked at Walmart as a teenager and had to organize the book section, where every romance cover seemed to be a painted rendition of Fabio, despite it having been many years past his prime. Not that I necessarily had anything against the category, but it seemed not quite geared towards my age bracket.
Now, of course, I am older, and on a whim, my best friend mailed me a copy of Jasmine Guillory's The Proposal, which felt very much outside my usual style of book. Having attended the same small college as Guillory, I'd been familiar with her books since she published the bestselling The Wedding Date in 2018, and I had repeatedly told myself "I'll read it eventually." But stuck indoors, tired of scrolling through Netflix for the perfect rom-com I can never find, sick of my shelf of nothing but overly serious books, and missing my best friend across the country, I figured, why not read The Proposal? This proved to be a very good quarantine decision, and a very pleasant foray into the world of modern romance novels.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, the book flew by in the length of two or three long baths. Unapologetically romantic but a level up from the cheesiness of the Hallmark Channel, The Proposal centers on Nikole Paterson, a freelance writer, and Carlos Ibarra, a hot-in-my-imagination doctor, who cross paths when—in true meet-cute fashion—Nikole turns down another man's poorly planned proposal at a Dodgers game (ouch). Set in modern times, it's smart and quippy about cultural references, and it feels knowing but never pandering. It reads like watching a good rom-com, light and easily digestible.
The characters are fun, the romance is romantic, and the relationship drama is relatively minimal, which is a good thing for any of us still reeling from Carrie Bradshaw's tiring string of breakups with Mr. Big. With relatable dialogue, quick pacing, and sex scenes that didn't feel totally awkward, The Proposal was a breeze to read, and it was so engaging, in fact, that I found myself not only willing but eager to take some time away from screens. When it feels like I'm spending 22 straight hours staring at blue light thanks to work, messages with friends, and Zoom calls, being able to get swept up in a book was a welcome escape. Plus, I didn't have to scroll through the bloated romance or comedy sections on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon to find this hit of lighthearted enjoyment.
It turns out, romance readers are onto something—and if only it hadn't required a global pandemic for me to get with the program. If my best friend would like to let me borrow another book of Guillory's, I surely would not complain.
The Proposal is available for purchase through Bookshop.org and other online book retailers, at your local bookstore, or as an audiobook at Audible, Apple, and more.