As first posted on feministbookclub.com
I think I would immediately have to quit my job if I accidentally hooked up with my boss.
Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory is a wine-buzzed ride through Napa Valley. A you-never-know-when-you’re-going-to-fall-in-love story, Margot and Luke meet at a local bar in Napa Valley and they instantly click. After a night of a passionate hookup, they are horrified to run into each other at work the next day when they discover Luke is Margot’s new employee.
Margot is the brains behind the winery she and her brother inherited from their late uncle. Luke recently moved back to Napa Valley, his childhood home, after leaving his job in tech. Both of them feel like they have something to prove to their families and go to great lengths to try to impress them. We spend the novel watching them navigate these barriers (aside from the huge barrier of being employer and employee) in their exploration of their relationship.
One thing I love about Jasmine Guillory books is that she makes sure to showcase Black women living soft lives. So many books about Black people, Black women specifically, feature trauma and mirror real life very closely. In Drunk on Love, we see Margot live a successful life as a wine seller. This isn’t to say she doesn’t struggle with day-to-day life, but she isn’t facing adversity due to poverty, sexual assault, substance abuse, or violence. She is free to be herself and live her life on her terms.
Luke is also defying stereotypes. He is a Black man in tech. And not in a tech bro way. He isn’t concerned with losing his job because he’d also lose status or money, but rather because he doesn’t want to disappoint his mom. He shows healthy masculinity (I have a low tolerance for romance novels that glorify toxic masculinity) in a way that is in opposition to so many narratives, we see about Black men.
The Boss Trope Flipped on Its Head
Guillory also takes the trope of employee and employer and gender flips it. When I usually read romance framed in the context of boss and employee, it feels gross. Power dynamics can be fun to play with, but sometimes it’s a bit much when the dynamic is between a male boss and a female employee. Like we don’t get gender exploitation on top of blurring the lines of consent when someone directly supervises the person they are having sex with.
When the dynamic is between a female boss and a male employee, it adds an interesting dynamic to the power structure. This narrative challenges the structure of women always having to be submissive to male dominance, in both sexual and nonsexual contexts. It’s not quite an equal exchange, but it disrupts that norm.
I would not have the same opinion if *HUGE spoiler* Margot and Luke actually had sex again as an employer and employee. Instead, they wait until after Luke quits his job. This ensures a consensual relationship, one without those problematic power dynamics. And explicit consent in romance novels is just so hot to me.
Racism Is Still Real
I can’t stand when a novel with People of Color (Black people specifically, because this is my lived experience) pretend that racism just doesn’t exist, and this has been a limitation for me in past Guillory novels. The story doesn’t have to be centered around racism, but unless this is a fantasy novel, we can’t pretend that racism isn’t woven into every fabric of all our institutions.
Racism is the uninteresting, but necessary, side character present throughout the novel. We see how it pops up in the isolation Black residents of Napa Valley feel until they make connections with other Black people. We see microaggressions running rampant in the tech world. We see it when people question the legitimacy of a Black-owned wine company. I like how Guillory has taken more of a balanced approach between the soft lives of Black people and the harsh realities and banalities of racism.
Drunk on Love was a quick and easy read. The spicy scenes were definitely hot enough for my taste, although I didn’t get quite enough swoon. I would still recommend it if you need a palate cleanser between some tough books, or just a nice vacation read (especially if you are going to Napa Valley).