Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.
She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.
Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.
But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.
“IN AN IDEAL WORLD, THE BEST MAN WOULDN’T BE MY EX. IN THAT SAME WORLD, I WOULDN’T HAVE PANICKED WHEN LEARNING THAT HE WAS ENGAGED WHILE I SEEMED TO BE STUCK IN TIME AND ALONE, AND I WOULDN’T HAVE FELT THE NEED TO LIE TO MY FAMILY AND TANGLE MYSELF INTO THE WEB OF DECEPTION THAT I HAD WOVEN. PERHAPS, IN THAT IDEAL WORLD, THE MAN BY MY SIDE WOULD BE THERE BECAUSE HE LOVED ME AND NOT BECAUSE I HAD STRUCK A DEAL WITH HIM.”
Arguably one of the most overhyped books I’ve ever suffered through. I’m afraid that I have been bamboozled by internet bookworms once again.
Listen, I have long loved the enemies-to-lovers meets pretend couple trope ever since I saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds as a young gal. However, The Spanish Love Deception has none of the charm I was anticipating from such a hyped novel.
At a whopping 482 pages, The Spanish Love Deception drags on and on and on and on until it reaches its corny, eye-roll inducing end – which I have many thoughts about, by the way. But nearly 500 pages for what? It starts out somewhat strong with a workplace rivalry but then descends into this really repetitive (Armas won’t let you forget that he’s going to be HER BOSS with OCEAN BLUE EYES!!), drawn-out trip to Spain with bland dialogue, even blander main characters and some shoe-horned smut.
For what is meant to be a fun and light-hearted read, it took me an absurd amount of time and sheer willpower to make it to the end of The Spanish Love Deception. I could not tell you much of what happened in great detail AT ALL. Were there some fun one-liners and fake couple moments in there? Maybe, I can’t remember them though. I can, however, recall all things I detested. Mainly, that the characters are just not interesting or likeable. Catalina’s internal monologue is so repetitive and, at times, really juvenile. There was never a time that she wasn’t overthinking or complaining about something, which is probably why the book is so bloody long. Meanwhile, Aaron is a walking, talking ick. I cannot emphasise enough how unsexy he is.
The main plot revolves around Catalina’s sisters’ wedding but that doesn’t happen until we’re about 75% of the way in. It’s all filler and no killer. I swear that I must blacked out once Armas got to the wedding part because I do not remember a single thing that happened. I do vaguely recall a ridiculously long scene where Aaron joins Catalina’s family in some Mr vs Mrs sports game pre-wedding so that happens, I guess?
The nail in the coffin for me was that *SPOILER ALERT* the thing that brings the characters back together after all the drama in Spain is a last minute insertion of cancer, because, of course, nothing says romance like a character’s family member – who we haven’t really spent much time with throughout the course of this godforsaken 482 page novel – being rushed to hospital with cancer. And this is what reunites Catalina and Aaron after their turbulent holiday in the sun and makes them realise they’re meant to be! The cancer mention was totally out of the blue in terms of the somewhat cohesive plot Armas was trying to concoct. Not only was it infuriating but it’s just lazy and gross on Armas’ part.
Should I have backed out the minute Armas described Aaron’s eyes as ‘orbs’ and thus triggering nightmares of badly written Tumblr fanfiction? Yes, yes I probably should have. However, I stuck through it half out of morbid curiosity and half because I desperately wanted to understand what about The Spanish Love Deception everyone enjoyed so much. Alas, it’s very Wattpad in the late 2010s where a writer tries to shoe-horn in as many dramatic story devices as possible. In Armas’ case this includes ‘enemies-to-lovers’, ‘main guys leads a privileged life but inside he’s so tortured but still so sexy’, ‘female colleague experiences sexual harrassment in the office’, ‘omg-my-sister’s-wedding-is-soon-i-can’t-show-up-alone-be-my-date’, ‘awkward reunion with main character’s ex beau’ and then ‘oh no a family member is in hospital due to cancer and i’ve now realised life is too short’ as the cherry on the top!
I appreciate this is Armas’ debut and I think many writers who have been chronically online for many years have written cringe early drafts of romance stories influenced by storyline and trope trends in the past. If you didn’t get your early teenage thrills to overdramatic Wattpad and Tumblr fanfiction then I can see how you may have enjoyed this. However, as a veteran of the cringe-worthy teen-to-adult romance reading scene, The Spanish Love Deception needed a serious edit. I’m talking getting a red pen and having multiple chapters, side stories and plot points axed.
I’m not even on TikTok but this is the the last time I let myself be influenced by the hype from Booktok.