Literature · Reviews

REVIEW: Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein

America is a sick place in which little girls still grow up thinking getting someone to fall in love with them is some kind of achievement.

Title: Love at First Like
Author: Hannah Orenstein
Publication: 2019
Rating: 1.5/5 stars
CW/TW: N/A

You ever start reading a book and get hopeful based on one thing (in this case, the mention of a great vegan restaurant) only to be incredibly disappointed by…literally everything else?

Yeah, that was Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein for me.

The cover? Cute. 

The plot? Promising. 

The execution? Awful.

In Love at First Like, we meet Eliza Roth. Along with her sister, Sophie, she owns a jewelry store in Brooklyn, appropriately (and uncreatively) called Brooklyn Jewels. While Sophie designs their pieces, Eliza handles the marketing end. She runs the brand’s Instagram account (which has 100,000 followers) but also essentially uses it as her personal IG as well. Gotta look relatable to the masses. When she’s bored, she likes to pose with the engagement rings Brooklyn Jewels sells, taking photos and making fake engagement announcements on Instagram…of course, she just leaves them in the drafts or deletes them. 

Unfortunately, after one very bad date and the realization that her on-again, off-again boyfriend Holden is getting married, Eliza makes a big mistake: she accidentally posts one of those photos…and everything changes for Brooklyn Jewels. It’s more, more, more: more eyes on the brand, more people in the store, more sales being made, more publicity, more questions. Eliza receives requests for interviews (actually, she begins reaching out to people to feature her and Brooklyn Jewels), so things are going great…except for the fact that, you know, Eliza doesn’t have a fiance. She does, however, have a free wedding dress, a free wedding venue, a free honeymoon, and so on.

So, of course, she needs a fake fiance! And fake relationships are usually a fun trope, one I enjoy. But that’s largely because both people in the fake relationship are willing participants.

Which is so not the case in Love at First Like.

She reels in Blake, who somehow never uses the Internet to know anything about all the press Eliza is getting (and neither does anyone else around them?). She fakes an entire whirlwind relationship with him, tells him she loves him very quickly because, well, she has a free venue with a wedding date in October, so she has to get this poor man on board fast.

This is how Eliza and Sophie sounded when they tried to figure out how they could afford to keep Brooklyn Jewels.

Eliza lies, she schemes, she complains about money. I support people, in real life and in fiction, treating themselves, but, hey, maybe if you’re worried about paying your rent, you shouldn’t 1) get lunch from By Chloe every single day (being vegan isn’t expensive – and Eliza isn’t even vegan – but going to vegan restaurants, especially everyday, is), 2) venture across the street to the bar nearly every night, and 3) have fancy cheese dates every week with your best friend.

And, you know, it might also be a good idea to not allow your sister a raise of over $10,000 for IVF, no matter how much you love her and want her to be happy. After all…you are worried your business won’t survive, right?

And that’s not even the real problem with Eliza. She is manipulative: all she cares about is herself and her business, which would be okay if she wasn’t dragging other people into her mess and potentially ruining things for other people. Instead of being upfront with Blake, who seems to be a really understanding and sweet guy, she lies to him. Constantly. 

And when she finally comes clean and he breaks things off with her, Orenstein asks us to feel sorry…for Eliza

Uh…what?

Her friends have a party for her, to make her feel better about being dumped by a man who she has been lying to for months. Her friends even go so far as to blame Blake because relationships are a two-way street and nobody made Blake propose. Excuse me? He was being lied to, manipulated into thinking Eliza felt as strongly as he did. No, nobody forced him to propose, but he was misled by Eliza, who everyone just let…do whatever she wanted.

And by the time the book ended, she faced absolutely no consequences. She got everything she wanted, just with a different guy. She learned nothing, showed no real remorse, and never got her comeuppance.

If this book was about Eliza trying to convince Blake to be in a fake relationship and have a fake marriage with her (like she does at the end of the book) and him going along with it? Fine. Even if they didn’t fall for each other, or if he fell for her while she fell for someone else and they realized it wasn’t fair to go through with this, that would have been fine. 

But Eliza was so unlikable, phony, and dishonest. I understand she wanted to save her business, but there were definitely other options than stringing poor, unsuspecting Blake along while she and Raj laugh about her scheme.

This one was just really disappointing.

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