Because I’m not a great fan of rom-coms, I couldn’t believe how much I liked Mia Sosa’s The Worst Best Man. Though I’m not a fan of first-person romance-narration, especially when it alternates H/H POV, there was so much to like about Mia Sosa’s The Worst Best Man. The humour. The ethos. The secondary characters. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention the romance. I can’t say I loved the premise either, but Sosa made it work for me. Carolina “Lina” Santos is left at the altar by Andrew Hartley, thanks to a heart-to-heart the night before the wedding with his younger brother, Max. Cue three years later. Lina is up for a wedding planner job with the luxury-hotel-chain CEO Rebecca Cartright. Whose firm is assigned to work with her on her pitch? Double-nemeses Max and Andrew. To sweeten the competition, Rebecca assigns Max to work with Lina and Andrew with her competition. In a Top-Wedding-Planner showdown, Max and Lina have five weeks to prep their presentation and score the account. There is much at stake for both, financially, also professional pride and family approval.
The fun comes in when Lina uses this working-together scenario to score sweet revenge on Max … and Max takes it like the sweetiepie that is under his washboard belly and handsome demeanor. For example, I got a great kick and laughed-out-loud like a loon in my sole-scape apartment when Lina and Max go to a Brazilian restaurant and she convinces him to try the “pepper” condiment:
Someone’s stretching my tongue, too. It feels way too big for my mouth. I fan myself with the cloth napkin as my eyes water. What the hell did I just eat? “Are you thure thisn’t a gauche peppa?” Lina shakes her head as if to clear it. “What did you say? I can’t understand you?” “A gauche peppa. Theems a little throng.” Lina snorts. “A ghost pepper? Seems a little strong?” She tilts her head. “Max, is your tongue okay?” I wave off her concern. “No, no, I’m thwine.”
Given Max’s “role” in Lina’s altar-abandonment, a little “gauche peppa” is hardly all that vengeful. Max and Lina exchanges are hilarious: the stakes are high; Lina has might and right on her side; and, Max is humble, contrite, and adorable. The novel’s first half is dominated by enemies of enemies-to-lovers delight.
The novel’s first half also introduces a plethora of well-drawn, lovable characters. First, Lina’s Afro-Brazilian family, especially her Tias, lovely mama, older brother, Rey, but mostly, her about-to-be-married cousin Natalia and the brutal handling of poor Max. They’re fierce, funny, and formidable, with the closeness and unity of the immigrant family perfectly portrayed. Then, there’s the food, wonderful, wonderful Brazilian dishes and, who knew, a hero who loves cake, especially butter-cream-slathered. A side-splitting cake-testing scene ensues involving wedding-cake buttercream and Max as official taster in a sugar-induced daze. My favourite source of humor, however, was Max’s relationship with his best friend, Dean. I won’t spoil it, suffice to say, there’s a guffaw-inducing scene where they share a bed. And, it’s lovely to see, despite the ribbing shenanigans, a deep connection between male friends.
The Worst Best Man isn’t all slapstick and no angst. It’s angst-lite to non-existent, but impediments are and must be overcome. They are internal while the humor is external. Lina is at heart, a highly emotional, sensitive person, but has had to swallow her true self to survive and thrive professionally (Sosa pointed out the stereotypical prejudices against Latinx women in this context, but her touch is ever-light) and carries, rightly so, a reticence against relationships. Max, on the other hand, as the baby brother, has always competed with his older brother. It’s understandable that his feelings for Lina are mixed with fraternal rivalry and an inferiority complex.
Though the novel’s comedic aspect is enemies-to-lovers, the romance is opposites-attract. Max is open and emotional, charming and joyously impulsive. Lina, on the other hand, is precise, concise, responsible above all, a planner and emotional cypher. As a romance couple, they bring out the best in each other: Lina centres and matures Max’s “little brother” blues and Max makes Lina laugh and cry, provides a safe space for her mistakes and emotional breakdowns. They’re lovely together, lovely apart, even better with family and friends and share hot love scenes. The romance is, despite this, low-key: it’s a matter of a slow-awakening to love while high-spirited scenes abound. I did wish for more drama, but that is not the nature of the rom-com beast. It’s Puff the Magic Dragon, not Smaug. The Worst Best Man is the product of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Mia Sosa’s The Worst Best Man is published by Avon Books. It was released in February and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Avon Books, from Edelweiss+.