Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Decent Proposal

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
HarperCollins: 4/5/16
advanced readers edition; 320 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780062391629

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan is a highly recommended light hearted L.A. boy-and-girl-are-paid-to-meet story.

Richard Baumbach and Elizabeth Santiago are strangers who have been presented with a more than decent proposal through a lawyer representing an anonymous benefactor. They are being offered five hundred thousand dollars each if they will meet once a week and spend two hours together, talking, for one full calendar year. It is an offer that is legit, with a legal contract, which they both find hard to refuse.

Richard is a struggling, broke, frequently hungover Hollywood producer with a large credit card debt to pay off. He's a charming, optimistic, handsome 29 year old whose best friend is Mike (Michaela). The offer, what he calls starts calling the #DecentProposal (which Mike reduces to the DP) on social media will allow him to help finance his production company and it might provide him with a good plot for a future project. It could be fun too, an adventure.

Elizabeth, 33, is a serious, driven lawyer on her way to becoming a partner in the law firm. She is known around her law firm as "La Máquina" (the Machine) for billable hours and ability to focus on the task at hand without distraction. She doesn't do social media or TV.  Running the numbers, the proposal will more than compensate her for her time and allow her to help a homeless man, Orpheus Washington, that she has befriended.

The two agree to the proposal and first meet at an In-N-Out Burger. It becomes clear that, while they both might like In-N-Out, they are also vastly different people whose lives and interests are quite disparate. If they are to survive 52 weekly two hour meetings comprised of one-on-one discussions, they need to find some creative plan to help facilitate it. The ingeniously decide to make it a book and film discussion club. One week they will read chapters and discuss a classic book under Elizabeth's guidance and the next week they will watch and scrutinize a movie of Richard's choice.

The Decent Proposal  is satisfying on several levels.
It succeeds as a romantic comedy with elements of a mystery. The writing is quite good in this debut novel. It flows well and the plot is well paced and even. The contrast between the two main characters is well defined and their interaction with each other is believable. While I'm not normally known for reading novels described as romantic, The Decent Proposal is a comfortable, comedic, entertaining novel rather than a heavy romantic romp.

It is very clearly set in a current Los Angeles that will be recognizable to those who know L.A. and its environs. Donovan captures the culture and life style of those in the entertainment industry. He contrasts those in the entertainment industry to those who are native Californians (Elizabeth grew up in South Central) and not transplants from other parts of the country. In addition, the choice of movies and books the two discuss is interesting. Don't expect any great literary or cinematic discussion as a part of the novel, just the titles are provided as part of the plot. They serve to highlight the many differences between Richard and Elizabeth.

I had a few minor issues, especially with the ending. It felt a bit abrupt and awkward compared to the rest of the narrative. But don't let that stop you from reading The Decent Proposal. This would be a perfect choice for a summer vacation novel. It is light hearted escapism with some self-discovery and personal growth included in the parry between characters.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins for review purposes.  

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm hoping to have some actual down time this summer for the first time in a long time, so I should have lots of time to read - this book looks like it would be a good one to add my reading list!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!