When her old friend Lena texts her out of the blue, Jasmine is having a hard time recalling how they became friends in the first place. Then she remembers: meeting Lena is how one of the longest-running lies she’s ever told originated. Lena, who used to date her friend Zack, thinks that Jasmine is Zack’s ex-girlfriend. What at first sounded fun had quickly got out-of-hand, and soon enough both Zack’s next girlfriend, his fiance, Kimmy, and everyone around them thought it was true too. Now that Zack is getting married Jas has less time than she’d like to keep Zack from making a huge mistake as well as sort out her own feelings. But after ten years of keeping up this lie, how can she tell fact from fiction?
It was with a comforting sigh that I opened My Imaginary Ex. I needed a light, quick read after recently giving birth to my daughter and I knew it would fit the bill. Mina’s premises are always catchy as well. How was Jasmine going to get out of this hole she’d dug herself? The answer to this question is what kept propelling me forward as a reader. Again I loved how effortless the writing style is, which reflects the novella-like length. There is quite a bit of jumping back and forth in time between Jasmine’s high school, college and corporate days, but the jumps were relatively easy to follow. What wasn’t as effortless to read was the explaining and recounting that accompanied it. I at times felt bogged down by all the telling necessary to explain how the ‘ex’ lie came about and how Zack’s relationships with Jasmine, Lena, and his other exes played out. While in a longer novel the amount of telling would balance out here I felt we needed more character development, especially from Jasmine. Aside from that I enjoyed Zack and Jasmine’s story, especially that their friendship became something more, even if I a little drawn out. But when they finally do get together, it’s sweet and satisfying.
Carla is the perfect executive assistant. Although she hasn’t had the ambition to move up the corporate latter, she knows how to do her job well and is happy with her consistent performance. She is single though and turning thirty in a few months, as her barkada (group of friends) like to remind her. According to them, she should want more out of life. Of course, all of said friends except one are married, and Tonio is happy playing the field. Mary, Girl Best Friend, is hoping Carla will fall for a stable banker-type and sets Carla up with them left and right. But maybe that’s not what Carla wants. Then she meets good-looking, confident Dante, who is very attracted to her and nothing like the boring banker-type. Unfortunately he’s five years younger. But maybe that doesn’t have to be a catch? As things get more and more serious with Dante, Carla’s in for a lot of awkward situations as she comes to terms with what matters, and what she wants, most.
I picked up No Strings Attached directly after finishing My Imaginary Ex. I adored the cover and the premise sounded interesting and entertaining once again. Even though I married at a young age, I thought I may relate to Carla. And in some ways I did. Staying in her professional comfort zone and feeling awkward about a five-year age difference are very natural insecurities. On the other hand I think of all Mina’s protagonists she may be the hardest to like because she can’t just let go. Beyond the younger man issue, Carla has some serious anger towards her married friends and their perception of her. With the focus of this book being on dating and relationships in general, it also came with a lot of exposition and not as much real-time action as I would’ve liked for a short novel. Overall though I enjoyed No Strings Attached and was constantly surprised at how things between Carla and Dante worked themselves out. Although Fairy Tale Fail is still my favorite book by Mina V. Esguerra, both this and My Imaginary Ex are highly entertaining, romantic comedy in book form that I would recommend to fans of romance and chick lit alike.