We have had numerous conversations on this site about how a readers’ ‘mileage’ may vary in terms of suspension of disbelief. I’ve always thought that contemporary romances had the hardest row to hoe in that regard because people who live in the country/time the story takes place in can always spot the only-in-a-romance novel tropes used. A Lot Like Adíos is a novel that fell into this category for me.
A Lot Like Adíos includes characters from You Had Me at Hola, but you do not need to have read that book to enjoy this one.
Michelle Amato and Gabe (Gabriel) Aguilar have been BFFs and next-door neighbors for most of their lives, but in the summer of their senior year, that friendship takes on the added tenor of sexual tension. After waiting for months for Gabe to pick up on her subtle come-hither moves, Michelle, high, giggly and horny, turns to the equally under-the-influence Gabe and asks, “You got a big dick?” Somehow this clumsy attempt at flirting works and they’re hot and heavy and half-naked in minutes.
Everything implodes though when she sees a ticket to Los Angeles sticking out of his pants pocket and demands to know if he is planning to leave New York, even though he’s been assuring her for months he plans to stay. Now, Gabe admits that his home situation is untenable and that he does indeed intend to go to college all the way across the country. Michelle tears up the ticket, says some things she will later regret and kicks him out of her house and her life. After several months Michelle manages to work through her anger and reach out, but Gabe never responds.
The one person who could have convinced Gabe to go back to New York and stay was Michelle, which is why Gabe never responded to her. Gabe left home because his father wanted him to take over the family’s failing stationary store and they’d fought bitterly when Gabe told him shops selling pretty papers and cards were no longer a viable business. Instead, Gabe wanted to play pro-baseball, a dream that is destroyed when he suffers a career-ending injury. The silver lining is that he developed a deep interest in rehabilitative sports medicine and became a physical therapist as well as a fitness trainer as a result. Along with his best friend, who studied sports medicine, he opens a health club that doesn’t just provide a great place to work out but can also help clients on their road to recovery. Agility Gym has been a great success and now they are looking to expand into New York. Gabe dreads going back there ,but since his business partner is about to become a dad, Gabe knows it will have to be him that makes the trip. When it turns out that Michelle is the graphic designer he will be working with on the promotions, he mans up and reaches out to her in an attempt to make their business transactions as comfortable as possible.
Michelle’s having none of that. She wants answers as to why Gabe has been ghosting her for the last decade and makes it a condition of her working with Agility that he stay with her rather than in a hotel. Gabe agrees – because as a romance novel character he really has no other choice. They are both still totally hot for each other and naturally haven’t moved on to other relationships, so after he arrives in NY and gets settled in her place, when Michelle says, “Let’s fuck” they totally do.
Romance readers will recognize pretty much everything about this novel from the eye-rolling setup to the big, nosy families who are all up in the hero/heroine’s business. A few things are unique: the author does add cultural flavor, including Puerto Rican/Mexican/Italian customs, foods and traditions and her cast of characters is extremely diverse. The text uses Spanish language phrases and I wish I could tell you whether they are distracting or not, but being an Island born Puerto Rican, I recognized them all so they in no way disrupted my own reading. (Although the use of tía as opposed to tití tripped me up some.) The author does have the characters who are being spoken to respond in English, so I think the context will help with the comprehension.
Gabe is the quintessential hero with daddy issues, who flees home to make a success of life by following his own dreams. Coming back to New York, living next door to his parents and with Michelle means dealing with all the people he left behind and deciding whether the success he has is really what he wants or if his dreams have changed as he’s matured.
Michelle had a great position in a big marketing firm but the man she was having an affair with there used her to forward his own career. She left the company after that and is doing freelance work. Michelle is close to her family and loves her life in New York but realizes her love life has suffered because of the unresolved issues with Gabe. She’s determined to work through that and scratch the itch he started all those years ago. Naturally this means copious amounts of sex and of course that does result in her feelings becoming involved. But she’s not sure she can really trust Gabe with her heart.
Along with the cultural diversity, the author also includes sexually diverse characters. Both Michelle and Gabe identify as bisexual, and having same sex attractions/partners is casually mentioned in an early conversation, but the subject is not explored further. Gabe also has a niece Lucy “who was nine and had transitioned two years earlier.”
Because Gabe and Michelle have a pre-existing relationship that occurs prior to the start of the current narrative, a lot of their connection took place in the backstory. What they deal with in the present is mostly the big breakup they had at the end of high school, figuring out if there is room for each other in their lives again and if so, what shape they want that room to take. We do see some old communications they had through Windows Messenger and work they’d done on some fanfiction for a sci-fi show they loved as teens, but I felt like we missed a lot because their friendship is presented to us as a fait accompli rather than something we actually get to watch develop. That leaves their romance feeling a bit emotionally underdeveloped as well.
If you are a fan of smexy, mildly humorous contemporaries which emphasize diversity and have a feisty heroine at their heart, you will probably thoroughly enjoy A Lot Like Adíos. If you don’t like books laden with tropes, struggle with heroes who flee from their problems rather than dealing with them and want a lot of emotional connection in your love stories, this probably won’t work quite as well for you.
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