⭐⭐ (2.5 Stars)
This is a controversial one. The review below contains spoilers.
The Unhoneymooners begins beautifully by introducing us to the twin sisters Amy and Olive. While Amy is always lucky in life, winning anything and everything, Olive is her total opposite and sees that her life is woven through a series of really bad coincidences.
However, during Amy’s (mostly free) weeding to Dan, things seem to take a turn as every single guest gets food poisoning except for Olive (who is allergic to shellfish) and Ethan (the groom’s brother who is described as finicky).
The plot kicks off when Olive and Ethan (who don’t get along at all) are thrown together to the couple’s honeymoon in Maui, and a series of events leads them to keep up the pretense that they ”recently gotten married” to enjoy all the amenities of the Honeymoon Pack. All common romance tropes such as enemies to lovers, fake-relationship, and forced proximity are used here, but the enchanting Maui background and fun writing style make everything smooth and quite entertaining.
It’s when they both return home that the book takes a dive so deep that it completely broke my heart. Olive and Ethan resolved their issues on the Island and fell in love. Howbeit we learn that Dan, the actual groom (Amy’s husband) is a grade-A asshole that has been cheating on Olive’s sister for quite a while.
Olive has to make a huge and terrifying decision to ruin her twin sister’s happiness and expose her brand new husband for the cheating scumbag that he is.
It’s during this complicated time when Olive is feeling so much for her sister while not wanting to be the one that brings her so much pain, that Dan (the cheating husband) manages to come on to Olive, suggesting that they could spice things up, her being a twin after all. Basically, awful human being right there…
Olive gets disgusted and says as much, Dan brushes it off as if it was nothing. But the book kills everything it managed to accomplish before a few minutes later. Olive is still shaken with Dan’s proposition, and confides in Ethan, her boyfriend, saying that she doesn’t think that’s ok and that she didn’t appreciate being cornered by his brother.
And then ladies and gentlemen… Ethan doesn’t believe her.
He uses what she confided in him back on the island, all her insecurities and pessimistic views of the world to justify that she clearly must have heard wrong. She can’t believe in happiness, of course. Or, even worse, Ethan implies that maybe she imagined his brother coming on to her because she’s clearly jealous of her sister.
And then he breaks up with Olive because of that… Because he can’t be with a person that would dare say something so nasty and fake about his brother. Wow, just wow. If this isn’t a case of by the book victim-blaming, I don’t know what is.
So, in my opinion, that was good riddance right there, because why would I want to stay in a relationship without trust, or a relationship where my boyfriend thinks I manipulate people and blame men because I’m jealous?
Anyways, this is a rom-com so of course, that’s not what happens. Eventually, Dan gets exposed, all his former lovers come to light and then everybody has that Eureka moment where they are like ”Oh! Turns out Olive isn’t a liar after all! Happy days!”
So Ethan realises his mistake, apologises once (with zero groveling) and then they get their happily ever after. How, I don’t know, because I would never trust Ethan again, but, I digress.
I know that this book is really beloved by many, and it’s even a finalist on the Goodreads Choice Award for Romance of the year (Yikes). So here’s a quick disclaimer: I really like Christina Lauren, I’ve read a couple of books from the duo and usually, they are interesting rom-coms with just enough drama and angst to keep the story going, but also fluffy and funny.
And, I must say that I do enjoy books with the traditional alpha-male asshole trope, and maybe I cut them some slack because they are supposed to be that way. Usually, in an alpha-hole book, you have a very dominant male character that does awful things for around 60% of the story, until he comes to terms with his love for the heroine, therefore changing and apologising, there’s usually heavy groveling involved, and then they accept each other for who they are, different and stronger.
I’m being harsher with Ethan from The Unhoneymooners because of two things: first, this book is a romantic comedy with a light enemies-to-lovers trope in a summer vacation setting. Therefore, our hero isn’t supposed to be a major douche. And to be fair, he’s not, until the end. Second, even in books with alpha characters, the plot is usually careful to break the tough exterior of those MC’s, and it’s all about the female lead feeling comfortable, equal, yet protected. The way that Ethan dealt with Olive’s clear discomfort with his brother hitting on her is too close to victim-blaming for me, and that just really destroyed my love for him. He failed to see Olive as his equal and I couldn’t get past it. It’s annoying because before they made it back home this book was shaping up to be a 4.5 read for me, but because of that conflict, in the end, I had to bring the score down.
I still enjoy many other books by Christina Lauren and will continue to read the new ones to come, but The Unhonneymooners was a miss for me.