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You Had Me at Hola


You Had Me at Hola

Combining the drama-filled world of telenovelas with the hilarity of a romantic comedy, Alexis Daria’s YOU HAD ME AT HOLA is an unforgettable romance perfect for fans of BEACH READ and shows like “Jane the Virgin.”

Soap opera star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is desperate for a fresh start. Eager for a breakout role that will catapult her from daytime television to something more mainstream, she also is reeling from a public and very messy breakup with an even more famous rock star. Jasmine sees her chance for a restart when she is cast as the leading lady in “Carmen in Charge,” a bilingual romantic comedy series set to air on ScreenFlix, the nation’s number-one streaming service. The role comes with its own set of challenges --- not only will she have to fake her way through Spanish dialogue, the set is located right in her well-meaning but intrusive family’s neighborhood --- but with her new “Leading Lady Plan,” she is ready to take on the world.

"YOU HAD ME AT HOLA is a fully realized romance novel where each of the characters easily could stand alone in their own books.... This pitch-perfect work is searingly timely, bravely hopeful and out-of-this-world sexy..."

With filming set to start, Jasmine is surprised to learn that her romantic lead has been recast. But okay, things happen, right? Except her new leading man will be Spanish telenovela star and major hunk Ashton Suárez, a notorious diva --- and the apple of her grandmother’s eye. From a tumultuous and fantastic meet-cute consisting of spilled coffee and a hilarious sexy wardrobe change, it seems that Jasmine and Ashton will never get off on the right foot, even if the necessary chemistry between their on-screen characters demands it.

Ashton Suárez has been a staple in Miami’s telenovela acting scene, but when his most recent character is unexpectedly killed off, he begins to worry that he is getting too old and out of touch to remain relevant. Being cast in ScreenFlix’s new series could be just what he needs to introduce himself to an American audience on his own terms and finally get the agenting attention he deserves. But he’s worried about his costar. Ashton is known for his privacy and unwillingness to engage in PR and media interviews, and with good reason. Years ago, a weapon-wielding stalker broke into his home, threatening his safety and that of his beloved (and secret) son, Yadiel. Thus far he has been successful in keeping Yadiel out of the spotlight, but Jasmine seems to be a magnet for gossip --- and, even worse, he cannot deny his attraction to her.

As Jasmine and Ashton work through their chemistry on and off the set, Daria immerses her audience in the world of television, telenovelas and the tabloids. With chapters alternating between Jasmine’s and Ashton’s perspectives, and including snippets of their scenes from the day, she lets their relationship unfold naturally, even when it mimics the antics of their on-screen counterparts, Carmen and Victor. With both actors working through their own personal issues, Daria seamlessly weaves reality into fiction, with each element propelling the other forward.

But what truly sets YOU HAD ME AT HOLA apart is Daria’s careful handling of consent and healthy, communicative sexual relationships. Even when the characters’ chemistry is practically leaping off the pages --- and believe me, it gets steamy --- she effortlessly incorporates issues like consent and enjoyment in ways that never once distract from the sensuality, reminding readers that, as the slogan says, “Consent is sexy!”

I would be remiss if I did not mention the equally stellar handling and inclusion of diversity, which is as encouraging and joy-fueled as the romantic aspects of the narrative. “Carmen in Charge” boasts a bilingual, transsexual-friendly and multi-racial cast, but even more fulfilling is how the actors’ diverse backgrounds and identities are handled by the show’s management. Similarly, both Jasmine and Ashton come from blended, culturally diverse families, and though Daria doesn’t dwell on over-defining foreign language terms or over-explaining cultural celebrations, she still manages to invite readers of all races and backgrounds to delight in and groan at the main characters’ families. Once again, she shows her audience how easy it is to champion others and create safe spaces without distracting from the fun, professionalism or comfort of the plot.

YOU HAD ME AT HOLA is a fully realized romance novel where each of the characters easily could stand alone in their own books. Both Jasmine and Ashton have completely fleshed-out and satisfying character arcs, and though I loved the romance, I found myself even more moved by the development of their personal careers and ambitions. This pitch-perfect work is searingly timely, bravely hopeful and out-of-this-world sexy, and I can’t wait to see what Daria comes up with next.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on August 21, 2020

You Had Me at Hola
by Alexis Daria