by Kemper Donovan
Release Date: April 5th 2016
ARC Edition; 320 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
3.5 / 5 Stars
A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).
At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.
Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?
The Decent Proposal is one of those books in which I was very interested in the beginning, but not as much towards the end. I really liked the premise and thought it would be interesting to see how it all played out; half a million dollars just for meeting with someone for two hours a week? Thought the movie and book discussion idea was a brilliant way to get to know someone and I definitely enjoyed the thoughts of each character over some of the books.
The setting of the book takes place in Los Angeles, and the author definitely goes to a lot of pains to ensure that you never forget it; there are many great descriptions of the area, including some historical facts, and while I enjoyed them tremendously, I did feel they had no impact on the story or even relevance. In fact, I actually thought the story kind of got lost at times because of the descriptions. What it did was make the characters seem almost one-dimensional, focusing a lot on their looks and their beauty. What I found kind of intriguing is that the peripheral characters who seem almost lost to society were definitely not good-looking - Orpheus and Bev. The author almost went out of his way to mention his characters' good looks, and I was getting a bit annoyed by this as it is usually irrelevant to me. Because of this shallowness, it made Elizabeth seem uptight and unapproachable, unhappy in her life because she had no man to complete it. What nonsense! And then there is Richard, good-looking, but with a string of women on his arm, made him seem shallow and uncouth. Luckily, I liked both of these characters, despite their behaviour, and liked the mystery that surrounded them and tied them together somehow.
As previously mentioned, the premise is quite intriguing, and I like how the author takes the reader on a journey to solve they mystery. It was not quite what I was expecting, although I did have a suspicion about part of it; you do have to kind of just go with it though, as some of it does seem a bit contrived. I liked how Richard and Elizabeth's friendship slowly developed over the course of the book as I am definitely not a fan of insta-love. I did think there was going to be a love triangle at some point, but I am glad that was deflected by the author. I wasn't too crazy about Mike for most of the novel as I thought she was selfish and self-involved, and I don't think my opinion about her changed too much over the course of the book. I also felt that a lot of the inner monologue was a bit jarring, and while it did give us more insight into the characters, it also kept me from being fully invested in them and really caring what happened to them.
The Decent Proposal is a light, I hesitate to call it a romance, chick lit. The two main characters are usually likeable, but it would have been nice to see their characters develop a bit more. The main strength of this novel is the writing. The author's talent is great and I would love to see him tackle something a bit more in-depth and complex to really show off his writing skills. I would recommend this one to anyone looking for something light and fun, but I am definitely curious as to what this author does next.
Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.
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