Title: The Love Bet (Love Unexpected #1)
Author: G.L. Tomas
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Rebellious Valkyrie Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent, bisexual adult, toxic families, toxic male behaviour, mentions of colourism and Anti-Blackness, brief mention of miscarriage, graphic sex
I received a copy of The Love Bet from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Luz De Los Santos thought her job was easy.
Being the Sex and Relationship Director of Modern Magazine, no one knew the art of dating and hookups like she did. When the commitment-phobe beauty gets singled out by her editor to write a challenging column for the coveted, annual Valentine’s issue, Luz is forced to confront her issues about relationships with her newly pitched project.
The Love Bet.
Is it possible to fall in love by the third screw? Maybe.
But she’s not holding her breath once she recruits her blast from the past, Evan Cattaneo to help test her theory.
Evan regrets the way things ended between him and Luz.
The girl who charmed him all those years ago was now grown and sexy, making more than ready to aid Luz in her little experiment. Only his plans won’t stop at just bedding her. Nope, he plans to make her fall in love again. It’s only a matter of time before loving between the sheets turns into stealing kisses in the streets.
When emotions get wild and feelings grow deep, will the insecurities of Luz’s past come back to haunt them?
This is the first G.L. Tomas book I’ve read and I was really excited to pick it up and overall it was a very enjoyable contemporary romance.
Luz is the Sex and Relationships director of a contemporary women’s magazine and she loves her job. At 32 years old, she’s done and seen it all in the name of her work, and is happy to skip over love and enjoy sex, but the Valentine’s issue of her magazine is a big deal and this year she’s found herself taking on a challenge she doesn’t believe can succeed: can she fall in love by the third screw? Enter Evan, a boyfriend from her past, who unintentionally crosses her path at a speed dating event, who’s determined to prove her wrong and make her fall in love.
First up, I want to highlight how much I loved both Luz and Evan as characters. Luz is a strong, independent woman who’s fought for her career and the right to be respected. She doesn’t take anyone’s crap and calls them out on it when it happens, which is how she ended up in a relationship with Evan to begin with. They met in high school when she was assigned to help him, then a basketball jock in need of raising some of his grades. Initially Evan is a product of toxic masculinity culture, but Luz constantly challenges his believes and comments as Evan learns from this, apologies and grows as a human being – and adult Evan has continued to grow and be aware of the way his words and actions affect others. They had a nasty break-up in high school and haven’t seen each other for years until their paths cross. Evan’s never fall out of love with Luz and he is determined to show her how good they are together. The biggest struggle they have continuously throughout the story is miscommunication (not uncommon in romance) but they both grow as they begin to learn how they affect each other.
There was also an awesome set of side-characters – Evan coaches basketball and the boys he trains appear in a handful of scenes and are delightful. Yes, they serve to show how Evan has grown as an adult and recognised the need to accept, and teach others how to accept, differences, but it was done in a really respectful way. I especially liked one scene when the boys meet Luz and are disrespectful and Evan uses it as a teachable moment and talks to them about respecting women. Similarly, there’s a hilarious scene when teenage Evan is looking up porn online and has a totally unexpected conversation with his Italian mother that had me laughing out loud.
This book tackles a lot of heavy topics (see trigger warnings at the top of the page) but what does come up constantly is how Luz handles colourism and Anti-Blackism, both within the wider community, but also within her family. Luz is a Black Latina from the Dominican Republic and that comes with its own set of challenges just within the family group. Being so removed from that cultural group, there were plenty of times when I was looking up information while reading to build and support my own knowledge while reading.
This story was told in flashbacks to Luz and Evan’s teenage years as well as in the present day when they meet as adults. Initially we start by alternating past-Luz, present-Luz, past-Evan, present-Evan and then it switches up a bit more as you get further into the story. While I found this interesting initially, as the past and present storylines parallel and give us insight into both characters, at times it felt like jumping back into the past actually slowed the story down. The pacing didn’t always feel quite right.
I wished there had been a little bit more included about Luz’s article that she was writing – the challenge of falling in love by the third time she had sex with someone. It’s the catalyst for the story at the beginning, but it felt like it lost some momentum until you hit the epilogue and we get a brief overview of how the article turned out. For something that was the reason that Luz and Evan got back together for, it would have been nice to see the progress of the article. That said, we do see all the dates and there are plenty of fun and steamy scenes throughout.
I will at some point need to check out more work by G.L. Tomas.