Series: The Wedding Date #6
Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.
Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…
Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?
But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.
When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?
When it comes to romantic contemporaries, I applaud Jasmine Guillory for creating such fantastically real and charming characters. In this sixth installment that features cameos of some fan favourites in her previous novels, While We Were Dating follows Ben Stephens, younger brother of a certain charming Theo Stephens, in his own endeavours with a Hollywood actress he’s working with.
I think the ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope is an interesting one that can either be something I really love or think it completely missed the mark. I unfortunately land closer to the latter with this novel. Maybe it comes down to both the individual characters and their romantic relationship.
Ben was someone who just liked to have a good time with many different women (no judgment), but was always a gentleman to every woman he was with. He avoided issues related to his dad and was seeing a therapist to maintain a healthy balance in the things he’s acknowledged need working in his life (kudos to him for this!). Meanwhile, Anna was just returning to the acting scene after a hard year struggling with anxiety on her own that made working as an actress particularly difficult. She was focused on building her career and didn’t have time for a relationship (that’s cool, I like a focused, ambitious woman). But I didn’t feel like this really made them three-dimensional characters. It was just one aspect of each of them, and it felt kind of bland to only focus on these “defining” traits because that’s what would fill the story and be the issues they’d have to conquer.
However, when these two were together, I can feel the sexual chemistry, for sure. That’s a given. But that doesn’t make for a relationship. They always just wanted to get into bed, and I wanted a bit more for them. Yes, Ben supported Anna when she most needed it, but the way they never quite worked out their issues together for most of the story bothered me.
If you’re a fan of the fake dating trope, that’s also thrown in here, but unfortunately at quite a late time in the novel. I wished we got to this part sooner because it was a little slow going prior to this decision. Perhaps more of the fake dating aspect would’ve made the story pace better, and given the romantic leads more than just chemistry to make their relationship feel real.
The ending was also at a point in time right where I was excited for what was about to happen. I suppose it wasn’t absolutely necessary to include the conversation I so desperately was curious about, but after setting up so much of Ben’s growth arc on that particular issue, I would’ve thought we would get more closure on it.
Regardless of my thoughts on the ending and romance of it, I always appreciate a book that highlights anxiety and mental health. We need to normalize more books discussing mental health, particularly in POC communities. I loved the way it was effortlessly placed in the story and how it impacted both Ben and Anna. People with anxiety definitely need a great support system to help, and I speak this with experience.
While this was probably my least favourite of Jasmine’s books, if you loved some of her other works, especially The Wedding Party, the book may work better for you than it did for me. I wouldn’t write it off completely.
While We Were Dating definitely featured some of the characters we’ve come to love in Jasmine Guillory’s other books, but I had a hard time loving our MCs, Ben and Anna. The ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope just didn’t work for me here when it felt like the only thing drawing these two together was sheer sexual chemistry and nothing else. Their individual characters felt too one-dimensional, focusing on one major aspect of their character or a current issue they were struggling with. The slower pacing for most of the book also made it hard to feel like continuing at times, but the fake dating trope that surprisingly was thrown in at a later point helped propel me to the end. I wished it was there earlier. The only highlight was the lovely normalization of mental health and therapy written throughout the novel that shows us how important this is, in both good times and the bad. I will still look forward to future books from Guillory but I hope it’ll settle better for me than this one did.