Boy meets girl—for big bucks—in this high-concept Los Angeles rom-com.
“One of my clients is offering you five hundred thousand dollars each, if you’ll agree to spend some time together. At least once a week for two continuous hours, for one full calendar year.” This eponymous “decent proposal” is delivered by lawyer Jonathan Hertzfeld to two complete strangers he has called to his office. At 29, Richard Baumbach is a lovable, superhunky bro type, a wannabe movie producer, the kind of guy who crawls out of bed hung over from clubbing at 12:45 p.m. on a weekday. Voluptuous, uptight loner Elizabeth Santiago, known as “La Máquina” in her own law office due to her relentless productivity, has enough sobriety and maturity for a small village. But with that payoff dangling in front of them, the patently incompatible couple puts their differences aside and buckles down to the task of weekly socializing. Fortunately, there are a few things they both like, among them the In-N-Out Burger stand, one of many vivid LA settings in this trendy, lightweight beach read. Amid the texting and the pop music, Richard and Elizabeth form a book and movie club, inviting everyone from Harold and Maude and Miss Daisy to Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Ivanhoe, and Jane Eyre into the sometimes comically aspirational narrative. Donovan’s debut novel is as goofy and good-natured as its male lead, faltering only when it tries to be superserious and psychological. There's a homeless character named Orpheus Washington who is about as realistic as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and the long-awaited, somewhat poorly orchestrated reveal at the end is delivered in an awkward clump and followed by a silly coda.
A Labrador retriever of a book—you'll find yourself smiling even when it knocks over the furniture and drools on your leg.