How to Fail at Flirting
How to Fail at Flirting is a début novel about an uptight professor who decides to let loose for a night and the sexy, witty stranger who she winds up spending more than just an evening with. The characters are charming and well-written and the romance is both sweet and sensuous. Readers who are looking for a story that combines gentle humor with a little depth will find a lot to enjoy here.
Naya (rhymes with papaya) Turner has spent the last two years healing from an abusive relationship that almost cost her her job. It definitely cost her her self-esteem and her joie de vivre. Her life resembles that of an elderly professor weeks away from retirement, not a vibrant young professional on the way to tenure.
Her best friends have had enough of Naya living in the shadows. They spend an evening sharing wine and laughs and coming up with a list that’ll help Naya get out there and start having some fun. They arrange to meet at a bar the following weekend to put the plan into motion, but the fates conspire against them and Naya finds herself sipping a drink alone.
Jake Shaw’s combining business with pleasure; he’s in Chicago both to work and attend a wedding. When he overhears a couple of phone conversations in which two friends bail, leaving a lovely woman alone, he strikes up a conversation in the hopes of spending time with her. Sparks fly between them until the combination of too much wine followed by too much ice cream forces Naya to cut their evening short. Fortunately, they’d exchanged phone numbers and before you know it they’re connecting via texts and planning fun excursions that help tick items off Naya’s list.
They’ve got a lot going against them. Naya still has hang ups from her last relationship. So does Jake. They live nowhere near each other. And it turns out that Jake’s job might just involve advising the university Naya works for to eliminate her position. Will they really be able to build a love strong enough to overcome all these hurdles?
I’m typically not a big fan of relationships that begin with one night stands because most of the time there is no real connection between the hero and heroine beyond having the hots for each other. That was not the case here. This was the meet cute that most people dream of. These two are amazing together from the start and their encounters weren’t just smexy but meaningful. I loved how they were a perfect match on every level.
The book also does a great job of handling the long distance relationship by keeping our hero and heroine in regular contact via text, phone calls and visits. I typically get detachment anxiety when couples are commuting, but I didn’t feel any sense of separation at all in this story.
The book tackles some serious topics – divorce, painful breakups, abusive relationships – but the fun, flirty, sensual start helps offset some of the heaviness that makes up the middle and end portions of the book. I’ve mentioned the abusive relationship already but just want to emphasize that Naya’s ex was (and is) both physically and psychologically abusive. He has a connection to her through work, so some of his behavior is ongoing during the story. While I didn’t find the depictions at all graphic, readers wanting to avoid that subject matter may wish to avoid this one.
How to Fail at Flirting would have been a DIK if it weren’t for an event that happens towards the end of the narrative. Naya breaks character and behaves in a slightly crazed, immature manner that just isn’t in keeping with the person we have seen throughout the tale. It was over the top and nonsensical – which was bad enough – but then Jake responds in a rather immature manner as well. I understand that the author felt she needed a big conflict in her story but this wasn’t the right way to go.
The book is also a tad tropey (I’ve read at least three books with ‘lists’ in them this year alone) but the author managed to put enough fresh spin to each motif that the story still felt vibrant and new, even if it was a touch familiar.
How to Fail at Flirting might be a bit imperfect but it was also a fun, heartfelt story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I would recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary romance.