Thank you to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review!
What’s new, everyone? Farrah Rochon is publishing her latest contemporary romance novel, The Hookup Plan, which is the third standalone entry in her The Boyfriend Project series and comes out tomorrow on August 2nd. The two MCs here are London Kelley, a hardworking pediatric surgeon who’s in the final year of residency at her hospital, and Drew Sullivan, her high school archenemy and co-valedictorian whom she bumps into at their Austin, TX high school reunion after being apart for fifteen years. Since London’s friends, Samiah and Taylor (who were MCs in the previous books), have been encouraging her to break out of her sex dry spell, she decides to get into bed with Drew despite the surprisingly deep resentment she harbors against him. However, once London is back at work in her hospital, which is in a financial quagmire and needs to make budget cuts, she’s astonished to learn that Drew himself is going to conduct an audit on her hospital—an important little detail that he failed to disclose to her ahead of their night together. It takes a bit of time, but they end up agreeing to keep it casual with the eponymous hookup plan until Drew flies back home. How long will it take, though, for things to serious?
**Trigger Warning** Readers, please beware this book’s depiction of gaslighting, misogyny, sexism, a toxic relationship with a parent, discussion of the past death of a parent due to cancer, and minor inclusions of body shaming and eating disorder.
Having read the two previous books in Rochon’s series, The Boyfriend Project and The Dating Playbook, I was anticipating how The Hookup Plan would wrap things up with our core trio of women—Samiah, Taylor, and London—who had all formed such a powerful bond after realizing at the beginning of The Boyfriend Project that they had been dating the same three-timing dickweasel. Now, I’m glad to say that The Hookup Plan provides the series with a rewarding conclusion that merges the evolution of London and Drew’s rivals-to-lovers romance (I think this trope is more befitting than the enemies-to-lovers umbrella under which the book has been promoted) with the growth that each of them make as individuals who are dealing with personal baggage.
For London, she has to gradually untangle the grudge that her highly competitive teenage self had always held towards Drew and reflect on its connection with the approval she’d yearned for from her selfish and uncaring asshole of a dad. The emotionally riveting quality of her internal journey is a major part of the book that I couldn’t get enough of. The fact that she’s such a diligent surgeon who’s capable of allowing her perfectionist tendencies to push her to the breaking point and take a toll on the hypertension she’d inherited from her dad (yep, give all the thanks to him) makes her even more endearing as a Black woman who has to weave her way through workplace politics and perpetually grapple with the twin patriarchal forces of misogyny and racism. The companionship she builds with her kid sister Nina is just as engaging.
For Drew, I appreciate how he had to resolve the guilt he struggles with over his mom, who had died from cancer, and the perceived responsibility he believes he had for being unable to transfer her to a different hospital that would have been better equipped to detect her ailment, although it didn’t feel as fleshed-out as London’s arc. And I’ll admit that I was initially turned off by him thanks to his unnecessary cockiness at the reunion, which was succeeded by his choice to not inform London about his role in the upcoming audit. Granted, he made that choice because he was being an impulsive fool who had sex on his brain, not because he’s an ill-intentioned douchebag, but it peeved me nonetheless. Thankfully, he proves himself to be a cinnamon roll who knows just how to take care of London with thoughtfulness and generosity. On top of that, he’s rich, which is a notable plus.
Aside from London and Drew’s relationship, the book thrives on the robust and supportive dynamic between Samiah, Taylor, and London. Sometimes, it feels like we don’t get enough depictions of powerful and loving friendships between women of color to counter all the portrayals of women being hostile to one or another or of friendships between lily-white women. While it isn’t necessary to read The Boyfriend Project or The Dating Playbook ahead of The Hookup Plan, I’ll still recommend consuming the series in chronological order so that you can fully enjoy the development of their union.
As strong as this book is, I do have a couple gripes with it. One concerns the spice factor, which is perfectly adequate but not stellar. It doesn’t help that I’d started off feeling quite annoyed due to the first two sex scenes fading to black, which led me to wonder if the whole book was going to match that tone. It doesn’t, with the majority of the sex unfolding on the page. While I don’t mind reading romances that choose to go down such a route, it befuddled me this time because of the high amount of steam in Rochon’s previous books. When the sex does happen, it comes off as vanilla and doesn’t feel like it’s advancing London and Drew’s relationship.
My other issue is with the odd involvement of body shaming. It pops up every now and then in the form of characters, particularly London, worrying over their weight and feeling ashamed for eating junk food. I’m very uncomfortable with this after The Dating Playbook had promoted a depiction of traditional diet culture that counters the tenets of body inclusivity. We’ve been getting more and more contemporary romances that support being comfortable in your own skin, no matter what your body type, from authors like Talia Hibbert and Olivia Dade, and it’s crucial to keep the genre moving in that direction. Again, the body shaming in The Hookup Plan isn’t blatant, but I still wish it had been excised entirely.
All in all, The Hookup Plan brings Rochon’s romance series to a heartfelt close that leaves me missing Samiah, Taylor, London, and their partners already.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 85/100