how to fail at flirting, by denise williams: a beautiful story about healing and finding love (arc review)

How to Fail at Flirting, by Denise Williams

Published by Berkley (December 1st, 2020)

Genre: Adult Romance, Contemporary



One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.

thank you to Berkley Publishing for an ARC of this book. this doesn’t affect my opinion in any way.

How to Fail at Flirting is a beautiful, hard-hitting story about learning how to love yourself and others. in the form of a cute love story, denise williams delivers a strong message about healing, loving and being kinder to yourself.

three years after an abusive relationship, naya meets a new guy, jake: he’s funny, sweet and he picks up the shattered parts of her. however, her ex-boyfriend left many scars, and it’s hard for them to heal. for a subject that is so delicate and hard to talk and write about, the author did such a great job at depicting the effect an abusive partner can have on their victim. naya was not only a multi-layered, complex character, but also a sweet person who deserved the world (i had a huge urge to hug her). i understood her struggles because they felt real and more than ink on paper.

speaking of naya and her internal struggles, i wish therapy was talked about sooner. until the end, neither her nor her friends mention the possible need for therapy, even though her friends know how her ex-boyfriend abused her. and though naya starts therapy towards the end of the book, i still believe it should have been done sooner.

with that being said, i think it’s essential to mention that this book was very hard to read at times. the subjects tackled (trigger warnings below) are definitely ones you should know about before getting into this book. the story is very cute and i was swooning because of how cute it was, but i also had to put it down at times (especially towards the end) for a few minutes before picking it up again. this is not specifically a bad thing, just something i believe you, reader, should be aware of.

as i said before, naya is the sweetest, but jake, the love interest, is just a fluffball of nerdiness and cuteness. throughout the story, he is nothing but affectionate and understanding towards the main character, and though we don’t see his point of view in the book, he was still a strong character and, obviously, has a great impact.

i got used to dual point of views in romance, but How to Fail at Flirting only had naya’s point of view, which felt relevant and adequate, because her voice was strong and amplified. she had a great character development since we got to see more of her than if there was dual/multiple point of views. the story was about her and it was her story and i believe the single point of view did a great job at saying that.

in conclusion, i was actually surprised by how much i enjoyed this book. i went into it not expecting it to affect me as much as it did. i am glad i picked it up, and urge everyone who can to read it.

trigger warnings: sexual assault, mentions of past physical and emotional abuse, abusive ex-partner, harrassment, racist comments made towards the main character, on-page sex.

what’s a book that you did not expect to enjoy as much as you did? have you read How to Fail at Flirting? what were your thoughts?

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