Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

The Decent Proposal
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.
I don't want to be too harsh on this one because it's a debut and I think as a first novel it does a decent job.  My main issues were with the lack of depth in the characters and the transitions between scenes. The stereotypical LA definitely shines through and I think fans of the city will love the descriptions of the setting.  To me, however, the characters reflected the shallow reputation of Hollywood - they just lacked depth.  I never felt like I was given a reason to root for them or to even like them, especially Richard.  And I didn't get any justification for why they fell in love with each other.

There are also a lot of time jumps that take away from the reader seeing the characters interact.  We get to see Richard and Elizabeth's first date take place and it's a great scene, but then we skip forward several weeks with just a basic "time passed" transition.  And this happens again and again throughout the book.  For every fun scene of interaction between Richard and Elizabeth we get several other scenes of them alone thinking about what has happened off page.  I'd much rather spend the time outside of their heads seeing the action, than hearing about it after it's occurred.  It's one reason I had such a hard time figuring out why Elizabeth and Richard even fall in love - we see so little of them together.

Entertainment Value
My dislike for Richard really colored my enjoyment of the story as a whole.  I felt like he was just so shallow - and never grew throughout the book.  I was waiting for the moment of revelation or realization for him about what matters in life and I just never got it.  And I HATED his constant remarks and thoughts about Elizabeth's weight (she's a normal-sized woman).  I liked Elizabeth more, and I included the addition of Richard's best friend Mike, but it didn't make up for the distaste I had for Richard.  It read quickly and I didn't have a hard time finishing it.  I wasn't bored, but I also didn't fall in love with the world and characters the way I had anticipated.

It's not that this book is terrible - it's readable and enjoyable for a certain audience.  The problem is that I just don't fit into that audience.  I need more substance from the characters to back up the original plot.  I had hoped it would challenge some of my opinions about what LA life is like, but it wound up just reinforcing a lot of stereotypes.  Unfortunately, I think there are better options out there for contemporary romance with a literary bent.

Thanks to TLC for having me on the tour.  Click here to see the other stops and get some other opinions!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour.