Hiding one’s true self hinders the intimacy from which love grows. Début author Sarah Smith finely illustrates this truth in her sexy enemies-to-lovers romance, Faker. Smith’s complex protagonists, heartwarming revelations, and steamy desire make for an enjoyable read. However, the saccharine love story that unfolds requires more suspension of disbelief than usual for romantic fiction.
Twenty-six-year-old marketing manager Emmie Echavarre is only one of three women employed by Nuts & Bolts, a power tool distributor in Omaha, Nebraska. Born to a Filipino mother and a white father, Emmie learned at a young age how to develop a thick skin in the face of adversity. So every day, she dons her “boss-bitch” face in order to survive in a male-dominated work environment. Emmie’s long-time antagonist is Nuts & Bolts media manager Tate Rasmussen, who has been inexplicably hostile toward her from day one. The two office neighbors have fallen into a daily routine of name-calling, bickering, and passive-aggressive behavior. (To be honest, it’s hard to believe that the stern, businesslike Emmie doesn’t report Tate’s constant verbal abuse. She instead opts to go tit-for-tat. #dontstooptohislevel #gethisassfired )
Friction eventually turns into sparks when Emmie and Tate are forced to collaborate on their company’s charity construction project. As the duo work closely together, Emmie observes that her seemingly apathetic – and strikingly handsome – colleague is surprisingly kind and considerate. And Tate comes to realize that the beautiful Emmie is fun and easy to talk to.
Attraction between the two grows, but, given their history, Emmie believes that this ‘new’ Tate is too good to last.
First off, Faker is not a romantic comedy, as categorized by the publisher. There are a few amusing moments and minor quirky characters, but comedy is not prevalent throughout the novel. (A cutesy illustrated book cover does not a rom-com make.) The novel is actually much sexier than I had expected; Smith is aces at writing kissing scenes, and her passionate prose and A+ in-car makeout sessions are hot. But sadly, the sexual tension, while titillating, becomes too drawn out and repetitive in nature.
Emmie and Tate, both fakers in their own right, are well-matched. Emmie, a no-nonsense woman of color who disregards her sensitive side as a liability, is the perfect adversary for Tate, a grouchy white man who fiercely conceals his introverted nature. Both are deeply caring individuals who avoid hurt feelings and heartbreak at all cost. Emmie is a likable, well-drawn character whose struggles with sexism and unwanted stares, will be relatable to many women. Her backstory is compelling and details aspects of her Filipino culture and her early childhood in Hawaii. And, for a “milky white” Midwestern dude, Tate is wonderfully open-minded and goes above and beyond to learn more about Emmie’s ethnic foods and native language.
Even though I genuinely rooted for Emmie and Tate, there were a few things about the brooding hero that I found unsettling. Tate is undeniably sweet, but some of his adoring gestures are excessive, which to me appeared a little desperate. (#lovemeEmmieloveme) He also exhibits fleeting instances of alpha-level jealousy. (#notcoolTate) Also, when the reason for Tate’s bad behavior is eventually revealed to Emmie, I found his explanation to be lacking and not particularly believable. Perhaps, if the story had been told in alternating points of view, I would have been able to better understand Tate’s motivations, but Faker is told in first-person from Emmie’s perspective. Smith does find a clever way to dig deeper into Tate’s psyche, but I might have found him as likable as Emmie had she opted to include his PoV.
Faker delivers on palpable emotion and physical affection, but the plot is derailed on a few occasions by plot contrivances that border on absurd. All things considered however, Faker is a comfortable read. Stakes are raised, but not too high so as to overwhelm, and conflicts last long enough to raise concern, but not enough to cause major stress. In a world where news stories of ignorance and hatred are unrelenting, Faker is the romance novel to pick up when you want to change the narrative to one of understanding and love.
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