Josh + Hazel's Guide to Not Dating
by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge.
If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.
Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.
Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Rom-Com Happy
Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren is a standalone rom-com featuring polar opposites Josh Im, the mellow physical therapist, and Hazel Bradford, the playful, wild and free teacher. After a series of ... unfortunate interactions between the two in college, both are rather surprised to meet seven years later at Josh's sisters summer BBQ, a sister who happens to be best friends with Hazel. And Hazel being Hazel, she latches on with her "octopus tentacles" and declares that Josh Im is going to be her best friend. As Hazel breathes new life into Josh after he finds out his long term girlfriend has been cheating on him, their unlikely friendship grows. As a way to get back out on the scene, they set each other up on blind, double dates. But as the dates get worse, and their mutual attraction gets stronger, can they withhold their feelings for the sake of their friendship? And if they give in, are they even compatible?
Listen, the last couple of romances have been duds for me. I needed a lighthearted romance, with a touch of smut, good, solid writing, and something that invoked emotion - other than annoyance. I also needed a book starting with the letter J for the alphabet challenge, but didn't want to get into a series, as I am EAGERLY awaiting Grace and Glory in a couple of days (as you can tell, I am writing this post ahead of time). That is when I stumble on this little gem on my TBR. I've been meaning to try a Christina Lauren novel for some times now (Christina Lauren is the combined pen name for co-authors and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings), and I figured, why not? It sounds cute.
Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating was a hit for me. A FREAKING HIT! It is original, combining several tropes (second chance, friends to lovers, and opposites attract), the story is fast paced, and fun. And I'm not just using that word. It is well and truly FUN. And our two main characters are adorable! Hazel is the shining star, with her big heart, her chaotic (in a good way) personality, and tendency to say everything the pops up in her head. I honest to god was laughing to the point of CRYING several times reading this book, not just because of the situations she landed herself in, but her inner monologue is great. And believable! So many times I read a romance, and the stumbling block in a relationship makes me roll my eyes. But Hazel's ... it was a genuine roadblock that brought a level of realism to this rom-com. And Josh ... oh I love Josh. Quiet, reserved, mellow ... he the polar opposite to Hazel's wild. But not once does he think she is embarrassing, or weird. Not once does he try to change her. And while he thinks she is wild, its one of the things he loves about her. He is the calm in the storm of Hazel, and it works. Another thing I loved about Josh's character was his culture being so important to him. Many times authors will write a character who ignores their culture because its frankly easier. But in small little moments, Josh's Korean culture comes through naturally. It's nice. Their friendship is wonderful, with many moments that had me laughing or crying. The steam - because yes, there is steam - is written descriptively but is tasteful. No overused terms that both romance readers, and best of all, its written realistically. It's the first time in a romance where both characters are surprised that she had two orgasms'. Knowing in reality, for a lot of women out there its lucky if they have one, let alone two, it's nice to encounter this reality in a romance.
God I loved this book. Seriously. The first page had me hooked, and I had it finished in 12 hours. It had me laughing (my best friend is now going to read it, because she found me at my desk, slumped over from laughing), had me crying with just a random sentence that brought forth emotion I wasn't expecting, and was truly well written. I can't wait to read these two authors other work now!
1. Their meeting in hilarious.
2. Her letter to him when she needed time off because of her wisdom tooth removal.
3. I love the comparison to an Octopus's tentacles luring in prey to Hazel latching on to those she really likes and never letting go.
4. Hazel and Josh making clay and having a playdate - with beer.
5. Watching Aliens with Josh because it's her comfort movie
6. The trivia double date
7. Hazel and Josh telling each other they miss one another by using Winnie
8. Josh telling Dax to go fuck himself when he was being a dick to Hazel
10. Josh running away from the double date feigning diarrhea
11. Adam apologizing to the doorway when he bumps into it had me cackling. I do that sober *It's the Canadian in me*
12. THEIR FIRST TIME
13. Hazel word vomiting to Emily and Dave about Josh and her having sex
14. Josh saving Hazel from Tyler further insulting her, and buying the ridiculous cheese hat.
15. Their second, sober time
16. FINALLY ADMITTING THEIR FEELINGS FOR EACH OTHER
17. Josh's elation to the news
18. The epilogue
Before we get started, there are a few things you should know about me: 1. I am both broke and lazy - a terrible combination. 2. I am perpetually awkward at parties and in an effort to relax will probably end up drinking until I'm topless 3. I tend to like animals more than people. 4. I can always be counted on to do or say the worst possible thing in a delicate moment. In summary, I am superb at making an ass out of myself.
When Josh tells this story he makes sure to mention that before I threw up on his shoes, I charmed him with a dazed "You are the hottest guy I've ever seen, and I would be honored to give you sex tonight."
Josh: "What's going on here?" Emily: "We were just discussing how Hazel's boobs are better than all of ours." I look up from my drink to see whether I actually know the person currently studying my chest and ... oh. Ohhhh. Dark eyes widen and quickly flicker away. A carved jaw twitches. My stomach turns over. It's him. Josh. Josh fucking Im. The blueprint for Perfect. He coughs out a husky breath. Josh: "I think I'll skip the book talk." Hazel: "It's cool. Josh has already seen my boobs." The party stops. Air stills. Hazel: "I mean, not because he wanted to see them. They were forced on him." A wind chime rings mournfully in the distance. Birds stop flying midair and fall to their deaths. Hazel: "Not forced, like, by me." Emily groans in pain. Hazel: "But like his roommate had me -" Josh puts a hand on my arm. Josh: "Hazel. Just ... stop."
Wow. Apparently this is the grown-up version of the metal-mouthed tween brother I've seen in the row of photos in Emily's living room. Well done, puberty.
Hazel: "Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if clothes were never invented." Josh: "I literally never wonder that." Hazel: "Like if we were just naked all the time, what things would have been developed differently?" Josh: "We probably wouldn't ride horses." Hazel: "Or we'd just have calluses in weird places. Bike seats would be different." Josh: "Very likely."
Hazel: "I think we're going to be best friends." At my bewildered silence, she reaches up and ruffles my hair. Hazel: "I live in Portland, you live in Portland. You have a girlfriend and I have a huge assortment of Netflix series backlogged. We both hate the word 'glans.' I know and love your sister. She loves me. This is the perfect setup for boy-girl bestship: I've already been unbearable near you, which makes it impossible to scare you away." Josh: "I'm afraid you're going to try." Hazel: "I think you think I'm fun." Josh: "Fun in the way that clowns are fun." Hazel: "I seriously thought I was the only person alive who loves clowns!" I can't hold in my laugh. Josh: "I'm kidding. Clowns are terrifying. I won't even walk too close to the storm drain in front of my house." Hazel: "Well." She threads her arm though mine, leading me closer to the heart of the party. When she leans in to whisper, my stomach drops somewhere around my navel, the way it does at the first lurch of a roller coaster. Hazel: "We have nowhere to go but up."
Mom drops another piece of muffin. Hazel: "Knock it off, you're ruining her." Mom: "She's named Winnie the Poodle. Already ruined."
Hazel: "Mom, have you and Glen ...?" I dunk my spoon in and out of my coffee cup a few times. Her eyes widen and she grins. I gasp. Hazel: "You floozy." Mom: "He's a podiatrist!" Hazel: "That's exactly my point! They're known fetishists."
Josh: "We're having a playdate?" Hazel: "But with beer."
Josh: "Are you okay?" Hazel nods Hazel: "I'm swallowing down my terrible words." I don't even have to ask. Josh: "What, that she was destined to screw up because her name is Tabitha?" She points an accusing finger at me. Hazel: "I didn't say it. You said it!"
Josh: "So here's where I keep getting stuck. She's not moving back. I get that now. So, if we work through this, either I move to L.A. -" Hazel: "Gross." Josh: "Exactly, or she and I ... what? Have a long-distance relationship forever?" Hazel: "If you go in that direction you are going to get tennis elbow because that is a lot of phone sex. Good thing you're a physical therapist."
Hazel: "Don't spoil her." Josh: "Hazel. The dog you don't want me to spoil is wearing a Wonder Woman T-shirt."
Hazel: "Don't you want to have sex?" He stares up at me, slowly pulling his hand from the front of his pants. Hazel: "Look at your body! You're amazing. And your face? Pretty fucking great, too. Come on, Josh, where is your sex drive?" His eyes slowly widen, and I realize he thinks I'm propositioning him while I smell like a barn. Hazel: "Not with me, Jimin, I mean with someone in your league! Don't you want a companion - not even just for sex, but for hanging out and talking and enjoying life? Getting your dick played with would just be a bonus!" Josh: "Hazel." Hazel: "Josh."
Josh: "When was the last time you were with someone?" Hazel: "With, as in dating? Or with, as in sex?" He scrunches his nose. Josh: "They're different answers?" I look at him as if he's crazy. Hazel: "I've had sex with guys I haven't dated, and dated guys I haven't had sex with." It's his turn to look at me like I might be crazy. Hazel: "What? You've never just ... boned someone?" He hides his blush by pretending to be grossed out by me. Josh: "That's the worst word." Hazel: "Bone. Bone. Boner. Booooones."
Josh: "Hazel, a normal cruise is bad enough. You really want an all-you-can-eat buffet on a budget cruise?" Hazel: "It's free." Josh: "Diarrhea is never free."
Josh: "Look, I can admit it's been good to get out of the house. I was spending too much time at home and -" Hazel: " - wallowing." Josh: "No." Hazel: "Playing with yourself because nobody else wants to?" I give her a warning look. Josh: "It's possible you were right - about the wallowing." Hazel: "Possible."
Josh: "I didn't fall in the river, I was more of less pushed." Hazel: "By gravity."
Josh: "I think what I liked was being someone's person." Hazel: "You're my person. Thanks for sticking up for me tonight." She gives these vulnerable words so freely it makes fondness clench at something in my chest. Taking her hand, I bring it to my mouth and press a quick kiss to the backs of her knuckles. Josh: "I like being your person."
Josh: "That was the worst so far. I still feel her fist around my balls." Hazel: "I'd apologize and wish that never happened, but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of hearing you use the phrase 'fist around my balls.'"
He is the happiest drunk I've known. It smells like my body wash in here, and he must notice, too, because he laughs again. Josh: "I'm going to smell like cake!"
But as soon as he says this, his hands come to my face and his mouth comes over mine and it's intense, just the way I always dreamed it might be, to kiss someone I love so deeply already and who's seen me exactly as I am.
I intend to tell them only that most of the dates have been flops and see what they suggest about moving on, but in true Hazel form, my mouth decides to take over and what comes out is
Hazel: "Josh and I ended up having sex with each other after we bolted from date seven."
Silence fills the small entryway like fog and I turn to Josh to save me. His eyes are wide, like he's watching a plane go down and is silently praying it will pull back up at the last minute. We both know it won't.
Hazel: "So that happened!"
I do a spastic little dance.
Hazel: "It was really fun."
I squeeze my eyes closed because Oh, God, why did I just say that?
Josh clears his throat
Hazel: "We agreed it's just a one-time thing. We agreed."
I repeat, holding up my hand in a gesture that's meant to invoke understanding, or something.
Josh doesn't come to my rescue, so I'm left free to make this more awkward for everyone. Which I do. Hazel: "But I mean, for two people where one has been inside of the other, we're good, right? We're fine. I think we're ready to five back into making plans for the next date?"
Hazel: "I know I'm like Pig-Pen in Charlie Brown, and I have chaos around me, but it's like he doesn't even care. He doesn't need me to change or pretend to be someone else. He's my person. He's my best friend."
That word - love - feels like a wrecking ball. I get the mental image of cracking open a walnut and staring at the pieces of flesh in my palm, knowing it can't ever go back together.
Emily: "You have to be sure. You have to be positive. Hazel's like this rogue star that just sort of floats around. She has a lot of friends - because how can you not love her? - but only a few she's close to. You're really important to her. She would honestly break if she lost you, Josh."
I look up at her, skeptical. Hazel is made of brick and fire and iron. Josh: "Come on, Em." Emily: "You don't think I'm serious?" Josh: "Hazel isn't fragile. She's a brute." Emily: "Where you're concerned she is. She idolizes you. God knows why. But if you changed your mind about something like that, I think that's the one thing that can dim her light. We both know Hazel is a butterfly. I think you have the power to take the dust from her wings."
Josh: "Why didn't you tell me?" Hazel: "Why didn't you?"
Josh: "I thought you wanted Tyler."
Hazel: "I thought you'd be well suited with ... someone else."
Hazel: "Just someone less Hazel."
Josh: "Can we address that?"
Hazel: "We can't do it after sex?"
Josh: "No. Are you listening?"
Josh: "You are perfect for me."
A star is born inside my rib cage.
Hazel: "I am?"
Josh: "You are."
Hazel: "I was thinking you're shaped like my favorite dildo."
Josh: "That's a compliment I haven't heard before."
Hazel: "I knew I wanted kids, but I don't think I realized how much until this happened."
Josh: "We may not have seventeen, but we'll get there."
Hazel: "I'm going to win you over."
Josh: "You will never win me over to seventeen children."
Hazel: "You know what I keep repeating over and over in my head?"
Hazel: " 'I love Josh Im more than I've loved anything in my life.' Don't tell Winnie."