I love this book. I never completely remember how much I love it each time, then it makes me all happy again. It’s in the little things, which makes it difficult to explain.
This time, I listened to the audiobook version, and it was also wonderful. I really liked Tanya Eby’s narration and the different voices, including Hayden’s nephew (children are not easy). I usually like the fake-romance trope but it has to have a believable reason. If it needs me to suspend my disbelief, I might still enjoy it if the writing is good but it won’t be the same. I think this one has the best reason I have read. I won’t spoil but when the reader, along with Hayden, finds out why Sam needed that fake marriage, I loved Sam even more. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Hayden Pérez is a nurse in New York who, despite working as much as she can and being very careful with her expenses, is struggling financially. A lot of what she earns goes to her family in Miami. When she stumbles upon an ad on craigslist looking for a temporary bride, the idea seems ludicrous at first. Yet the promise of money pushes her to answer, only to discover that the author of the ad is Samantha Thomson, the most arrogant and rudest surgeon at the hospital.
I love Hayden, even more with Tanya Eby’s voice, which I thought was perfect. Hayden is hard-working, loving, responsible but she’s also a smartass and I love that aspect of her. She has a wonderful if complicated relationship with her family and it breaks my heart every time she feels guilty for not visiting enough, not sharing the burden, not doing more when the money she sends every month is already helping tremendously.
On the surface, Sam is the opposite. She’s older, always in control. She doesn’t talk about her family, she has no friends. She’s cold. Once Hayden gets to know her, however, she finds that she’s really kind-hearted and more socially awkward than rude. I more than once wondered whether she could be on the autism spectrum, especially when she explains that she takes her cues from others, or if her attitude stems from her upbringing.
With small delicate touches that never feel fragile, Benson tackles issues such as Alzheimer’s or homophobia with both plausibility and finesse. Bonus points for making Hayden pansexual and her best friend Luce non-binary with just the right amount of explanation and without making a big deal of either. That’s just the way things are, and Luce is only one of excellent secondary characters, who bring angst, tension and comic relief to what is overall an awesome novel.