Christina Lauren pens BookTok’s favorite summer enemies-to-lovers with The Unhoneymooners. In this contemporary romance, longtime writing partners Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings work together to weave an intricate story of deceit, laughter, and blossoming love. A relatively short read at just over 300 pages, The Unhoneymooners follows Olive and Ethan: two “sworn enemies” who are forced into proximity after an unfortunate round of food poisoning spares them, resulting in an untaken, nonrefundable tropical destination honeymoon.
Only issue is, it’s not theirs.
In fact, it’s their respective siblings’ honeymoon that the two are forced to go on. Together. They would rather spend the time alone, which Ethan offers to do. But Olive will be damned if she lets Ethan enjoy the trip without her. Or maybe even enjoy the trip at all.
But as the two agree to a temporary respite from their bickering, the pair find that maybe they don’t hate one another as much at they thought. Maybe, they just might enjoy their honeymoon together.
Well, their “unhoneymoon”, that is.
“There is no desire to smack him or poke his eyes out–there is only the confusing truth that holding his hand down here isn’t just tolerable, it’s nice.”the unhoneymooners, page 261
When I read the synopsis for this rom-com, I was excited for what I thought would be a classic, witty enemies-to-lovers. Unfortunately, similarly to the title, I can only describe this book using adjectives with the prefix of un.
The story of Ethan and Olive is sweet, but that is all there is to it. Their relationship feels surface-level and juvenile, despite both of the main characters being in their late twenties to early thirties. Additionally, it’s a stretch to call Ethan the main character. His plotline was severely undeveloped and seemed to be an afterthought. The only thing that readers learned about Ethan is that he works in social media (surprisingly), was initially attracted to Olive, and is a decent groveler.
Additionally, I think that Christina Lauren missed out on a huge opportunity with this novel. Towards the end, Olive suspects Dane, Ethan’s brother and her twin sister Ami’s husband, of being a serial cheater. This causes the main “right after the couple falls into bed for the first time” rift between Ethan and Olive. Ethan chooses to search for the best in his brother and disagrees with Olive’s assessment of his brother, thus resulting in the two arguing. In the end, Olive is proven right as Dane has been cheating on Ami up until justttttttt prior to their engagement.
In my opinion, Olive should have been proven wrong.
By choosing to let Olive be right in the situation, Christina Lauren unintentionally squashed her character development. If Olive was wrong about Dane, she would have been forced to look inward to her own pessimism and what it costs others. Instead, the cliché ending was chosen: one where Olive was right, amd Ami became the unlucky one. And since Olive got Ethan, maybe she wasn’t as unlucky as she thought after all. This ending subverted a self-examination Olive needed to have, and I think Christina Lauren could have done a better job if they had let Olive come to terms with the idea that she isn’t always right.
Finally, the term “enemies” is used way too liberally in its description. While the two may meet the definition of being “actively opposed or openly hostile” their dislike of one another is based on one interaction that ended up being a misunderstanding. There is no long history to overlook, no huge wrongdoing at the hands of one character: just a simple misunderstanding. It almost seems as though they were lusting after one another the whole time, and Olive just created a faux-hatred to justify her brand of unluckiness.
Despite all of the negatives I’ve dragged on about, this book does have some redeeming qualities. Both characters are challenged in the story, albeit at the very end. Olive learns that her overly pessimistic nature prohibits her success, and Ethan discovers that he should question more instead of taking all things said at face value. The banter shared by the two characters is flirty and appealing to a younger demographic, and the dynamic between Olive and her family is wonderfully supportive. I also enjoyed the role reversal in this trope. Typically, the male-presenting character is a brooding pessimist while the female-presenting is portrayed as a bubbly optimist that will “fix him”. It was refreshing to see this reversal and is part of the reason why so many adore this book. Olive was a relatable character to them in her own adorkable, pessimistic, “unlucky” way.
“The woman in the hallway to the bathroom was really Ami, and the restaurant is filled with my family, who are all standing and clapping like I’m the luckiest woman alive. And maybe I am.”the unhoneymooners, page 379
In short, I thought this book could have been better in many ways. Christina Lauren could have made different choices in the plot and character development that would have drastically changed my view of this romcom. But alas, the print has been pressed and widely appreciated by BookTok and the romcom reading community. This opinion is one of many, and for every poor review you may read of this book, there are 10 glowing ones.
Christina Lauren has more romantic and well-rounded novels that I recommend you check out, such as The Soulmate Equation, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and Love and Other Words.
Expect to see the aforementioned romance reads in a review soon!
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