Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review!
What’s new, everyone? In today’s world, have you ever felt like you’re trying to fit into the world and appeal to others by absorbing all kinds of advice from books, commercials, experts, blogs, podcasts, and people in your personal life, even if some of the advice contradicts each other and doesn’t feel like a natural fit for your life? In From the Jump, the new contemporary romance novel by Lacie Waldon (The Layover), Los Angeles-based graphic designer Olivia “Liv” Bakersfield faces that exact situation, digesting plenty of incongruous advice on things like her diet, her finances, her home decoration style, her romantic relationships, and her family plans. When her boss assigns her to work on a bone broth product in the latest of a string of unappealing food projects that Liv has been stuck with, this becomes the last straw for her. She finally says “no,” throws away the pointers and rules she’s been abiding by this whole time, and takes five flights with four layovers to South Africa in order to join in on the vacation her four college friends have taken there. And so begins her journey to not only adjust her outlook on life but also realize that she might be interested in something more with Lucas Deiss (pronounced like “dice”), one of the four buddies she’s known for eleven years.
Having enjoyed the Belize-set enemies-to-lovers romance in Waldon’s debut novel The Layover (and been fortunate enough to chat with her on my podcast, to which you can find a link at the bottom of this review), I was eager for more vacation time in her sophomore effort. It doesn’t spend as much time in South Africa as I thought it would—about only half the plot rather than the 80% I’d predicted. But that’s okay, because it’s quite the charming and heartfelt adventure, one that’s led by a relatable character who’s following her instincts and figuring out what she really wants after having strived for so long to meet society’s expectations. Specifically, these are the kind of expectations that are imposed on women as a whole, forcing them to reach for a wide range of impossible standards that clash with each other. That’s what makes From the Jump come off not as the straightforward contemporary romance that the marketing has made it appear, but as a “growmance”—a term I’m borrowing from one of my favorite book podcasts, Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club, to describe a romance novel in which the significant amount of personal growth that one or both of the MCs undergoes has enough of a presence that it can rival the romance itself for being the main plotline.
In addition, I found myself getting invested in the fact that Liv’s habit of always saying “yes” and desire for a type-A life had planted their roots in her impoverished childhood, the many men she saw leave her flighty mom behind in spite of how much her mom tried to cling onto them, and the pressure she put on Liv to pursue a life of perfection. This is why Liv made it her to goal to be the opposite of her mom by avoiding showing any signs of weakness or emotion—something she achieved well enough that it inspired her pals to nickname her the Ice Queen. I actually wish we’d been able to delve a little more deeply into her upbringing. Even though the crucial role that it played in shaping her character is fairly clear, I feel like there’s some territory in the mother-daughter dynamic that’s left unresolved.
As for the slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance between Liv and Deiss, it’s easy to dive into their dynamic and root for them to fully realize their feelings for each other. It’s a good thing, too, considering I can be sometimes averse to the friends-to-lovers trope, particularly if it feels like the MCs have been implausibly blind to their emotions all this time. Deiss, a music aficionado who owns a record store named Studio Sounds, has an intriguing backstory of his own that, for me at least, raised the stakes for the romance, since I was able to predict how it would tie into the main plot.
Liv’s buddies make for an endearing supporting roster, with her college roommate Phoebe, wealthy influencer Simone, and jaunty model Mac. He and Phoebe actually used to date for six years before breaking up and remaining platonic friends for the next five years. I appreciate the impact this has on everyone, what with the tightrope Phoebe and Mac are walking on to stay friends and steer clear of any strife that could split up the group. It’s a sufficient explanation for why Liv and Deiss hadn’t risked taking things to the next level earlier.
Most of the book takes place in present-day first-person POV, but it also gives us a few flashbacks to the friend group’s early days, which gives some insight into how effortlessly they’d been able to mesh together. In fact, they’re so close that Liv looks forward to seeing her buddies on the third Thursday of every month, claiming these days are holidays that are even better than Christmas or Halloween. I especially thought the chemistry between Phoebe and Mac was irresistible. They basically have their own second chance romance happening on the side.
Admittedly, I do feel ambivalent over a certain third-act betrayal. Without spoiling the circumstances, I’ll say that I understand the resolution it reached and the purpose it has in preserving the whole friend group, but the way we get there feels rushed. I wish a bit more time could have been devoted to the decision that this character made and the ramifications it had for everybody. But I love where the rest of the group ends up, so that’s some nice compensation.
Overall, From the Jump, which will be published this Tuesday on July 19th, is another easygoing winner from Lacie Waldon. I’ll be looking forward to what she does with her third contemporary romance.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 80/100
Interview with Author Lacie Waldon (The Layover): https://anchor.fm/arthur746/episodes/Interview-with-Author-Lacie-Waldon-The-Layover-e1cu01r/a-a77u595