With wide eyes, I whispered, “Don’t you dare.”
A slow smile spread across his lips.
“You’re still learning, but here’s today’s lesson—every time I take a girl out on a date, I pay.”
“No,” I choked out, shaking my head. “Besides, this isn’t a date.”
And then came the biggest shock of the day. Gabe leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on my forehead before saying. “There, we kissed, therefore it’s a date.”
Goodness gracious, this book was hard to put down, which is why I read it in one sitting. I loved all the characters, the chemistry between Cata and Gabe, the friendships, the family dynamics, and the interesting story this book has.
One of the main things that stood out about this book is Cata’s story. The first chapter in this book hits you with those gut-wrenching emotions. Things in Venezuela are deteriorating rapidly, and Cata’s brother has just been killed during a protest. Cata feels this weight and responsibility pressing down on her. Cata thinks she is responsible for her brother’s death because she didn’t try to stop him from joining the protest, and she also realizes that if she stays in Venezuela, she will probably also be killed. She escapes Venezuela by going to the US to study. Cata’s emotions and trauma just leap from the pages and hit you in the heart. Cata is living in this almost constant state of fear and stress. She is afraid that her visa will be revoked and she will be sent back to Venezuela. She also feels this responsibility to help her family back home. This fear causes her to build a lot of walls around her heart and become self-reliant to an unhealthy extreme. Cata’s journey is filled with a lot of ups and downs. It takes a lot of persistence from her friends and Gabe to convince Cata to start letting those walls around her heart down and ask others for help when she needs it. I love Cata as a character; she is so smart and capable, but at the same time, she can be incredibly vulnerable. She is likeable, and you really can’t help but root for her.
The family dynamics in this book are incredibly entertaining. You have Cata’s family, who are living in Venezuela, and different family members have opposing political views, which often creates tension within the family unit. There is also this bigger pressure of living in a very destabilized and dangerous country. It makes for interesting and heartbreaking family interactions. Gabe’s family is very different from Cata’s. He is close with his sibling, but his mother is a bit of a nightmare. She is very racist, and her hateful actions spur this fake dating relationship between Gabe and Cata. I loved all the scenes with Gabe’s family; they are all just so different, and watching them interact was often very entertaining.
Bookworms who love rivals/enemies to lovers, school/academic love stories, STEM, fake dating/engagement, and forced proximity will devour the romance in this book. Marianna took this cornucopia of romance tropes and made one unforgettable love story. Cata and Gabe’s romance reminded me a bit of the love story between Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. The way that Gabe teased and, shall I say, tormented Cata and the academic rivalry between these two just reminded me of the way that Gilbert would often tease Anne and was also her school rival. I devoured every moment between Cata and Gabe. He was such a sweetheart. The way he would drop everything he was doing because Cata needed help just melted my heart. He was smitten with her, and I adored watching him break down those prickly walls Cata built around her heart. He is a big cinnamon roll. I’m not always a fan of faking dating tropes; they drive me bonkers, but I like it in this book. I like it so much because it didn’t overtake the entire story. The fake dating was there but wasn’t the main driver in moving the plot along.
For bookworms looking for a slightly cleaner romance, this book will be right up your alley. There is plenty of sizzling chemistry between these two, and you can feel the heat between them. There are some pretty hot make-out scenes, but there are no sex scenes in this book. Cata clarifies that she is waiting for marriage to have sex, and Gabe is fine with that. I love that he doesn’t make a big deal about Cata being a virgin or try to pressure her into doing something she isn’t comfortable with.
I recommend As Long as You Love Me to any bookworm who loves to read rom-coms.