Desert Isle Keeper
The Boyfriend Project
The Boyfriend Project has the ideal mix of fun, friends, and romance that make for a perfect summer read.
When Samiah Brooks’ boyfriend cancels dinner at the last minute, she plays it cool. She knows what it’s like to have to work late and besides, he’s taking her to a fantastic club later that night. As she’s perfecting her smoky-eye in anticipation of their rendezvous, her sister begins reading live tweets of a girl named Taylor about her date from hell. Taylor’s acerbic wit makes the tweets prime entertainment, but her descriptions of her companions’ car, home and habits have an eerie familiarity. By the time Taylor describes her date’s favorite dish Samiah’s not laughing. That meal can only be found at one local eatery- and given the other information the lady has tweeted, the man on that date can only be Samiah’s boyfriend. Samiah is all about confronting her problems and fortunately, the restaurant is right down the street. Her arrival is a welcome distraction for Taylor and as the two bond over their hatred of “Craig” (probably not his real name) they are joined by London, a third lady being catfished by the liar currently choking on his sushi roll. Luckily, the guy has excellent taste in women and Samiah and the two other ‘girlfriends’ have a great time taking the jerk down a peg in public. The three leave together, headed for the club Samiah had planned to visit with “Craig” later.
They never make it. Instead, they wind up having drinks at Samiah’s house and creating “a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men and no dating.” Naturally, that’s the cue for Daniel Collins to enter Samiah’s life.
Daniel is used to the whole first-day-at-work experience. As an undercover agent for FinCen (Financial Intelligence Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Treasury Department) his job is to infiltrate suspect corporations and figure out how they are committing their dirty deeds. Trendsetters, a snazzy tech company, is the latest of his assignments. His plan is simple; be an outstanding employee, and crack their security system so he can discover who in the firm is laundering money. He hadn’t counted on Samiah, though. Her fame via a viral video of her confrontation with “Craig” is the talk of the office during Daniel’s first hour there, and when he meets the lady in person he realizes that his usual policy of maintaining a polite distance from his coworkers is definitely not doable in this instance. He is completely fascinated by Samiah and wants as much time with her as he can get.
Samiah and Daniel’s relationship is a complicated dance from the beginning. She has just had a very public fall-out with a man who was lying to her, and Daniel is in no position to be honest with her. Someone at the company is working with some very dangerous people and it’s extremely important to shut them down as soon as possible. While Daniel believes Samiah is not involved, one person working with FinCen on the issue has already been hurt, and he won’t tell her who he is just to have her become the next victim.
Samiah doesn’t want a rebound relationship. She hadn’t been serious with “Craig” but she had been hurt by what he’d done. She also wants to be true to her new friends, and their pact. Her successful career has left her little time for girlfriends and she realizes this is a massive need in her life, which means her relationship with her recently acquired besties is a priority. She also takes to heart one of the key ideas in the pact: investing in herself. She’s wanted to create an app for years but hasn’t taken the time to do any serious work on it. However, doing that and hanging out with her friends won’t leave her much time to develop a relationship with Daniel.
Which leads me to one of the things I love most about Ms. Rochon’s novels: the way she is able to deliver a realistic romance. Samiah and Daniel are fully fleshed-out human beings and in the 21st century that means they are busy people. They are essentially working two jobs, and in addition to that, they have family and friends who matter to them, so they have to make time for their relationship when they can. This means they start out simply, by getting to know each other at theTrendsetters coffee bar and over lunches. I also appreciated that during this office romance they spent lots of their time actually working. The story emphasizes how hard Samiah had to strive just to get where she is, the setbacks she’s had along the way and the responsibility she feels as a black woman to excel in an industry that is predominantly male and white.
Daniel has also worked hard to get where he is and is concerned about how dating someone at the company he’s investigating will affect his position. He’s too strongly attracted to Samiah to walk away from her but his job is not conducive to romance. The best case scenario is that things work out both with his case and Samiah, but since he won’t be assigned locally again, that will mean a long distance relationship. I felt his anxiety over these issues was very realistic and I enjoyed the way the author addresses them in the story.
I always think of Farrah Rochon’s books as being romances about grownups because of how maturely her leads handle their affairs. Samiah and Daniel are human beings who have reached a good place in their lives and are ready to share that spot with someone special. They are able to (shocker!) talk through their issues and reach an acceptable compromise. The melodrama is kept to a minimum, allowing the passionate love story to shine on center stage.
While that was a big plus for most of the tale, my one quibble with the narrative is that Samiah is a tad too mature, forgiving and understanding when the whole denouement and resolution regarding the money laundering comes about. Daniel takes a step which has consequences for her and she is a lot more understanding about that than most people would be. I also wasn’t as convinced as he was that the action was necessary. That is just a small foible in another wise stellar work, though.
The author does a nice job of creating a great secondary cast in Taylor and London. Like Samiah, they are strong, independent women but they differ enough from her to provide a nice contrast. I liked them both, which is a good thing since I am pretty sure we will be reading their stories soon. This novel ends with a cliffhanger for one of them, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that’s resolved.
Relatable characters, solid writing and a charming love story make The Boyfriend Project one of the best romances I’ve read this year and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance novels.