Saturday, February 1, 2020

CaribBelle's Review: The Worst Best Man

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Publisher: Avon (February 4, 2020)
Genre: Contemporary Romance (M/F)
Dual 1st POV

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancĂ©e. And she loathes him.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again...

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

Reviews for Sosa's books:

Tropes and themes: Interracial romance; Forced proximity; Enemies to lovers; and Just one bed.

CaribBelle's Review:

Just the concept of The Worst Best Man is enough to make a reader like me eager, thirsty even: Afro-Latinx heroine, romantic comedy, socially relevant workplace and family conflict. I’m there. The reality was even better. Mia Sosa's The Worst Best Man is a fun multicultural romantic comedy with an opening that grabs you, a compelling enemies to lovers in forced proximity plot that reels you in, and a unique, authentic cultural voice that makes it all work together.

Three years ago, Carolina Santos (Lina) was all but left at the altar by a runaway groom so cowardly that he left word with his little brother instead of breaking things off himself. Now though, life is looking up for our heroine. She's got a growing business, and the opportunity of a lifetime appears to be within reach. Lina’s work as a wedding planner has attracted the notice of the new CEO of one of D.C.’s best hotels who invites her to pitch/compete for a dream job as their new director of weddings. It’s an enticing prospect— lucrative compensation, creative flexibility and access to resources— but there is one catch. Going for it will force her into a close working relationship with her ex-fiancĂ©’s brother Max, whose consulting firm is the company’s primary marketing partner. Lina is a professional, and she’s over her ex, but she’s not quite comfortable working with the brother she thinks played an influential role in their breakup.

As one might expect, tension and shenanigans follow. It’s immediately clear that Max and Lina have great chemistry both in and outside of the office, but their relationship is further complicated by cultural differences. Max is the kind of guy who has always known privilege—straight, white, good-looking and from a well-off family. Apart from growing up in the shadow of his older sibling, Max, for the most part, has had the whole world as his oyster. Lina’s life is not that. She’s well-educated and has a wonderful family, but as a child of immigrants and an Afro-Latinx woman, she’s used to having her behavior and emotional expression policed. As a result, Lina has trained herself to keep her feelings on a tight leash:

My tone of voice is exactly as it should be: calm and even. In truth, I regularly monitor my daily emotional output the way some people track their daily caloric intake, and since my mother and I just shared a few teary-eyed minutes together, I’m either fresh out of feelings or close to exceeding today’s quota.

Part of this self-scrutiny is in Lina’s individual DNA, but we can also tell from what’s floating around in her head that this is learned behavior-- that it's about how she'll be judged in light of her race, class and gender. Max doesn’t understand, but readers like myself (Black woman, Afro-Caribbean immigrant) will probably relate.

Since Max doesn't quite grasp how these things have shaped Lina's experience, choices and her reticence to jump into a relationship with him, that adds to their challenge. It’s bad for them (initially), but it makes for an entertaining and real love story. Max, unlike his brother, has both the good taste to appreciate Lina and the strength of character to navigate a difficult situation. Both main characters are multi-dimensional, the forced proximity context makes sense, and the result is compelling and original.

Mia Sosa is a skilled social observer and she pays close attention to Lina’s family and cultural background, which enriches the story. Sosa also has a great sense of humor as an author, and she does a good job of balancing the angst with the laughs. The bits where we observe Lina in her element are hilarious. For example:

Many a wedding has been destroyed by the effects of an open bar. My skin still crawls when I remember the groom who removed his new partner’s underwear instead of her garter. Gah.

Sosa’s skill with humor and deft handling of the work storyline come together in a just-one-bed situation that unfolds organically from Lina’s collaboration with Max. It’s hilarious and sexy and a real milestone in their story.

Stories that hinge on forced proximity don’t always work for me. They can feel overly contrived and the closeness unnecessary. But this scenario and Lina and Max's collaboration made sense. I’d go through a lot for a life-changing opportunity in my field. Many people would.

Where the story fell a little short was in how Lina’s conflicting feelings negatively affected her professional conduct at times whereas Max seemed to find a constructive balance. Lina is at cross purposes for much of the book. She wants to shut Max out of the pitch development process, but clearly that won’t help her get the job. She wants to make him suffer for undervaluing her, but she needs him as an ally. Overall, she’s just in a more precarious situation, and yet I wanted her to be more of a hero of this story. And I also wanted her to be emotionally open to this risky relationship. That might be a double bind. I’m still struggling with that and the question of whether I’m expecting too much of her because she's a female protagonist (as readers often do) given the structural constraints I've already acknowledged. But I think it’s also at least partly an issue with how their relationship plays out. Either way, the fact that this book caused me to ask those questions and think about them at length is a triumph, and reading The Worst Best Man was a pleasure.

4 1/2 STARS! 

~ * ~ * ~

Source: eARC

~ * ~ * ~

Meet CaribBelle!

I'm an obsessive book lover as well as a writer, teacher and researcher studying media, politics and identity, and an ardent TV, film, and art enthusiast. My research explores the relationship between media, politics, public opinion and public policy. The aim is to understand the role that media and culture play in attitudes and behavior around race, gender and sexuality.

Thanks for the review, CaribBelle! 


Until Next Time,

No comments :