Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.
Thump thump. Thump thump. Shatter.
That’s the sound of my heart on repeat while reading this book. If that doesn’t happen to you too than you’re canceled.
You Had Me At Hola is one of the most feminist romances I’ve read in a long time. It sets the stage for the future. It shows us that inclusivity means having a diverse cast of people with different genders, ethnicities and race.
The authors makes an emphasis on pronouns, on consent, and on community. Nonbinary and Trans Latinx characters. There are Queer people and it’s just a thing. They are normal. No one is writing stupid essays on trans people.
My favorite aspect of this novel is the way it emphasizes a conversation that has to be dealt with in romances through the means of a tv show. The producers ask Ashton if there’s anything he does not consent to in the scenes with Jasmine. I’ve read so many romances where the consent is not treated as normal for all the characters. The one that disturbs me most is the Duke and I by Julia Quinn, where the heroine rapes the hero. This genre needs to have a talk about normalizing consent. I love that this book continues that conversation in regards to all genders.
The conversations on diasporic differences make this book so layered. Ashton is puertorriqueno, born on the island, and Jasmine is 2nd generation Puerto Rican and Filipina. The tv show encouraged the cast and crew to put up their flags to show the range of nationalities, genders, and identities in the production to highlight their diverse Latinx community.
For the first time in a fucking while I’ve been gifted with a romance in a genre overwhelmed with white love interests being the aspiration. I want more romances where both the characters know each other’s cultures. I want more romances that don’t make white love interests the ultimate goal. Sweet bi-lingual softness. The language of their culture and experiences. This filled that gap that I’ve been wanting from the genre. So in love with each other they forget they’ve switched to another language. That. I need that.
I need an entire shelf worthy of books like this.
The set up: 2 Soap Opera/Telenovela stars fall in love. He spills coffee on her shirt, ending in a disasterously bad outfit on Jasmine’s first day. The chapters switch between them.
Jasmine and Ashton have a slow burn, godly tier ranked chemistry type of romance. Every smile she makes makes him flutter and swoon. Absolutely floored me when he said supporting Jasmine had quickly become his thing. Offensively good.
This book continues to stab my heart. I love it when he speaks Spanish to her. All that intimate crap gets me.
The fear he has for his son is developed from an attack on his son. Ashton developed PTSD after someone threatened his son in their own home. I will say that as someone with PTSD, there wasn’t much detail as there should have been.
I also want to talk about healthy relationships and understanding the difference between growth and someone repeatedly being unworthy of their partner’s love. Ashton internalizes and acknowledges when he’s being an asshole. His asshole meter never goes too far and when he does something Ashton acknowledges what he’s done. He does not repeat it. He tells us he has no right to ask her any emotional labor on his behalf. That is growth. I think we need to stop getting into the habit of not recognizing character growth, especially towards Latinx and men of color, when it comes to a good apology. I want good apologies in romance but we’ve gotten so used to the authors going past the line of forgiveness. Apologies to me are important. I grew up with a father that would apologize to me countless times every week. Apologies should mean something when someone actually does the work.
I would even argue that romances where the hero doesn’t at least do one mistake is not allowing for healthy relationships to develop. There’s a difference between emotional abuse and something that still can be forgiven. I feel like we’ve forgotten this because so much of romance’s history has been borderline toxic and abusive tendencies.
Give me more kind men in m/f romances that are nuanced and grow and work from their mistakes. More men dancing with the heroine’s grandmother. More ambitious heroines. This book should be a damn blueprint.