Dreamland sounds a lot more enticing today than the place that it’s inspired by. It took a beat for me to pick up this series because the concept of corporate office romances personally isn’t my jam, but good heavens is The Fine Print by Lauren Asher an exceptionally thrilling read.
What ultimately works best in the novel is the detail that the power imbalance is largely nonexistent. Still toxic in the beginning because this trope could never be thoroughly wholesome, but the dynamic between Zahra Gulian and Rowan Kane is compelling, full of delicious longing, and gorgeously rewarding. The grumpy and sunshine trope threads their story together in an absorbing way that counteracts the initial power imbalance and makes it feel restorative instead. He might be higher up, but in mind, body, and spirit, she outranks him in every way. None of what’s possible in the end would exist if he didn’t choose to love her with everything in him.
As The Fine Print by Lauren Asher unfolds, the state of Dreamland also plays a riveting role in the romance, allowing it to become a character in itself. The series works because, from the start, the character nuances and complexities enable readers to understand there’s a bigger draw here than corporate hogwash. And it works because, more than anything, the story is unapologetically romantic. Rowan Kane will forever go down in romance history as a top-tier book boyfriend for pulling all his ranks to ensure his girl gets to go to her favorite author’s book signing. Who else is out there doing stuff like this!?
Yet, the romance aside, I was personally always going to adore this book the moment I realized that my girl Zahra Gulian is Armenian. It’s not only rare for our stories to be told, but it’s rare for them to come from non-Armenians and with such grace. With all her wins, I was the human embodiment of Mushu from Mulan, wanting her to go off and destroy it all and set things right, which she does brilliantly, if I may add. Zahra and her entire family, including her sister Ani, who plays a pivotal role in the relationship, are all easy to root for and care about. And the organic draw here comes from crafting characters who are layered, not perfect. They’re the type of characters who feel natural and understandable. They aren’t picture-perfect, but they’re honest and raw. And in this sense, it makes Zahra the best kind of heroine because there will likely be many rooting for her even amidst all her flaws and successes. She’s the kind of sunshine who glows because of her layers and imperfections.
The Fine Print by Lauren Asher remains memorable for its exceptional writing. Asher’s voice is stunning, and the words on a page morph together like an astoundingly flawed mosaic that touches on humanity and love beautifully. The hurt/comfort in this book, the adoration threaded into the longing, and even the details that the initial banter doesn’t fade by the end are fantastic. The emotional journey Zahra’s love places Rowan on is incredibly organic and worthwhile, making him the kind of softie whose layers merely needed to be watered to push forward and grow. Emotionally stunted but bursting with much to say and do, the romance here will be remembered for a long, long time.
The Fine Print by Lauren Asher is now available wherever books are sold.