Book Review: How to Fail at Flirting

One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

First of all, I have to say a huge THANK YOU to Berkley Publishing for being so awesome about letting me read ARCs of a lot of their amazing books. I am so blessed to get the chance to read these and then share the love on release day. This new release from Denise Williams is an absolutely fabulous contemporary romance, but it is also so much more than that. Definitely check the trigger warning below because Williams does not shy away from some very difficult topics, but I absolutely appreciate that because her story is so much more reflective of real life people, relationships, and problems. Read on for a synopsis and my review. Then go pick up a copy TODAY (yes, this book’s birthday is today, December 1)!!

Title: How to Fail at Flirting (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Denise Williams
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Multicultural, Romantic Comedy
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Trigger Warnings: emotional and physical abuse, both past and present, including a fairly intense scene of attempted rape


When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.

My Review

Do you ever sit down to read the first chapter of a book and….fall into a time-warp where suddenly it’s 4 or 5 hours later, and you sat there and read the whole thing in one sitting? Well, this was one of those kinds of books for me. I picked it up the other night when I was dealing with a bout of insomnia, just thinking I’d read the first chapter to see how I liked it (I knew I was going to be reviewing it/featuring it on my blog in less than a week, so it seemed like a solid plan). But then I met Naya, and her personality and point of view were just so *real* and so endearing and so relatable, and I couldn’t put it down.

And *then*, not more than a couple of chapters in, I met Jake, and he was adorable and funny and charming and nerdy, and just such a solid and kind guy. And Naya had had such a hard past (trigger warning for emotional and physical abuse, and gas lighting), and that was it, I was completely and utterly sucked in.

I loved the characters in this book, especially Naya and Jake, but also Naya’s best friends (a married couple) and Jake’s best friends (a soon-to-be-married gay couple–yay representation). I loved that Naya wasn’t white, but that wasn’t *THE* central issue. It came up, it was discussed, but it wasn’t all that mattered. At its heart, this is a beautiful romance story, but it also tackles hard issues of survivorhood and post-traumatic stress disorder. Racism and sexism in the workplace come up as well. The book doesn’t shy away from these issues, but it remembers that it is a romance, and it stays true to that. It’s absolutely the kind of story I can get behind.

The sex scenes are steamy but there aren’t so many that you start to wonder if they are the main point of the book. I appreciate that consent is centered and made to be sexy in and of itself, and I loved the hilarious text dialogues between Naya and Jake. They were so dorky and delicious all at the same time.

The only tiny issue I have is that sometimes I felt like there was purposeful miscommunication between Jake and Naya that wouldn’t have happened in real life, and it frustrated me. Like: wouldn’t they just sit down and LISTEN to each other? But then, this is frequently a part of romances, and it did make me cry, so I guess it did tug at my heart strings. I just loved them together so much that I didn’t want them to be stuck in that horrible place of misunderstanding for even one minute. So even that complaint is really just another compliment of the well-written chemistry between these two characters.

If you like romance, and you are okay with mention of previous (and some ongoing) emotional and physical abuse, then I highly recommend reading this one. You won’t regret it! I just also recommend starting before 11 pm, or you may find yourself up all night reading it like I did. 🙂

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