Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review!
What’s new, everyone? Contemporary romance author Jayci Lee has just come out with Booked on a Feeling, her standalone follow-up to A Sweet Mess and The Dating Dare (while characters from the previous books do appear in this one, it isn’t necessary to read them ahead of Booked on a Feeling). It takes you into the life of Los Angeles-based lawyer Lizzie Chung as she’s heading down the road toward making partner and pleasing the wishes of her parents (particularly her mom), but not without experiencing some exhaustion and anxiety with her job. Her burnout worsens so much, in fact, that she ends up having a panic attack and fainting in court. Realizing just how crucial it is that she takes time to unwind and figure out what her next step is, she flies off for a three-week trip to Weldon, where she’d grown up as a kid with her best friend of twenty years Jack Park. Unbeknownst to her, he’s been pining after her all this time but has chosen to keep it hidden in order to preserve their friendship. What will happen, however, once Lizzy suddenly starts to catch her own feelings for Jack?
**Trigger Warning** Readers, please beware this book’s depiction of on-page panic attacks, a dysfunctional mother-daughter dynamic, and minor bits of body shaming.
As of late, I’ve realized that I’m becoming a fan of the friends-to-lovers trope, although it will never knock fake dating and enemies-to-lovers off their top spots on my Favorite Rom-Com Tropes list. A major element that prevents me from sending an overwhelming amount of adoration towards friends-to-lovers is the way in which it’s often used for M/F relationships, as if such platonic dynamics must eventually reward the men with romantic and sexual reciprocation from the women. When the friends-to-lovers trope is set up in a contrived fashion, it further detracts from my ability to root for the romance to work out. And I have to admit it felt like that throughout the first act of Booked on a Feeling. While it was logical for Jack to experience such intense feelings for Lizzy because he’s spent the past two decades harboring them for her, it didn’t come off like that for Lizzy, who has viewed him as nothing more than her closest buddy all this time. But then she starts abruptly noticing just how sexy he is, especially when he’s wearing a tool belt, and it all leaves you feeling like she went from zero to sixty in three seconds. The fact that both of them could act and talk like cringey teenagers sometimes in spite of being full-grown adults isn’t great, either.
At least the book improves once the relationship follows a much more natural and heartwarming flow in the second and third acts, with some nice steam making its debut towards the story’s latter half as the culmination for the heavy flirting that the two MCs have been tossing back and forth. In addition, I appreciate how the book focuses on each of their personal lives. You’ve got Lizzy, who’s trying to come up with a resolution for her career and avoid falling into the trap of needing to meet her mom’s impossibly high expectations of her. Oh, and she’s also volunteering at the floundering bookstore beneath the studio apartment she’s renting, determined to save it from shutting down—a subplot with which I very much connected. As for Jack, he’s contending with insecurity over how much he really contributes as bookkeeper for his family’s microbrewery and anxiety over whether he should accept an entry-level analyst position in L.A. should the potential employer decide to hire him. Sure, their arcs might be predictable, particularly Lizzy’s, but they helped me bond with the MCs nonetheless.
Booked on a Feeling may not have blown my socks off, what with the forced nature of Lizzy and Jack’s dynamic in the beginning and their capability for immaturity, but it’s an overall sweet romance that I’m glad I consumed. I’ve already followed Tara and Seth’s fake dating journey in The Dating Dare, and I’d still like to read about the one-night-stand and rivals-to-lovers mischief between Aubrey and Landon in A Sweet Mess.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 65/100