From the cover to the last word, You Had Me at Hola is pure entertainment theater. The high drama, the intense emotions, the impassioned familia, the close-knit relationships, humor and a sexy romance all add up to a satisfying whole.
Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is a soap opera actor who has just landed a lead role in a hot bilingual telenovela called Carmen in Charge. She wants to prove to her family that acting is her dream. Just when she should be celebrating her success, she is dumped by her famous boyfriend and finds herself splashed across the tabloids. Furious, she gets with her cousins to come up with the Leading Lady Plan: leading ladies “don’t need a man to be happy,” they are “whole and happy on their own,” and they are “badass queens making jefa moves.”
Angel Luis “Ashton” Suárez is a man of secrets, and he wants to protect his privacy at all costs. He is also one of the rising stars of telenovelas, and coincidentally, Jasmine’s abuela’s favorite telenovela star. He had been despondent over being killed off his last show, so he was delighted to be cast in the happening Carmen in Charge. He is nearing forty and hopes that this show will finally help him get bigger and better roles.
Jasmine and Ashton meeting on the set of Carmen in Charge in New York sets the story in motion — their meet cute where he spills coffee on her is funny and sweet.
Jasmine and Ashton have smoldering chemistry on and off screen. I loved Daria’s tongue-in-check story plot that is so meta: a telenovela inside a telenovela. What happens in the on-screen telenovela affects the IRL telenovela and vice-versa. So cleverly done.
Secrets have a way of coming out at the least inconvenient times, and those set up great tension in the plot. Both of them are vary of getting emotionally involved with each other because of their past experiences. There are some major hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Despite the humor and its billing as a rom-com, there are deeper, darker moments in this story as well.
I enjoyed Daria’s exploration of her Latinx main and secondary characters and how their background affects how they feel about their place in life. Ashton is Puerto Rican and Jasmine is biracial (Puerto Rican and Filipina). The protagonists are aware how they’ve been marginalized as people of color and the stereotypes they’ve had to struggle against, and how they bear the responsibility of being role models in the Latinx community for those young people coming up behind them.
Daria does a wonderful job of having her protagonists explore their own biases and issues surrounding trust and behavior patterns that allow for change to happen organically within them. This allows them to then look outward to a successful relationship. Some of the best scenes in the book are Jasmine and Ashton’s interactions with their familia. I enjoyed seeing how the protagonists are with other people, and nobody loves us and pushes our buttons more than our families, so it was good to see Jasmine and Ashton in their milieu.
As you can tell, I greatly enjoyed You Had Me at Hola. Definitely a book you want to pick up this summer.