Desert Isle Keeper
Party of Two
When I think of powerhouse authors the name Jasmine Guillory immediately comes to mind. It takes a special gift to produce a great read each time you publish, and this lady definitely does that. Her latest, Party of Two, is a warm, sexy, charming masterpiece, perfect for escaping the stressful world we live in today.
Olivia Monroe loved her years as a lawyer in New York, but when she got tired of white male associates getting far more respect, older partners yelling at her, people doubting her ideas and intelligence and having to trudge through a bitter winter just to get to work and experience all that fun, she moved back to California. While she waits to move into her new house, she spends her days setting up her office, and her evenings hanging out at the hotel bar. Which is how she winds up devoting the better part of one night to flirting with a man named Max, whom she bonds with over the importance of quality cake being the staple of any dessert menu. She assumes Max is an actor; they are in L.A. after all and he’s totally gorgeous. She tells him she’s an accountant because she “can’t deal with one more stupid lawyer joke.” They don’t exchange last names or phone numbers but part amicably at the elevator. She discovers just what kind of celebrity she was sharing small talk with when she turns on her television as she gets ready for bed.
Senator Max Powell is used to people recognizing him and becoming instant sycophants so he is delighted when Olivia clearly doesn’t know who he is and makes him work to win her approval. His one regret is that he didn’t have the good sense to get any of her details, so he’s delighted when, a week later, he spots her in the audience as he gives a speech at a fundraiser. He makes a beeline for Olivia at the earliest possible moment and learns she’s actually a lawyer who has just opened a new firm in the area. They chat some more but the experience is cut short when his staff drags him away to meet other constituents.
Olivia is surprised when later that afternoon, a package arrives at her office with a card containing a sweet message and a phone number. Max had remembered her favorite type of cake and had a bakery deliver one. She goes through several different text drafts before she finally decides to just leave a thank you message on his phone. To her surprise, he answers the call, their amazing chemistry once more ignites and she finds herself agreeing to a first date. And then a second. Before she knows it she’s falling pretty hard for the handsome, sexy, sweet, funny, and noble Max. The question is, does she like him enough to stand beside him when their romance becomes a public spectacle?
From the moment they met, these two had me smiling and I didn’t stop until the end of the book. There was so much I loved about this novel I could easily write a top 100 list of reasons to buy it, but I will try to limit this review to the top five.
One thing the author gets all kinds of kudos for is the wonderful way she builds a relationship between two extremely driven people. Olivia is strong, independent, and opinionated. A lot of writers end up making alpha females bitchy and touchy, quick to respond nastily to the slightest offense, but that doesn’t happen here. Olivia is a kind, reasonable person who is as quick to stand up for others as she is to defend herself. She’s a great listener and a wonderful, supportive friend. She knows the difference between someone asking for a favor and someone taking advantage and that serves her really well in this relationship, where both parties have to compromise in order to make it work.
Max is also good at compromising but his real strength lies in knowing how privileged he is and being happy to be called on it. One of the first things that draws him to Olivia is that she doesn’t treat him as though he is special; when she meets him, “She barely even smiled at him, and the one time she had, he felt like he had won a prize.” He finds it “Weirdly nice to have to fight for a smile for the first time in a long time”. The two quickly establish a rapport and they laugh as they have deep intellectual conversations about desserts. This is another of Max’s strengths; his ability to be easy-going and attentive (he remembers Olivia’s favorite cakes and even what order they come in.) He is willing to let others set the pace on some things but asserts himself when he needs to. He’s okay with being vulnerable to hurt in order to further a relationship, and isn’t afraid to do the heavy lifting in the romance department; he’s not aggressive but he does pursue the relationship. I loved everything about him; even his flaws and mistakes are endearing.
That’s because the author uses both characters’ mistakes and differences to help them grow, and bring out the best in each other. Insert fangirl squeal here – that is so awesome! I love it when two great people become even better together. I loved how fun their encounters are, how well they get along, how they are able to talk through simple problems, and I loved the solution they came to for the big issues between them.
The secondary characters are handled beautifully. They lend the exact right amount of balance to the growing romance between Olivia and Max and help add depth to them as individuals. Olivia and her work partner Ellie complement each other nicely and I loved Jamila, whom she meets while volunteering at the food pantry. Wes is both a wonderful friend to Max and a man of great wisdom. I sincerely hope his romance is the one this author pens next.
I was thoroughly delighted with how the politics of the story are handled. The primary issue discussed is social justice, specifically the school to prison pipeline. The author doesn’t speak to partisanship but shows how and why this is something about which Max and Olivia both feel deeply. Ms. Guillory also does a great job of showing the actual work of a senator, from meetings, to town halls, to press events to the endless travel – and the effect that work has on the relationship. Not just the intense added pressure of public scrutiny but the difficulty of actually scheduling time to be together.
Funny, warm and romantic, Party of Two is a fantastic, not to be missed romance. I recommend it to anyone who loves – or even just likes – contemporary romance novels.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore
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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.