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The Romantic Agenda: 08/23/22
The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann (2022) is a fake lovers to actual lovers romance. Joy is asexual but has fallen in love with Malcolm, her friend and since college.
Malcolm is also asexual but has never felt that connection with Joy. Instead he's been through a series of failed romances. His latest one seems to be sticking, is with Summer. Hoping to smooth things over with Joy, he's invited her on a weekend trip to a lake to meet Summer.
Summer, though, has other plans, and has insisted her ex-boyfriend come along. Enter Fox, the apparent bad boy in this scenario. He and Joy are teamed up in all the events that require couples. Joy is furious but Fox seems okay with it. He suggests they play along, pretending to be into each other to make Malcolm and Summer jealous.
From the very start of this novel it's obvious that Malcolm isn't the right person for Joy. It doesn't matter that he is also asexual. His treatment of Joy is absolutely toxic. He uses her for emotional support and never gives anything back. She has put her entire personal life on hold for him.
It's also obvious from their first meeting that Fox is a much better match for Joy. He's not perfect but he's at least aware of his flaws and is willing to learn about Joy. Without pushback from her, he's already respecting her boundaries.
With a clear and positive connection between Joy and Fox, we're left stuck on a trip that neither character wants to be on. We're stuck going through Malcolm's itinerary for the majority of the novel when really what everyone needs, including the reader, is a chance to run away from Malcolm!
The weekend trip should have been a couple chapters max, of a romance where Joy and Fox get to know each other on their own terms. As is, it's unfortunately a slog to read.