Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Kemper Donovan’s The Decent Proposal! Before I tell you what I thought, here’s a brief summary:
A humorous, heartfelt love story built on a tantalizing premise: would you agree to spend two hours a week with a stranger—just talking—to collect half a million dollars at the end of a year?
Struggling Hollywood producer Richard is twenty-nine, hungover, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an easy charm, he spends his days procrastinating at the Coffee Bean and nights hanging out with his best friend, Michaela, aka “Mike.”
At thirty-three, Elizabeth is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina”—the Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to a quiet, orderly life with no romantic entanglements of any kind. (Her closest friend is an old man who discusses Virginia Woolf with her at the beach. Enough said.)
Richard and Elizabeth have never met before, but their 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 every week for a year. Both are shocked and suspicious, and agree the idea is absurd, but after Richard anxiously considers the state of his bank account and Elizabeth carefully conducts a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, they agree to give it a try.
As these two perfect strangers wade awkwardly into the waters of modern courtship, discovering a shared affection for In-N-Out burgers, classic books, cult-hit movies, and various Los Angeles locales, they realize that uncovering the secret identity of their benefactor will not only make clear what connects them but change them both forever.
This delightful tale is full of twists, revelations, and above all love in its multitude of forms.
I flew through this book. It was so entertaining, and so well-paced, that I just couldn’t seem to put it down. It’s one of those books that you know would make a great movie. It reads like a film, with enough information to let you picture each of the characters and know what’s going on, good dialogue, and no unnecessary/filler scenes. I can’t imagine what they’d need to change to make a movie, which is great because I hate when filmmakers take too many liberties with a story I enjoyed.
The Decent Proposal reminds me of this New York Times article about a list of questions inclusive and intimate enough to supposedly cause two strangers fall in love. (My husband and I have been together for almost ten years, and I still learned a couple of things about him as we went through the list.) I love the idea of two strangers creating a safe space in which they really get to hear and see one another, and this novel allows the reader to catch a beautiful glimpse of this process in action. The “structure” of discussing movies and books allows the reader to see Elizabeth and Richard’s similarities as well as their differences, and it’s also great fun to sneak a peek into someone else’s book club.
The characters in this book aren’t perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them struggle and develop. Orpheus’s story broke my heart (I think about him on certain highways, and my heart breaks all over again). I wasn’t a big fan of Mike (I think she and Richard are terrible influences on each other, which is probably the point), but she was wonderfully humanized during her time at Beverly’s house. And the surrounding cast is just enough to fill in the gaps without overwhelming the reader with secondary characters.
Also? There’s so much food mentioned in this book that my mouth was constantly watering. (In case you don’t know me very well, this is a selling point.) I wish someone would foot the bill for me to buy books and movies and order takeout! What a benefactor! Also, I love that Elizabeth eats. And Richard likes her — and finds her attractive — anyway. That’s not seen in too many stories. (Well, sometimes the girl eats and eats but has some crazy superhuman-mutant-metabolism and is still a size zero. That’s not what I’m talking about.)
All in all: An entertaining and enjoyable read. A smart book with a rom-com feel in the best possible way.
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.
Follow Kemper on Twitter.
Wednesday, April 6th: Curling Up by the Fire
Thursday, April 7th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, April 11th: Book Hooked Blog
Tuesday, April 12th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, April 13th: she treads softly
Thursday, April 14th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, April 18th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, April 19th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, April 20th: Literary Feline
Thursday, April 21st: Bibliotica
Monday, April 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, April 26th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, April 27th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, April 28th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, April 29th: fangirl confessions