Falling Head Over Heels for ‘You Had Me at Hola’ by Alexis Daria (Book Review)

Publication Date: August 2020

Genres: Romance, Contemporary

Synopsis: Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

My thoughts:

You Had Me at Hola was such a treat to read and was the perfect story to break me out of this reading funk that I’ve been since the beginning of 2020. Following two actors who get off on the wrong foot at their initial meeting for their new Latinx streaming show, this romance mixes together the stress of making it big in Hollywood with two striking characters who each are heavily invested in making this new show break through and become an absolute success.

What makes a truly great romance are strong character dynamics and palpable chemistry between the two love interests. Here, we have Ashton, an adorably awkward character who tries his hardest not to let Jasmine past the walls erected around his heart, and then we have Jasmine, eager to ignore the press shadowing her every move after a bad breakup and to make it big as a Leading Lady. Together, as they slowly grow closer while being on set, they can’t deny the electricity that courses between them.

Not only do we get a wonderful, romance blossoming behind the scenes of this show but we also explore the variance of Latinx identity. Ashton is a Puerto Rican actor eager to make it big in Hollywood rather than being stuck playing love interests in telenovelas while Jasmine is a Puerto Rican-Filipina who isn’t completely fluent in Spanish but has to speak the language in this new bilingual show. Words can’t describe how much this meant to me as a bilingual who is too afraid to speak Spanish in front of non-family members because my grammar isn’t completely perfect and I don’t know how to conjugate as quickly as I’d like to.

I saw so much of myself in Jasmine, in her language, her family dynamics, and the way she seeks out validation through others’ love. Jasmine is both a powerful protagonist and a vulnerable one, and I’m forever grateful to dive into her world because it made me feel less alone as a Latina.

You Had Me at Hola is a vibrant celebration of Latinx identity in the backdrop of Hollywood without relying too heavily on the influence of the paparazzi like other Hollywood stories do. Mixing together dual perspectives from both Ashton and Jasmine who live such different lives but come together to form a healthy, loving relationship while also showcasing scenes from the show itself, You Had Me at Hola is a fantastic contemporary with a fiery romance that left me smiling long after I finished it.

You Had Me at Hola links: Goodreads Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

NOTE: A digital copy of this novel was provided to me by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.