Title: How to Fail at Flirting
Author: Denise Williams
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: ARC from the publisher
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One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.
I’ve been looking forward to How to Fail at Flirting for a few months now, and I’m so thrilled to say that it did not disappoint. It was the perfect escape during a a busy December, and I found myself reaching for it whenever I wanted to get away from my many responsibilities. That’s the sign of a great book, if you ask me.
How to Fail at Flirting opens with Naya at a bar, eagerly looking to cross off items from an adventurous to-do list, and she meets Jake, in town on business, and he seems like the perfect partner to help her do just that. Jake is kind and charming, and after spending a night (or not quite) together, they decide to continue seeing other as much as they can. Soon after, however, they discover that their relationship is conflict of interest, and that Naya might lose her job and ruin her career if she continues to see Jake.
One of the reasons why How to Fail at Flirting is such a good book is because of it’s characters. Naya is unapologetically career-oriented, she’s passionate at what she does, and I really connected with this aspect of Naya. Reading about how she welcomed the adventure of dating Jake, despite all the worries and insecurities, had me cheering for her. As the story progressed, however, it was heartbreaking to realize the extent of damage her abusive ex-boyfriend left in his wake, and how he essentially rendered her speechless and quiet. I wanted nothing more than for Naya to realize how important she is, and that her thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valid. Naya had a difficult journey throughout the story, and I couldn’t be more proud of how she has continued to push through overcome.
One thing I really liked about Jake is how respectful he was of Naya’s boundaries. He doesn’t force her to do something she may not be ready to do, he always asks for consent, and it was amazing how attuned he was to her feelings. Early on, there was a reveal about Jake that didn’t exactly make me like him, but he slowly and surely proved to Naya how devoted he was to their relationship, and he also proved to me that things aren’t always black or white. While I would say that Naya was the star of the book, Jake was an engrossing second main character.
About two-thirds of the book focuses on Naya and Jake’s relationship – we see them go on dates, get to know each other better, and we also see Naya meet Jake’s good friends. The pace was slow and steady, but we get hints that things will slowly start to unravel. The last third of the books was intense, and made for a gripping read. Naya and Jake’s relationship is tested, and Naya’s abusive ex makes his presence felt. As Naya encounters road block after road block, it was both painful and inspiring to see her deal with everything head on, and I just wanted her to emerge unscathed.
All in all, I can’t recommend How I Fail at Flirting enough. I love how thoroughly Naya and Jake’s relationship was explored, as well as the unflinching portrayal of abuse. Naya is one my favorite heroines ever, and it was a pleasure to witness her character grow. How to Fail at Flirting is an incredible debut, and I can’t wait to read Denise Williams’ next book.