Updated: Apr 5
By Andreina Rodriguez
When it comes to Latino households, it’s common for families to play an essential role in a couple’s relationship. It’s not just about the two individuals in love. That’s what I gathered from reading Natalie Caña’s latest romance-comedy novel, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse.
Published by Mira Books, the book centers on Kamilah Vega and Liam Kane in the Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park. Although they can’t stand each other, Liam and Kamilah have known each other since childhood. They both work at their family-owned businesses, providing a sense of fresh eyes and ideas in their gentrifying neighborhood. Liam’s family whiskey distillery is on the verge of winning a national competition. At the same time, Kamilah has been desperate to convince her family to enter their Puerto Rican restaurant in the Fall Foodie Tour.
Their plans take a turn once Liam discovers his grandfather, Killian, has terminal cancer. Determined to seeing his only grandchild marry before it’s too late, Killian and Kamilah’s abuelo Santiago plot to get their two grandchildren to marry. Kamilah and Liam are forced into an engagement or the devious grandfathers will sell the building that houses both of their businesses.
Granda Killian says it best: “Neither one of your lives is what could be considered fine. You are both lonely workaholics who are focused on the wrong things.”
Kamilah and Liam agree to the plan. However, they fake an engagement in an attempt to outwit their grandfathers and get what they want. Liam wants his grandfather to seek treatment for his cancer, while Kamilah yearns for a shot at running her family’s restaurant.
From there, the plan escalates.
Between the talks of delicious food, whiskey tastings, and the fact that it’s set during the fall with a trip to a pumpkin patch, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse can be perfect for picking up and getting lost in its cozy feels. The grandfather duo is also a hilarious relationship that deserves its own sequel.
In her book, Caña highlights many relatable themes, except for arranged engagement. The relationship is a mix of enemies-to-lovers and fake romance tropes, but what stuck out to me the most are the family dynamics and character development.
In both cases, Kamilah and Liam find themselves at a crossroads. Kamilah struggles to gain the approval of her parents. She believes she knows best on how to save the family business. Although she’s passionate, her family doesn’t see her ideas as actual plans, causing her to feel undermined and underestimated.
In Liam’s case, he’s unable to provide enjoyable tours to guests of the distillery in the same manner his grandfather does. Liam’s passion for teaching about the whiskey distillery process tends to come off as dull to the guests and contrasts with his grandfather’s naturally charming personality.
Kamilah and Liam are challenged with what it’s like to be accepted as they are by their families. Along the way, this helps them see that they could help one another.
Throughout the book, Caña does a great job at highlighting the complexities of Liam and Kamilah, as well as their family members. She showcases themes of sacrifice, resentment, and insecurities in family relationships that many would understand as toxic. However, as we’ve seen throughout more examples of representation of Latino households in media, these situations are pretty normal, and the more we talk about it, the more we can learn from them.
Like any romance novel, it has scenes of drama, disputes, raunchiness, and many wholehearted cute moments that can sometimes come off as cringy. But for me, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse runs deeper than just another cute love story. It’s the representation I didn’t know we needed.
About the Author:
Natalie Caña has been many things: a teacher of fun-sized to king-sized humans, a seriously unqualified softball coach, a scaredy-cat Halloween store manager, an Emmy award winning public television producer, and more. The one thing she’s ALWAYS been, since she first picked up a pencil, is a writer.
She loves to incorporate her you’ll-never-believe-what-just-happened-to-me personal experiences, enthusiasm for telenovela tomfoolery, and love for her Latinx culture into creating funny, heartfelt, and just a little bit over-the-top contemporary romances for characters who look and sound like her.
When she’s not writing in her peaceful, Hamilton-themed office, Natalie can most often be found engaging in shenanigans with most of her family (who almost all live within a ten block radius) or taking naps with her fur baby, Mr. Bruno Mars (Also known as, He Who Doesn’t Feel Like Doing Anything.)
Andreina Rodriguez is a journalist from Queens, New York. Her work appears on all 12 NBC local websites, Refinery29, CNBC, Latino Rebels, The Mujerista, #WeAllGrow Latina, and Modern Brown Girl.
You can follow her on Twitter @andreina_rodrgz and follow her work through andreinarodriguez.com.