Book Review: "The Decent Proposal" by Kemper Donovan

This book review of "The Decent Proposal," by Kemper Donovan is written by Aly Hay, a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path. This review was originally was published in Steamboat Today.

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ISBN: 9780062391629
Availability: Special Order
Published: Harper - April 5th, 2016

“The Decent Proposal,” Kemper Donovan’s hilariously romantic debut novel, is reminiscent of a modern Jane Austen-style story based in sunny Los Angeles. Dramatic and mysterious, this upbeat story is bound to become a classic with its enchanting setting and unforgettable, yet relatable characters

Richard Baumbach is a struggling, 29-year-old Hollywood producer who is scrambling just to remember what he did last night. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm that makes all the girls swoon, the last person he would ever be seen with is Elizabeth Santiago. At 33 and after eight long years of law school and even more grueling time in the professional realm, Miss Santiago, or “La Máquina,” (Spanish for “The Machine”), is finally about to make partner at her L.A. law firm.

The excitement begins when Richard and Elizabeth are invited to an out-of-the-blue meeting and presented with a very unusual proposition: An anonymous benefactor offers them the chance to split one million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together every week for one year.

Of course, they both say, “yes.” Having been complete strangers before the proposal, both are thrilled by the chance to add a little rainy-day topping to their bank accounts. Richard needs the money as he struggles to live the L.A. lifestyle he really wants and is thrilled by the adventure and possibility of fame the arrangement provides.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, embraces the challenge of breaking out of her meticulously tidy and quiet life. Both participants agree the idea is completely ridiculous, but come on — would you turn down the chance to earn $500,000?

It would be too easy for Richard and Elizabeth to simply complete the challenge and accept their prize. Enter Mike, A.K.A. Michaela. She’s been in love with Richard ever since she made the horrendous mistake of breaking up with him during their crazy college years. She doesn’t like the D.P. (Decent Proposal) one bit, and she’s willing to go to any length to win Richard back.

Donovan has ingeniously captured a unique cast of outrageously flawed characters that help remind the reader of the redeeming power of loving someone through their many weaknesses. “The Decent Proposal” is a heartfelt and endearing close-up of the ties between a typical guy and a no-nonsense girl.

If you were offered the same proposition by a mysterious benefactor with a chance to earn $500,000 and maybe a love story for the record books, what would you say? Whether it’s for the money or the need to quench your overwhelming sense of adventure, try spending two hours per week with a complete stranger, and by the end of the year, who knows? Maybe you’ll find love in an unimaginable way. On second thought, just spend time with a good book.