If there's one romance trope I'm an automatic sucker for, it's enemies-to-lovers, and if I trust anyone to do it deliciously right, it's Christina Lauren. Authors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billlings — who write together under their combined pen name — are the force behind beloved romps like Roomies and Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, among many others. And now the dynamic duo is back with The Unhoneymooners, which will be released on May 14, 2019. Trust me, you're going to want this one on your shelf ASAP. Bustle has the exclusive cover reveal and the entire first chapter below!
Here's the plot: Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in… well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. But at Ami's wedding, the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, and the only people who aren't affected are Olive, and the best man, Ethan — Olive's sworn enemy. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.
Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, she and Ethan have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.
If that synopsis wasn't enough to hook you, the gorgeous cover below certainly will. Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from the book, and start falling in love with The Unhoneymooners now.
In the calm before the storm — in this case, the blessed quiet before the bridal suite is overrun by the wedding party — my twin sister stares critically down at a freshly painted shell-pink fingernail and says, “I bet you’re relieved I’m not a bridezilla.” She glances across the room at me and smiles generously. “I bet you expected me to be impossible.”
It is a statement so perfectly dropped in the moment, I want to take a picture and frame it. I share a knowing look with our cousin Julieta, who is repainting Ami’s toes (“It should be more petal pink than baby pink, don’t you think?”), and gesture to the bodice of Ami’s wedding gown — which hangs from a satin hanger and on which I am presently and painstakingly ensuring that every sequin is lying flat. “Define ‘bridezilla.’”
Ami meets my eyes again, this time with a half-hearted glare. She’s in her fancy wedding-bra contraption and skimpy underwear that I’m aware — with some degree of sibling nausea — her dudebro fiancé Dane will positively destroy later. Her makeup is tastefully done and her fluffy veil is pinned in her upswept dark hair. It’s jarring. I mean, we’re used to looking identical while knowing we’re wholly different people inside, but this is something entirely unfamiliar: Ami is the portrait of a bride. Her life suddenly bears no resemblance to mine whatsoever.
“I’m not a bridezilla,” she argues. “I’m a perfectionist.”
I find my list and hold it aloft, waving it to catch her attention. It’s a piece of heavy, scalloped-edged pink stationery that has Olive’s To-Do List — Wedding Day Edition written in meticulous calligraphy at the top, and which includes seventy-four (seventy-four) items ranging from Check for symmetry of the sequins on the bridal gown to Remove any wilted petals from the table arrangements.
Ami is the portrait of a bride. Her life suddenly bears no resemblance to mine whatsoever.
Each bridesmaid has her own list, perhaps not quite as long as my maid-of-honor one but equally fancy and hand-written. Ami even drew checkboxes so that we can record when each chore is completed.
“Some people might call these lists a little overboard,” I say.
“Those are the same ‘some people,’ ” she replies, “who’ll pay an arm and a leg for a wedding that is half as nice.”
“Right. They hire a wedding planner to —” I refer to my list. “‘Wipe condensation off the chairs a half hour before the ceremony.’”
Ami blows across her fingernails to dry them and lets out a movie-villain laugh. “Fools.”
You know what they say about self-fulfilling prophecies, I’m sure. Winning makes you feel like a winner, and then somehow... you keep winning. It has to be true, because Ami wins everything. She tossed a ticket into a raffle bowl at a street fair and walked home with a set of community theater tickets. She slid her business card into a cup at The Happy Gnome and won free happy hour beers for a year. She’s won makeovers, books, movie premiere tickets, a lawnmower, endless T-shirts, and even a car. Of course, she also won the stationery and calligraphy set she used to write the to-do lists.
"You know what they say about self-fulfilling prophecies, I’m sure. Winning makes you feel like a winner, and then somehow... you keep winning. It has to be true, because Ami wins everything."
All this to say, as soon as Dane Thomas proposed, Ami saw it as a challenge to spare our parents the cost of the wedding. As it happens, Mom and Dad could afford to contribute — they are messy in many ways, but financially is not one of them — but for Ami, getting out of paying for anything is the best kind of game. If pre-engagement Ami thought of contests as a competitive sport, engaged Ami viewed them as the Olympics.
No one in our enormous family was surprised, then, when she successfully planned a posh wedding with two hundred guests, a seafood buffet, a chocolate fountain, and multicolored roses spilling out of every jar, vase, and goblet — and has shelled out, at most, a thousand dollars. My sister works her ass off to find the best promotions and contests. She reposts every Twitter and Facebook giveaway she can find, and even has an email address that is aptly named AmeliaTorresWins@xmail.com.
Finally convinced there are no misbehaving sequins, I lift the hanger from where it’s suspended from a metal hook attached to the wall, intending to bring the gown to her.
But as soon as I touch it, my sister and cousin scream in unison, and Ami holds up her hands, her matte pink lips in a horrified O.
“Leave it there, Ollie,” she says. “I’ll come over. With your luck, you’ll trip and tear it.”
I don’t argue: she isn’t wrong.
Whereas Ami is a four-leaf clover, I have always been unlucky. I don’t say that to be theatrical or because I only seem unlucky in comparison; it is an objective truth. Google Olive Torres, Minnesota, and you’ll find dozens of articles and comment threads dedicated to the time I climbed into one those claw crane arcade games and got stuck. I was six, and when the stuffed animal I’d captured didn’t drop directly into the chute, I decided to go in and get it.
"Whereas Ami is a four-leaf clover, I have always been unlucky. I don’t say that to be theatrical or because I only seem unlucky in comparison; it is an objective truth."
I spent two hours inside the machine, surrounded by a lot of hard, coarse-furred, chemical-smelling toy bears. I remember looking out through the handprint-smudged plexiglass and seeing an array of frantic faces shouting muffled orders to each other. Apparently, when the owners of the arcade explained to my parents that they didn’t actually own the game and therefore didn’t have the key to get inside, the Edina fire department was called, followed quickly by a local news crew, who diligently documented my extraction.
Fast-forward twenty-six years and — thank you, YouTube — there’s still video floating around. To date, nearly three hundred thousand people have watched it and discovered that I was stubborn enough to climb in, and unlucky enough to catch my belt loop on the way out, leaving my pants behind with the bears.
This is but one story of many. So yes, Ami and I are identical twins — we are both five foot four with dark hair that misbehaves when there’s even a hint of humidity, deep brown eyes, upturned noses, and matching constellations of freckles — but that’s where the similarities end. Our mother always tried to embrace our differences so we’d feel like individuals rather than a matching set. I know her intentions were good, but for as long as I can remember, our roles were set: Ami is an optimist who looks for the silver lining; I tend to assume the sky is falling. When we were three, Mom even dressed us as Care Bears for Halloween: Ami was Funshine Bear. I was Grumpy.
And it’s clear the self-fulfilling prophecy works in both directions: From the moment I watched myself picking my nose behind a piece of grimy plexiglass on the six o’clock news, my luck never really improved. I’ve never won a coloring contest or an office pool; not even a lottery ticket or a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I have, however, broken a leg when someone fell backward down the stairs and knocked me over (they walked away unscathed), consistently drew bathroom duty during every extended family vacation for a five-year stretch, was peed on by a dog while sunbathing in Florida, have been pooped on by innumerable birds over the years, and when I was sixteen I was struck by lightning —yes, really — and lived to tell the tale (but had to go to summer school because I missed two weeks of classes at the end of the year). Ami likes to sunnily remind me that I once guessed the correct number of shots left in a half-empty bottle of tequila. But after drinking most of them in celebratory glee and subsequently throwing it all back up again, that win didn’t feel particularly fortunate.
"And it’s clear the self-fulfilling prophecy works in both directions: From the moment I watched myself picking my nose behind a piece of grimy plexiglass on the six o’clock news, my luck never really improved."
Ami removes the (free) dress from the hanger and steps into it just as our mother comes into the room from her (also free) adjoining suite. She gasps so dramatically when she sees Ami in the gown, I’m sure both Ami and I share the thought: Olive somehow managed to stain the wedding dress.
I inspect it to make sure I haven’t.
All clear, Ami exhales, motioning for me to carefully zip her up. “Mami, you scared the crap out of us.”
With a head full of enormous Velcro rollers, a half- finished glass of (you guessed it: free) champagne in hand, and her lips thick with red gloss, Mom is managing an impressive impersonation of Joan Crawford. If Joan Crawford had been born in Guadalajara. “Oh, mijita, you look beautiful.”
Ami glances up at her, smiles, and then seems to remember — with immediate separation anxiety — the list she left all the way across the room. Hitching her billowing dress up, she shuffles to the table. “Mom, you gave the DJ the thumb drive with the music?”
Our mother drains her glass before daintily taking a seat on the plush couch. “Sí, Amelia. I gave your little plastic stick to the white man with cornrows in the terrible suit.”
Mom’s magenta dress is impeccable, her tan legs crossed at the knee as she accepts another flute of champagne from the bridal suite attendant.
“He has a gold tooth,” Mom adds. “But I’m sure he’s very good at his job.”
Ami ignores this and her confident check mark scratches through the room. She doesn’t really care if the DJ isn’t up to our mother’s standards, or even her own. He’s new in town, and she won his services in a raffle at the hospital where she works as a hematology nurse. Free trumps talented, every time.
“Ollie,” Ami says, eyes never straying from the list in front of her, “you need to get dressed, too. It’s hanging on the back of the bathroom door.”
I immediately disappear into the bathroom with a mock salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
If there’s one question we’re asked more than any other, it’s which one of us is the oldest. I would think it’s fairly obvious, because although Ami is a mere four minutes older than me, she is without a doubt the leader. Growing up, we played what she wanted to play, went where she wanted to go, and while I may have complained, for the most part I happily followed. She can talk me into almost anything.
Which is exactly how I ended up in this dress.
“Ami.” I throw open the bathroom door, horrified by what I’ve just seen in the small bathroom mirror. Maybe it’s the light, I think, hiking up the shiny green monstrosity and making my way to one of the larger mirrors in the suite.
Wow. It’s definitely not the light.
“Olive,” she answers back.
“I look like a giant can of 7UP.”
“Yes, girl!” Jules sings. “Maybe someone will finally crack that thing open.”
Mom clears her throat.
I glower at my sister. I was wary of being a bridesmaid in a Winter Wonderland–themed wedding in January, so my only request as the maid of honor was that my dress wouldn’t have a scrap of red velvet or white fur. I see now that I should have been more specific.
“Did you actually choose this dress?” I point to my abundance of cleavage. “This was intentional?”
Ami tilts her head, studying me. “I mean, intentional in the sense that I won the raffle at Valley Baptist. All the bridesmaids dresses in one go—just think of the money I saved you.”
“We’re Catholic, not Baptist, Ami.” I tug on the fabric. “I look like a hostess at O’Gara’s on St. Paddy’s day.”
I realize my primary error — not seeing this dress until today — but my sister has always had impeccable taste. On the day of the fittings, I was in my boss’s office, pleading, unsuccessfully, to not be one of the four hundred scientists the company was letting go. I know I was distracted when she sent me a photo of the dress but I don’t remember it looking this satiny or this green.
I turn to see it from another angle and — dear God, it looks even worse from the back. It doesn’t help that a few weeks of stress-baking have made me, let’s say... a little fuller in the chest and hips. “Put me in the back of every picture, and I could be your green screen.”
Jules comes up behind me, tiny and toned in her own shiny green ensemble. “You look hot in it. Trust me.”
“Mami,” Ami calls, “doesn’t that neckline show off Ollie’s collarbones?”
“And her chichis.” Mom’s glass has been refilled once more, and she takes another long, slow drink.
The rest of the bridesmaids tumble into the suite, and there is a loud, collective, emotional uproar over how beautiful Ami looks in her dress. This reaction is standard in the Torres family. I realize this may sound like the observation of a bitter sibling, but I promise, it’s not. Ami has always loved attention, and — as evidenced by my screaming on the six o’clock news — I do not. My sister practically glows under the spotlight; I am more than happy to help direct the spotlight her way.
"My sister practically glows under the spotlight; I am more than happy to help direct the spotlight her way."
We have twelve female first cousins; all of us in each other’s business 24/7, but with only seven (free) dresses included in Ami’s prize, hard decisions had to be made. A few cousins are still living on Mount Passive-Aggressive over it and went in on their own room together to get ready, but it’s probably for the best; this room is way too small for that many women to safely maneuver themselves into Spanx at the same time, anyway.
A cloud of hair spray hangs in the air around us, and there are enough curling and flat irons and various bottles littering the counter to keep a decent-sized salon going. Every surface grows either tacky with some sort of styling product or hidden beneath the contents of someone’s over-turned makeup bag.
There’s a knock at the suite door, and Jules opens it to find our cousin Diego standing on the other side. Twenty- eight, gay, and better groomed than I could ever manage, Diego cried sexism when Ami told him he couldn’t be part of the bridal party and would have to hang with the grooms- men. If his expression as he takes in my dress is any indication, he now considers himself blessed.
“I know,” I say, giving up and stepping away from the mirror. “It’s a little—”
“Tight?” he guesses.
I glare at him. “No.”
“I was going to say green.”
He tilts his head as he steps around me, absorbing it from every angle. “I was going to offer to do your makeup, but it’d be a waste of my time.” He waves a hand. “No one will be looking at your face today.”
“No slut-shaming, Diego,” my mother says, and I notice she didn’t disagree with his assessment, she just told him not to shame me for it.
I give up on worrying about the dress — and how much boob I’m going to have on display for the entire wedding and reception — and turn back to the chaos of the room. While cousins Static Guard each other and ask opinions on shoes, a dozen conversations are happening at once. Natalia dyed her brown hair to blond and is convinced she has ruined her face. Diego agrees. The underwire popped out of Stephanie’s strapless bra, and Tía María is explaining how to just tape up her boobs instead. Cami and Ximena are arguing over whose Spanx are whose, and Mom is polishing off her glass of champagne. But amid all the noise and chemicals, Ami’s attention is back on her list. “Olive, have you checked in with Dad? Is he here yet?”
“He was in the reception hall when I got here.”
“Good.” Another check.
It might seem strange that the job of checking in with our dad fell to me, and not his wife — our mother—who is sitting right here, but that’s how it works in our family. The parentals don’t interact directly, not since Dad cheated and Mom kicked him out but then refused to divorce him. Of course we were on her side, but it’s been ten years and the drama is still just as fresh for both of them today as it was the day she caught him. I can’t think of a single conversation they’ve had that hasn’t been through me, Ami, or one of their combined seven siblings since Dad left. We realized early on that it’s easier for everyone this way, but the lingering sense I have from all of it is that love is exhausting.
"The parentals don’t interact directly, not since Dad cheated and Mom kicked him out but then refused to divorce him. Of course we were on her side, but it’s been ten years and the drama is still just as fresh for both of them today as it was the day she caught him."
Ami reaches for my list, and I scramble to get to it before she does; my lack of check marks would send her reeling into panic. Scanning down, I am thrilled to see the next to-do requires me to leave this foggy den of hair spray.
“I’ll go check with the kitchen to make sure they’re making a separate meal for me.” The free wedding buffet came with a shellfish spread that would send me to the morgue.
“Hopefully Dane also ordered chicken for Ethan.” Ami frowns. “God, I hope. Can you ask?”
All chatter in the room comes to a deafening halt, and eleven pairs of eyes swing my way. A dark cloud shifts across my mood at the mention of Dane’s older brother.
"All chatter in the room comes to a deafening halt, and eleven pairs of eyes swing my way. A dark cloud shifts across my mood at the mention of Dane’s older brother."
Although Dane is firmly adequate, if not a bit bro-y for my tastes — think yelling at the television during sports, vanity about muscles, and a real effort to match all of his work-out gear — he makes Ami happy. That’s good enough for me. Ethan, on the other hand, is a prickish, judgmental asshole.
Aware that I am the center of attention, I fold my arms, already annoyed. “Why? Is he allergic, too?” For some reason, the idea of having something in common with Ethan Thomas, the surliest man alive, makes me feel irrationally violent.
“No,” Ami says. “He’s just fussy about buffets.”
This jerks a laugh from me. “About buffets. Okay.” From what I’ve seen, Ethan is fussy about literally everything.
For example, at Dane and Ami’s Fourth of July barbecue, he wouldn’t touch any of the food I spent half the day making. At Thanksgiving, he switched chairs with his dad, Doug, just so he wouldn’t have to sit next to me. And last night at the rehearsal dinner, every time I had a bite of cake, or Jules and Diego made me laugh, Ethan rubbed his temples in the most dramatic show of suffering I’d ever seen. Finally I left my cake behind and got up to sing karaoke with Dad and Tío Omar. Maybe I’m still furious that I gave up three bites of really good cake because of Ethan Thomas.
Ami frowns. She’s not the biggest fan of Ethan either, but she’s got to be tired of having this conversation. “Olive. You barely know him.”
“I know him well enough.” I look at her and say two simple words: “Cheese curds.”
My sister sighs, shaking her head. “I swear to God you will never let that go.”
“Because if I eat, laugh, or breathe I’m offending his delicate sensibilities. You know I’ve been around him at least fifty times, and he still makes this face like he’s trying to place who I am?” I motion between us. “We’re twins.”
Natalia speaks up from where she’s teasing the back of her bleached hair. How is it fair that her big boobs manage to fit inside her dress? “Now’s your chance to make friends with him, Olive. Mmm, he’s so pretty.”
I give her the Displeased Torres Brow Arch in reply.
“You’ll have to go find him anyway,” Ami says, and my attention whips back to her.
At my baffled expression, she points to my list. “Number sev—”
Panic sets in immediately at the suggestion that I need to talk to Ethan, and I hold up my hand for her to stop speaking. Sure enough, when I look at my list, at spot seventy-three — because Ami knew I wouldn’t bother reading the entire list ahead of time — is the worst assignment ever: Get Ethan to show you his best man’s speech. Don’t let him say something terrible.
If I can’t blame this burden on luck, I can absolutely blame it on my sister.