Jasmine and Jake Rock the Boat
Grade : B

Jasmine and Jake Rock the Boat is a story about love, family, and what happens when you take the path less traveled.

Jasmine’s conservative Indian parents have never understood her determination to be all-American. While they love to talk about tradition and immerse themselves in their community, Jasmine revels in the not-traditional and loves to try the new and unexpected. This has led to her long being considered the delinquent of the clan; while her sister got straight As and is planning the perfect wedding, Jasmine spent all her time in school drawing, shacked up with her boyfriend for four years until they broke up, and is now the ultimate in ‘bad’ Indian daughters – over thirty, unmarried and with a sullied reputation.

Her mother tends to be the cheerleader of Jasmine’s critics, so it surprises everyone when Jasmine decides to take a cruise to Alaska with her parents. She has vacation time to use, the trip is within her sparse budget, and Jasmine figures it will give her a chance to connect with peers she hasn’t seen in years. Only once she gets on the boat, she discovers a major problem – no one in her family knew it was an over-fifties tour, and only one other person on the trip is anywhere near Jasmine’s age

Jake is five years younger than Jasmine, so he doesn’t look familiar to her. After mistaking him for a waiter, Jasmine forgoes apologizing, treats it like he was looking down on waiters for denying being one (or he could just have been explaining why he wasn’t the right person to give a drink order to, but whatever), and accuses him of being “a rando hitting on me.” Then she gives him the douchebag test. Clearly, he has no need to give her a bitch test, as she’s already passed that with flying colors.

The magic of rom-com has them, for a series of convoluted reasons, stuck working together on a cruise show called So You Think You Can Boogie? which gives our leads ample opportunity to begin again and get to know each other. Surprisingly, Jake turns out not to actually be a douche, Jasmine turns out to be an okay person under all that snark, and before you know it, a genuine love connection forms. The only issue is, what will their community think of bad girl Jasmine being with golden-boy Jake?

This is Ms. Lalli’s fifth book, and her heroines tend to be what I call ‘hot mess bitch’. Where they differ from the average hot mess is that they inevitably blame the people around them for their problems and make it a point to often take out their frustrations on innocent bystanders via verbal abuse. Like many a hot mess, Jasmine’s issues revolve around a need to work on herself. She’s got a good job but is flat broke from a lack of budgeting and love of luxuries. She and her ex have split up and gotten back together at least three times, all of which she blames solely on him. Her only female relationships are one bestie (the neighbor she moves in with in between living with her ex) and her perfect sister Nikki. She blames this lack of companionship on her parents/community, who refused to accept her as she was/is and always wanted her to live by their standards. Naturally, she has a bad relationship with her folks, and that has nothing to do with her, either.

Fortunately, the absolute best part of this book is watching Jasmine come to terms with herself. She takes the opportunity the trip affords to self-reflect, grow, build bridges, and develop an ally in Uma Auntie, her mom’s best friend. She also makes a friend of the ship’s doctor, Ethan, who is able to dispense some solid relationship advice as well as sea-sickness meds. All of that results in Jasmine becoming a charming, vulnerable, and lovely young lady it is a pleasure to spend reading time with.

Jake also uses his trip time and burgeoning relationship with Jasmine to better himself. An event in his past left him building a persona that doesn’t really suit the caring, loving, gracious, and responsible person he actually is. Jasmine calls him out whenever he flips from his real self to the phony he uses as a shield, and with her nagging help he is able to mostly put that behind him.

Their romance, while initially based on mutual attraction, blossoms into a real friendship. The ten days they spend together have their ups and downs, with plenty of miscommunications thrown in, but they are able to open up, be honest and share with each other in ways they haven’t with anyone else. This is another aspect of the story the author handles extremely well – she captures beautifully what it means to actually communicate with people. Jasmine and Jake learn not just how to be with each other but how to be their real selves with everyone while still being open to what those people might have to say. This is especially important for Jasmine, who has a tendency to use her authenticity as an excuse for a lack of civility, and to believe the worst about people in every conversational circumstance. She would jump to the conclusion she was being looked down on before there was actually a chance for anyone to do so. (In fairness, some of the aunties have black belts in passive-aggressive insults and are quick to use those skills on Jasmine.)

Another positive is how Jasmine rediscovers her culture as she comes to peace with who she is. Having thrown her heritage out the window along with her community’s conservative values, she’s found herself a bit culturally adrift for the last several years. She reconnects with that part of herself towards the end of the story and develops a new perspective on how much it actually means to her.

Jake and Jasmine Rock the Boat is definitely a YMMV novel. I felt the book didn’t really get into its grove until the forty percent mark, which made sticking with it a challenge. But for those who persevere, the charm of the latter part of the story makes up for the rough start. I would recommend this to fans of contemporary romance who adore stories with hot-mess heroines.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 13, 2023

Publication Date: 04/2023

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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