The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (berkley books, 2018)
Reviewed by Katie Centabar
Every once in awhile there is a book that makes you giggle, flush with embarrassment and curl your toes. I remember them from reading as a teen. Specifically, Sarah Dessen whose books always promised a teen new in town who 1) meets someone who is misunderstood, 2) experiences a traumatic loss and must start over, or 3) both – and drama and hilarity ensue. Jasmine Guillory writes those books for an adult audience.
The Proposal is a charming story of Nikole, a 30-something writer rediscovering herself following a dramatic and very public breakup. We meet Nik at a Dodgers game, bored out of her mind. She is there with her boyfriend whose name I can’t remember, so we shall call him Sentient Man Bun, a Hollywood wannabe type. Nik believes this relationship is a dallying fling with as little direction or future as Sentient Man Bun’s acting career. Her world flips upside down when on the jumbotron there appears a proposal and SMB is down on one knee. What’s a girl to do when your boyfriend of five months proposes at a baseball game and spells your name wrong? Obvs, say no and become the Most Hated Woman At Dodgers Stadium. Luckily for Nik, handsome doctor Carlos Ibarra swoops in to rescue her from being swallowed by public humiliation. Starting as a friendship and changing into something more, the relationship that unfolds is exciting, and very real for fiction.
I am telling you Guillory gives you everything in The Proposal. Complete with, what our lord and savior, Roxane Gay described as “a sharp feminist edge,” this story is for women by a woman who understands what it means to be a woman. Even more, it is a woman of color writing about people of color in a way that is familiar or accessible to a diverse audience. Beyond that it includes a casual yet interrogative perspective on gaslighting and trauma in relationships, recovery from its induced self-delusion and personal growth.
All of that is wonderful and so needed in popular fiction, but there is something else pleasing in The Proposal we need to discuss. Now this is the part where I ask my mother who is surely reading this to look away. I have read enough adult “romance” novels to know a good sex scene when I read it. All of the good ones I have read as an adult have been written by Jasmine Guillory, for the sad, simple reason that she refrains from the phrase “moving inside her” to describe penetrative sex. Maybe this is all a tangent, because there is feminist streak in Guillory’s novels goes beyond just sex, but it certainly helps.
I described this book to a friend as “that feeling of stuffing a lot of popcorn in your mouth during a movie because you want to know what happens next and you just can’t wait for it to unfold” – I stand by that. Unlike popcorn, there is enough substance here to keep the “savvy, sophisticated” reader both entertained and satiated.