Review of You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

I can absolutely see why this was a Goodreads favourite last year. It’s definitely making my list of faves.

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

Available on Amazon.

Let’s just say, up front, I enjoyed every minute of this novel; and if Carmen in Charge were a real tv drama, I’d be all over it!

The romance is sweet, sexy and fully entertaining… I mean, it should be given the MCs are drama series stars. Jasmine is the ever unlucky in love heroine who wants someone she can love, respect and depend on. She has talent and major ambition to be a star. She also has the love and support of her fantastic cousins who call her out on her mistakes and push her to be a better person every time. I loved how she seemed flighty but yet, upon closer inspection, she’s a very passionate and determined young woman who values her family and culture above all else.

Her meet-cute with Ashton, as the novel opens, is the perfect way to showcase how conflicted the hero is. He seems aloof, confident and in control. It’s all an act, however, as he is desperately worried for his career (even though he too is talented and hard-working). He needs Carmen In Charge to be his breakout role. He wants to leave the telenovela stereotypes behind. He is driven by the need to protect and provide for his young son, father and grandparents. The elder Suarez family members, instead want him to live his live and maybe even find love too.

The chemistry is undeniable as these two clash and meld and discover in each other what they most need.

The Latinx factor: the novel is chock full of cultural representation. With the two central characters both from Puerto Rico and both being stars in a television drama series about Latinx characters, you can hardly be surprised. Jasmine’s family is used to highlight the diversity of the Latinx community. She is Puerto Rican and Philipino while her cousins (the primas of power) are Puerto Rican – Barbadian and Puerto Rican – Italian. There is an abundance of cultural references from the margarine tub of arroz con pollo to the chancletas. Family traditions are displayed and dance and music feature as well.

Years of ingrained muscle memory took over. Jasmine had learned these moves at a very young age, and had danced them with her abuelos and tíos at every wedding, birthday, and christening she’d ever attended. Her spine arched into the proper pose as her feet picked up the beat and her hips connected to the rhythm. Salsa music was in her blood, the combination of congas, trumpets, and smoky vocals flowing through her and begging her to move with them.

There are parts of dialogues in Spanish but also seamless translations included, so even if you don’t speak the language, you’ll never be lost!

Finally, I want to talk about the screenplay chapters. Several of the chapters are actually told through the Carmen In Charge script. Those scenes tend to mirror an aspect of the current goings-on in the Jasmine-Ashton storyline. There are little pieces where the emotions portrayed by the screenplay characters are inseparable from the book characters. It sounds confusing but in reality the plot device works wonderfully! I absolutely loved that aspect of the novel. And well… the screenplay is pretty crazy at times… it’s all good fun!

I give You Had Me at Hola 4.5/5 salsa-licious espresso shots!

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