Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Theme: Fake Relationship, Opposites Attract
Archetype: Character with a Disability
Two Wrongs Make a Right is inspired, very loosely, by Much Ado About Nothing. It lacks most of the conflict of the play, but has its own charm. What you really need to know is that this is a cute book with neurodivergent characters and a fake-dating romance that is endearing if not fully believable. For each thing I liked about this book there was something I felt grumpy about.
Here we go! Our heroes are Jamie and Bea. Bea designs stationery. Bea, who describes herself as autistic, is clumsy, impulsive, and has a lot of tattoos. When her sister, Jules, forces her to attend a party and then forces her to meet a particular man, Jamie, at the party, things don’t go well. Bea spills drinks on him (twice) and interprets his stiff, abrupt behavior as condescension, not knowing that Jamie struggles with anxiety. Jamie, a pediatrician, wears perfectly laundered outfits, always keeps spare outfits handy, and values order and precision. “We could not be more different or unsorted,” he tells himself, after almost kissing her during this same party.
Bea and Jamie are tricked by Jules and Jules’ creepy boyfriend, who is also Jamie’s best friend, into going on a date. Bea is FURIOUS. How dare anyone control her life! I agree, Bea. You do you. Bea wants revenge. Bea and Jamie decide to use the fondness that Jules and her friends have for romantic comedies against them. They will act as though they are falling madly in love, rom-com style, and then just when everyone is invested in them as a couple, they will yell “HA IT WAS JUST A TRICK WE AREN’T IN LOVE AT ALL!”
Bea forms this scheme after watching many romantic comedies and after discussing with her sister and friends the importance of a happy ending for viewer satisfaction. Yet Bea seems to have missed the point of many, many romantic comedies, which is that fake dating ALWAYS turns real.
Sure enough, Bea and Jamie, in the name of revenge, have to interact a lot and engage in some public kisses. Public kisses lead to private kisses and to sex, and then a misunderstanding about the sex, that causes Jamie to muse, “We might be two mature adults who consensually brought each other to orgasm last Friday, but I can’t say we’ve handled it as such.” Truer words, Jamie.
Let’s get this out of the way – despite being described by the publisher as a “reimagining of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, there is very little of Much Ado here. Bea and Jaime (whose middle name is Benedict) do not resemble the leads of Much Ado in temperament or behavior, nor does the plot resemble that of the play. The bickering is minimal. After the first rocky meeting, they get to know each other and the subsequent teasing is clearly affectionate. They like each other quite quickly.
A big issue with this book is that it relies on the protagonists making choices that seem fundamentally unwise and frankly rather petty. Bea has a lot of baggage that makes her especially angered by Jules’ trick, and she’s right to be angry, but to invest weeks into creating a fake relationship only so that you can make everyone sad about it later seems like overkill.
Of course, we also know that the only people who will really suffer are Bea and Jamie, who are clearly totally into each other. As I mentioned, they don’t bicker very much. They don’t even dislike each other, at least, not after the first few chapters. These people should be together and the book should be over by the end of Chapter Ten, although that would deprive us of the discovery that Bea has a pet hedgehog named Cornelius.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: No matter how much your special someone likes hedgehogs, do not, I repeat, DO NOT surprise them with a real hedgehog to keep as a pet. As Bea indicates, they require a lot of patience and hard work. Also, when hedgehogs are stressed, they poop, and then they roll around in their poop so as to be even less attractive to predators than they were when they were simply a ball of needles. Sometimes, the poop is bright green. Festive! So if a ball of needles covered with festively-colored feces does not seem like something you want to deal with, DON’T get a pet hedgehog and never surprise ANYONE with a pet of ANY KIND. Also wash your hands after you handle a hedgehog, you gross human.
Lest the pro-hedgehog people come for me, I would like to go on record as saying that I adore hedgehogs in general, and Cornelius in particular is adorable and never stress poops. Here is a very special video about hedgehogs to make up for the previous paragraph.
Back to the book.
Bea’s product line is called “Prurient Paper” and it has patterns that look G-rated but actually contain subtle, hidden erotic pictures. Yes, please. I love this quote from her:
How original and singular each person is. The parts of our bodies that diet culture and photoshopping tell us we should try to erase and hide-human “imperfection” – they were what I thought, and still do think, makes us works of art. Stretch marks. Wrinkles. Freckles and fine lines and rolls and curves. I realized that I wanted to make art celebrating that, defending that belief.
This is beautiful, yet I could not fail to notice that Bea frequently comments on the fact that Jamie has a fantastic body by conventional Western standards, including strong arms and legs and a flat stomach and toned rear end.
This is related to another problem I have with Jamie – he’s too perfect. In a book that is about the importance of accepting others and loving them the way they are, he’s an easy out. Given that he makes a lot of changes so that Bea can feel valued and loved, and he resembles a Greek God, what’s not to accept? He basically turns himself into her perfect man, accepting mess, being more social, going to restaurants he wouldn’t normally go to because he thinks she’ll like them, even getting a tattoo. This isn’t Bea accepting Jamie how he is – this is Jamie as a fantasy perfect hero – and that felt very out of place given the repeated messages about acceptance. Bea doesn’t change anything.
Admittedly, fake dating isn’t one of my favorite tropes. For people who do like fake dating stories, this book will probably work better, but I was disappointed in how civil and minimalist the fake dating is. The back cover copy promises that they will “fake date obnoxiously” (emphasis is from the back cover). A few instances of mild PDA and two Instagrammable dates is not obnoxious enough to make me laugh in the manner I hoped for. Likewise, enemies-to-lovers fans might be disappointed at how very quickly Bea and Jamie stop being enemies (almost immediately).
Now, I’m being very grumpy here but let us also consider the many great things the book has to offer. We have discussion of toxic relationships, including one that Bea recently got out of. We have good neurodiverse representation. We have a hedgehog. We have positive discussions about therapy.
Above all, Bea and Jamie are genuinely adorable together. I totally believe in their HEA. While their romance arc wasn’t always to my liking, the way they behave around one another is. The most important thing about a romance novel is whether or not we believe in the romance, and I did. Granted, a large part of what makes these two seem compatible is that Jamie makes a LOT of changes in his preferences (unless maybe he was always someone who, for instance, secretly loved karaoke but couldn’t express it until Bea brought it out in him).
Still, at the end of the day, I want this couple to be together and I feel optimistic about their future happiness. By that measure, the book is a success.
This book is available from:
As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
We also may use affiliate links in our posts, as well. Thanks!
Add Your Comment →
I recently DNF’d this. I found the interfering friends annoying, Bea’s reactions seemed over the top, and I was not getting any Much Ado About Nothing vibes from the story. I kept trying to go back to the audiobook but kept listening to new books instead, so I decided to return it early to the library.
That’s disappointing. I was looking forward to this one.
Are there any good Much Ado romances?
Commenting to follow and second @lisa’s request for good Much Ado retellings? This doesn’t quite sound like my cup of tea.
@lisa, Emily: I remember liking a Tiffany Reisz novella that was inspired by Much Ado. It had a lot going on for a novella though–the heroine had been rejected years ago by the hero for reasons, and is now a sex blogger, and is attending her sister’s wedding and there are things happening with that B-couple, and also she had some baggage about immigrating to the US as a child…?
In retrospect it actually had very little to do with Much Ado. I read a review of it on this site saying basically it didn’t work as a retelling but kind of worked on its own if you ignored the Shakespeare elements, and i agree with that. So it might not be what you’re looking for, but still enjoyable!
“This is related to another problem I have with Jamie – he’s too perfect.”
I know the feeling. I enjoyed Marian Keyes’s Watermelon a lot, but the way she kept emphasizing how ridiculously perfect the love interest was constituted a big flaw in the book.
Bad enough to have an unrealistic love interest, worse yet to point out how unrealistic he is.
Lisle’s books are all over the map for me and yeah, I noticed a lot of issues when I tried this myself.