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While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory


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While We Were Dating

by Jasmine Guillory
July 13, 2021 · Berkley
Contemporary Romance

Shana and I both read While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory and we had thoughts!

Anna Gardiner is an actress who is going to appear in an advertisement campaign for a new mobile phone. Ben Stephens designed the campaign and will be working closely with Anna during filming. Ben is a self-admitted playboy who is open that he’s only looking for fun, nothing serious. Anna is focused intensely on the next phase of her career and isn’t looking for the distraction of a serious relationship.

Initially Ben and Anna’s fling is just for fun and for the cameras, but as they start to really connect they both question how they really feel and if they can fit into each other’s lives.

Elyse: I really loved this book. It was a low-conflict, comfort read for me, and celebrity romance is one of my favorite tropes. I loved that the celebrity was female this time! I am also down for a romance where the conflict is basically “oh shit we fell in love, how do we make this work?” What did you think?

Shana: This book was a big bowl of comforting catnip for me. Anna and Ben are just too cute together! I love reading about actors navigating celebrity for their jobs, and Ben is our proxy as he helps Anna dodge paparazzi, while being dazzled by glimpses behind the scenes. He is such a sweet gooey cinnamon roll, and I loved that he uses his ethical slut skills to help meet Anna’s needs, in and out of the bedroom. Anna initially tries to avoid the messiness of acting on her attraction, but her kryptonite is Ben’s ability to listen to her and respect her boundaries. Nothing is sexier to Anna than a man who will give her space upon request, and then kiss her senseless when she asks for it.

Fake relationships are also one of my favorite tropes, so I was thrilled when Anna decided the best way to turbocharge her career was for her and flirtatious Ben to play pretend for the cameras. And bantering on road trips is one of my favorites too. When they end up on an epic California drive early on…which includes only one bed, I was a goner, and so was Anna.

Oh, and the mental health rep was a delight. I adored that Anna is supremely competent in her work, while also struggling with anxiety. At the beginning of the book, she’s getting her groove back after a difficult year, and boy, did I empathize!

Elyse: “Ethical slut skills” is my new favorite phrase. It was super interesting to me how Anna referenced last year being really hard and how she started having anxiety attacks, but the author never mentioned the pandemic. I read about her struggles with anxiety like “girl, same” because last year did suck. It was a really skillful way of allowing the reader to say “oh I know what you mean” without dating the book, per se.

I also loved how we get glimpses into Anna’s “glamorous” world that isn’t always so glamorous. For example she swims for exercise but does it topless (at her home) during award season so she doesn’t worry about tan lines.

Shana: That moment stuck with me too! I’m looking at my tan lines right now and feeling glad I don’t have to care about People magazine commenting on them.

I was also struck by how effortlessly this book weaves in how hard it is to be a woman or POC at work. Anna and Ben have this in common because his boss tends to use him as a token, while she is up against Hollywood opinions on what she can wear on her bigger body. There were little crumbs of resonance in the background of this lighthearted story that shone for me. The scene where they meet was especially delicious because I loved that when Anna turns up unexpectedly at a meeting for the ad campaign, she and Ben immediately support one another in the face of his sexist dudebro coworkers. This revenge fantasy reminded me of the opening of Crazy Rich Asians, where a group of white guys get their comeuppance after underestimating a powerful woman.

This is the sixth book in a series. Couples from The Proposal and The Wedding Party make an appearance, but I’ve only read one of those and still enjoyed this immensely. There are also quite a few entertaining moments with Anna and Ben’s friends and family. What did you think of her BFF, Penny?

Elyse: I love how close Anna and Penny are, and how Penny defends and protects Anna. I wondered if she was going to be the heroine in another book.

Shana: Overall, I loved this low-conflict celebrity romance with all the fun of dating in the public eye, and little of the stress. The book never lets the tension build too intensely before letting Anna and Ben talk to each other and work out any misunderstandings. Their support of one another made me grin and sigh with happiness and I think readers who enjoy watching characters succeed in the face of marginalization would enjoy this as well.

Elyse: I agree. This is a tropey, low angst read with hot sex scenes and supportive secondary characters. This is definitely a must read from me.

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