The Boyfriend Project starts off with the heroine Samiah Brooks, a super smart techie who heads her company’s outreach efforts and dreams of developing her own app, learning through Twitter that the guy she’s dating was also dating two other women. The reveal is hilarious (the jerk took them to the same sushi restaurant!), the confrontation epic. Unfortunately, it also made Samiah go viral, and soured her on letting any man dupe her again.
Enter Daniel Collins, a biracial man (Korean-American and African-American), who investigates financial crimes and has gone undercover in Samiah’s company. The sparks between them are immediate, the flirty banter super cute, and despite Samiah’s initial reservations, she finds herself opening up to Daniel and allowing herself to fall in love with him. Except Daniel’s only in town for his assignment, he can’t tell Samiah the truth about what he does, and he knows that he will inevitably break Samiah’s heart someday.
The Boyfriend Project mixes so much of what I love in romance: fantastic chemistry, nerdy protagonists, kickass female friendships, and a conflict that is inevitable despite being neither character’s fault. I love the way Samiah and Daniel’s relationship developed, how both characters did their best to fight their feelings for each other (Samiah because she’d vowed to take a break from dating, Daniel because he knew he was lying to Samiah about who he was), and how they ended up ultimately being unable to resist each other. Rochon writes chemistry wonderfully, and I was right there with both Samiah and Daniel through their whole roller coaster of emotions.
The conflict was really well done as well. Part of me could see Samiah falling in deeper with Daniel and really wanting Daniel to just tell her the truth already, but another part of me understood why he couldn’t. The whole situation hurtles towards a point where he has to perform an outright betrayal in order to get his job done, and my heart broke right with Samiah’s at the inevitable reveal. The conflict is angsty and emotional and oh-so-absolutely-gripping. I kept wanting to see how the characters could work their way past the situation, and kept longing for the inevitable happily ever after. Part of me did feel that the resolution felt a tad too easy given all the build-up, but I also really liked how reasonable and empathetic both characters were in seeing each other’s positions, and how well they ultimately communicated with each other.
I also like how kickass both Samiah and Daniel were at their jobs. Both are super smart techie developers and great at what they do. There’s a scene where Samiah admits she initially hesitated to tell Daniel about the app she’s developing as a passion project, because she knows he has the skills and technical know-how to steal her idea, and I really liked that, because it shows how well-matched they are on an intellectual level.
There are also moments where Samiah talks about the challenges of being a Black woman in the tech industry, how she has to work harder than her colleagues to get the same level of success, and how her teachers often discouraged her from being too ambitious. She also talks about how she feels the pressure not to screw up any opportunities for other Black women who’ll be coming in after her, and how important it is for her to give young Black girls the opportunity to see her at work and know that they can aspire to something similar. I’m not Black, so I can’t fully understand what she experiences, but I do appreciate how Rochon explores this subject, and I really love this part of the story. There’s a great scene where Daniel admits that being part Asian affords him some privilege in the tech industry — it’s still racism, with the stereotype of Asians being smart in math and tech, but I love how Daniel and Samiah discuss these subjects so openly.
Finally, the friendship between Samiah, Taylor and London — the three women duped by the same man at the beginning of this book — was a major highlight of this book, and a fantastic setup for the series. I love how they initially bonded over the jerk who duped them, and how their friendship developed since then to weekly Friday dates and real, deep conversations about their lives. I love that the three women banded together to encourage each other to pursue their respective dreams beyond romance. I especially love that despite Samiah reneging on their agreed-upon ‘Boyfriend Project’ (a dating hiatus), Taylor and London didn’t make her feel bad about it, and instead were super supportive of her developing feelings for Daniel. I love romances that highlight the strength of friendship between woman, and I’m excited to see how Taylor and London’s stories turn out.
Thank you to Forever Romance for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.