A Proposal They Can't Refuse by Natalie Caña
Besties to enemies to lovers. What a ride!
Rating: 4.5 stars
Spice: 3 chili peppers
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Rom-Com)
Representation: Puerto Rican, Irish-American
Content Warnings: grief, death of a parent, abandonment, cancer (side character)
Kamilah Vega is a passionate chef who desperately wants to keep her abuela's restaurant alive in their increasingly gentrified neighborhood in Chicago. Her plan? To spiff up the place and enter it into the Fall Foodie Tour. There are a few problems...her family doesn't really take her or her plan seriously and her abuelo is planning to sell the building along with his bestie. The only way he and his best friend will agree to not sell is if she and Liam Kane get married.
Liam Kane's granda and Kamilah's abuelo are dead set on this marriage and he feels like he doesn't really have a choice when he finds out his granda has cancer. He is all Liam has left aside from his family's whiskey distillery. Liam has spent years trying to update the distillery and he and his grandfather are focused on winning a national competition. If he wants to have that chance to compete and get his granda to agree to cancer treatment, Liam has to give in to his demands.
Their futures are on the line but Kamilah and Liam are repelled by the idea. They used to be best friends as kids but now, it seems, they can't stand one another. The two agree to fake an engagement to get what they want from their grandfathers but the plan isn't as easy as they'd hoped...
This book was addictive! Kamilah and Liam had awesome chemistry and the food descriptions were delicious. I went back and forth between the audiobook and the print (as usual) and loved both. The narrator Valentina Ortiz did a wonderful job and I felt so seen. The pacing was perfect because I almost didn't want to put the book down to go to sleep, except for when the inevitable fallout hit.
Something I really appreciate about this book and After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez is that each of the MCs got a moment to confront their families about the dismissive attitudes they've had towards these women. I'm not sure if this is just a Latine(x) thing, but I've also noticed this within my own family. Women are held to higher standards in the family and if you have ever screwed up, you'll never hear the end of it. Yes, they love you, but rather than being more positive, they will question your ideas every step of the way and remind you of every mistake you've made. It's so demoralizing! I'm glad Kamilah called her family out on this.
I rooted for Kamilah and Liam all the way through! While this was not a hot and heavy book right out the gate, the tension between these two made the spicy scenes more satisfying.