When I’m having the kind of week where everything sucks and the world is a trash fire, I gravitate towards super fluffy, angst-free romances. Last year, I discovered one of my favourites, Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron. I was thoroughly charmed by the friends-to-lovers, marriage-of-convenience situation and smiled my way through it. So, when I heard she had another friends-to-lovers book coming out with a marriage element, I did a little happy dance. It came just in time too, because I was able to read it during a spectacularly bad week, and it was a perfect refuge.
Didn’t Stay in Vegas has an opening scene that immediately hooked me. Seriously, I looked around my bedroom when I read it because I wanted to immediately tell someone all about it. Alas, I was alone. Anyway, it starts like this:
I woke up with glitter in my junk. Granted, I also woke up wearing a dress I didn’t remember buying, in a bed I’d never seen before, and with the worst hangover in the history of time. I had to pee as if I’d drunk twelve gallons of liquid and, judging by the intensity of the hangover pounding in my body, I might have had that much in alcoholic beverages.
I groped my way around the too-bright room and found the bathroom, shielding my eyes from the pure white marble and gaudy gold accents. I yanked up the dress to find (with relief) that I was wearing underwear, but then a shower of glitter fell to the white marble floor.
“The fuck?” I said, taking my underwear fully down and folding myself in half to glare at my junk. What was going on down there?
Callyn Stott is the woman who’s woken up in an unfamiliar hotel room, with a fancy dress and a beglittered vulva (name of my future band). Another woman is with her and she’s relieved to realize it’s her best friend, Emma Vitali. Emma is equally hung over, also wearing a new, fancy dress, and can barely stand because she feels like total shit. They both know they’re in Vegas for a friend’s bachelorette trip, but they can’t remember much of the night before, including how they ended up in a totally different hotel than the one they’d checked into.
When their friends come by with a change of clothes, things are no clearer, because none of them had been with Callyn and Emma the night before. Everything changes, though, when Emma grabs a piece of paper that had fallen under the couch and sees that it’s a marriage certificate. Correction, it’s their marriage certificate.
Of course, Emma and Callyn discuss annulling the marriage when they get back to Boston, but then Emma suggests that they just… don’t.
“You want to stay married? Why?” I managed to say at last.
“Well, think about it,” she said, using her hands because she had clearly thought about this and had been itching to tell me.
“What is there to think about? We can’t just stay married, Em. Wouldn’t we get in trouble?” She was freaking me out right now.
She leaned closer and she had a wild gleam in her eyes. “Why? Callyn, there’s no marriage police. And consider that if we were married, it might benefit us.” I shook my head, trying to get my thoughts to make sense.
“Well, we could file our taxes jointly, it would help us financially, and we could share health insurance. There’re all kinds of benefits. I looked them up.” Of course she did. Emma proceeded to pull the list up on her phone and read it to me. My head spun with confusion and hearing too many words I didn’t know the meaning of. What the hell was an estate tax?
“Yes, of course, they should stay married because of the tax benefits,” I said to myself with all the affectionate sarcasm I had within me.
Callyn is the ultimate useless lesbian, which, according to the always reliable Urban Dictionary, is “A lesbian who can’t take a hint that another girl likes her, no matter how obvious it is.” I say this because it’s clear from pretty much the beginning that Emma’s in love with her and she just hasn’t noticed yet. They cuddle, Emma brushes and braids Callyn’s hair, and Emma even bakes for her and has a silly game where she makes Callyn guess what she’s baked before giving it to her. I kept shouting in my head “YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP, YOU SWEET, SWEET DUMBASS,” but to no avail. Callyn stayed oblivious for a damn long time, which was both adorable and infuriating.
Callyn spends a lot of time at Emma’s apartment because a) Emma’s her favourite person in the world and b) her roommates are slovenly and prone to obnoxiously loud sex with their partners. When Callyn finds out that they’re all being evicted, the natural solution is for her to move in with Emma for a few months until she can save up and find a better place. Does she move into another place? No, they buy a dog together instead and name it Vegas. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Even though Callyn hasn’t figured it out yet, it’s obvious that Emma is everything to her. The only things they’re not doing is talking openly about their feelings or having sex. And when Callyn can’t hide her feelings anymore and the sex shows up? Whoo…. For people that love reading about foreplay, this is a great one, because there is a TON of that, especially the first time they sleep together. The sex scenes in Didn’t Stay in Vegas are also some of my favourites this year because they perfectly propel the relationship from Emma first laying out her feelings to Callyn starting to acknowledge her own (even if she doesn’t fully understand them) to their eventual HEA. I wanted to praise something when their initial encounter makes Callyn acknowledge that she’d already been attracted to Emma and had been willfully ignoring it, because I could stop yelling at her for being so oblivious.
I just fucked my best friend. The best friend that I never, ever, EVER thought I would fuck.
Ok, maybe not NEVER, ever. I might have thought about Emma in a sexy way before. A few times. Definitely more lately, but I’d pushed those thoughts aside so forcefully that I’d hidden them from myself.
Callyn’s feelings get complicated pretty quickly because, while she finally knows that Emma is in love with her, Callyn isn’t there yet. I thought this aspect of their relationship was handled well and felt true because Callyn hadn’t really thought about Emma as a potential romantic partner, despite being, you know, married to her.
I did have one problem with the book, though, which is related to how Callyn finally comes to understand that she’s in love with Emma right back. I’m going to throw it behind the spoiler thingy because, well, it’s a spoiler.
Emma and Callyn keep sleeping together while Callyn is figuring out her feelings. But she didn’t actually need to figure out anything because, when she gets a call from the hospital that Emma was injured in a car accident, everything becomes crystal clear and she’s all aboard the “I love you” train. Deus ex machina indeed.
The abruptness with which Callyn goes from “I don’t know…” to “I am definitely in love with my wife” has stuck with me as a frustration in the days since I’ve finished reading Didn’t Stay in Vegas, and is why I’m giving the book a B.
Also, I know that I’ve barely talked about Emma in this review and that’s because the story is told from Callyn’s perspective, and it’s her journey. Thankfully, Emma is bad at hiding her feelings through her body language, and eventually is excellent at talking about them, so I never felt like I had a hard time understanding who she is. That said, there were many scenes where I was dying to know what Emma was thinking and if she wanted to shake Callyn as much as I did, so while I’m content with the story as it is, I’m still curious about her side of the story too.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It made me laugh and smile, and did a marvelous job of distracting me from the worst week I had all year. I’ll definitely read this one again and recommend it if you want a pick-me-up.
P.S. I was halfway through drafting this review when I read an article called “Lesbian doesn’t realise she’s in a loving relationship with her roommate” and thought “holy shit, it’s like that Chelsea Cameron book!”. Spoiler: they totally got together.