An addictively readable debut romantic comedy, drama, and mystery rolled into one, about two very different strangers whose lives become intertwined when they receive an unusual proposition. This is a funny, tender, and enchanting story about love, attraction, and friendship: Jane Austen in Los Angeles.
A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).
At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.
Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?
What ensues is a delightful journey full of twists, revelations, hamburgers, classic literature, poppy music, and above all love, in its multitude of forms. The Decent Proposal is a heartfelt and often hilarious look at the ties that bind not just a guy and a girl but an entire, diverse cast of characters situated within a modern-day Los Angeles brought to full and irrepressible life.*
Where to begin? There are so many things I loved about this book! The one sort of unique quality about it that stands out to me the most is the fact that parts of it read like nonfiction, often the beginnings of chapters but throughout the chapters as well. I have never been to California or read much about it, but thanks to the author’s descriptions of the different parts of Los Angeles and the desert, as well as the abundance of facts he provides about a whole slew of different subjects, I almost feel like an expert on a lot of it. Okay, maybe not an expert, but have you ever heard of Albert Johnson and Death Valley Scotty? Because I sure hadn’t, but now I want to read more about them.
It isn’t only the real people and places that the author made me want to read more about. I want to know more about Elizabeth, Richard, Mike, and Orpheus by the end as well! While the story wraps up very nicely and in an interesting way (I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it is from a unique perspective that we get to know what becomes of the protagonists), I had become so invested in these people by the end of the novel that I could probably read another 300 pages about them if Kemper Donovan were inclined to write them.
When I read the description of this book and saw its cover, I was expecting a cheesy romance. However, it is so far from being that. The tales of love told here are extremely believable; there is no fairy tale romance, love at first sight, or desperate pining. The characters behave in ways that real people would, which is always a pleasure to come across in fiction when many times characters end up taking the expected route so rarely followed by actual humans.
There is vicious jealousy, betrayal, mystery, hurt feelings, desperate old women out to prove a point, issues of race and sexuality, homelessness and poverty, family tragedy, and, ultimately, love. While this is not a Young Adult book, it could easily be read and enjoyed by those who typically stick closely to the YA genre. It is a beautiful story, written by an intelligent and gifted author. I cannot wait to see what other stories Kemper Donovan has awaiting us!
*Synopsis and cover photo are from Amazon.com. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.