1573 A pick-me-up romance

The Dating Plan
by Sara Desai

Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada (Berkley), 2021
$22.00 / 9780593100585

Reviewed by Myshara Herbert-McMyn

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A software engineer and her brother’s childhood best friend, Daisy and Liam, have a complex history of attraction and heartbreak. When they run into each other after years spent pursuing their own lives and careers, they make a split-second decision to pretend to be engaged. They escape Daisy’s auntie trying to match her with a husband, but the gossip train runs quickly. Now they must convince their suspicious families that Daisy is happily settling down instead of needing help with a match and that Liam is fulfilling the terms of his grandfather’s will. Little do they know that sparks fly when history and chemistry collide.

The romance in The Dating Plan is cute – it made me smile continuously. Not only does this romance novel play with the fake dating trope, but it also has Daisy and Liam in a sort of enemies-to-lovers relationship. These tropes work very well together, and Sara Desai did a wonderful job articulating Daisy’s feelings towards Liam at every stage to show their complex transformation. They fall in love naturally, working through things from their pasts both separately and together, while going on a series of “fake” dates to convince their families that their relationship is more than just a deceit. All of these dates are thought through and subjective, which leads validity to the love story that neither knows is truly happening.

Victoria writer Sara Desai

Characters that hesitate to communicate with each other are frustrating, and that’s usually a part of romances since it creates conflict. Recently, I’ve been finding more romance novels that don’t have that trope and they still find plenty of tension and conflict. There were a couple of moments where Liam and Daisy chose not to communicate with each other. They could have benefited from a different way of going about that conflict, rather than secret-keeping. In the end, their relationship was still fairly realistic and fun to read about despite that brief frustration.

I also have a small bone to pick with the fact-checking that was done into hockey. Everything seems quite well-researched and accurate, down to current player’s names, yet the novel refers to the intermissions in hockey (the twenty-minute time between periods) as “halftime.” I had to go back a few times to make sure I’d read correctly that they were at a hockey game and not another sport.

Sara Desai also publishes under the name Sarah Castille

Daisy and Liam’s jobs are both vital to the plot of The Dating Plan and they overlap in a few areas. They run into each other while attending a convention for work, Daisy shows her skills as a software engineer by being a necessary part of the small business she’s currently working for, and Liam has some ideas about how to help Daisy’s employer as a venture capitalist. While their jobs bring them together, their overlapping work also adds another layer of tension to the prose and complication to both their lives.

A warning to younger readers and those who wish to avoid them: there are explicit sexual scenes in this novel. I thought they were well-written and realistic, but I know that many readers avoid them in the first place.

I’ve been lucky this summer: The Dating Plan is the latest in a significant line of romances that have impressed me with their cute and summery nature, as well as their lack of overplayed tropes. I had a good feeling about The Dating Plan when I saw the cover and that feeling was reinforced on nearly every page. Hot and steamy, sexy, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Dating Plan is a great pick-me-up romance to read on the beach or curled up with a cup of tea.

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Myshara Herbert-McMyn

Myshara Herbert-McMyn is a book reviewer and aspiring writer living in Kelowna. She runs the blog Lit&Leta. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Thompson Rivers University. Editor’s note: Myshara Herbert-McMyn has recently reviewed books by Tara Moss, Sonya LalliTamara GoransonGail Anderson-DargatzSamantha Knight, and Shashi Bhat for The British Columbia Review.

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The British Columbia Review

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

Sarah Desai signing her book The Singles Table at Munro’s Books, Victoria, 2021
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