Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon is an own-voices South Asian adult romance contemporary novel that follows Annika Dev as she works hard at making her app, Make Up, the quintessential relationship-fixer app. Meanwhile, Hudson Craft has already begun building his own empire via another relationship app, Break Up, that turns breaking up into a high-efficiency part of life—the abominating adversary to Annika’s philosophy. None of this would be such a colossal issue if Annika and Hudson had gone their separate ways after wrapping up their short-lived fling in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Annika, not only has Hudson usurped her technological ideas, but he is also moving into her office building into the office next to hers while competing in the same investment pitch contest. As they clash again and again and again, Annika finds herself drawn to Hudson’s high-velocity world, undermining everything she thought she knew about her wickedly handsome yet deviant rival.
I love the author’s young adult contemporary novels, written under the name Sandhya Menon, so when I saw that she was embarking into the adult romance world, I became intrigued and immediately interested. Make Up Break Up illustrates Ms Menon’s talents at crafting genuine characters amid creative settings and storylines that pull the reader into the pages with wholehearted excitement. The best aspects of this debut adult title include the interchanges between Annika and Hudson, strong, independent females, and the excellent writing.
The bulk of the novel centres on quirky banter between the two leading characters that helps to establish intensely steamy sexual tension. Their chemistry is marvellously natural and further heightened by their past sexual relationship. It also works to counteract some of the cliché elements that come with the rivals-to-lovers trope, preventing it from getting stale or uninteresting. Both Annika and Hudson are headstrong workaholic types as well, so getting to witness how vulnerable they are when it comes to interpersonal connections made them more empathetic, especially with folx who may have their own struggles with relationships (like me).
Make Up Break Up also has a couple of phenomenally bright and independent women who are passionate about their businesses, particularly within a field that tends to be male-dominated. I have never seen a romance novel before where the ladies were involved in such a technologically heavy industry. This gives it an air of feministic allure that I would love to see more of within the genre.
Menon’s writing style is superb. She has a way of mesmerising the reader with the character’s plights in a manner that feels sincere and easy to understand or relate to, compelling us to read onwards to see their happy endings. It is always so wholesome and pleasant to dive into the pages of whatever she has penned, and Make Up Break Up is by far no exception to this. I mainly adored how the notion of really struggling to find one’s place in a professional environment can be quite daunting, more so when it feels like the universe is against them, or when it takes place in a cutthroat industry. These are issues we see commonly in young adult literature nowadays, but not quite as much in adult contemporary romances.
If there are any traits that may be off-putting, it would be the ending, which was extremely abrupt when compared to the slow-burn development of the romance between our leading cast members and their confessions. I was hoping for a more fleshed out and completed ending that portrayed a deeper dynamic to Annika and Hudson’s bond as a full-blown couple.
Overall, readers should expect an exquisitely delicious romantic treat with Make Up Break Up. Ms Menon has outdone herself with this foray into the adult romance genre and I have very high expectations for her next project! I highly recommend this for fans of feel-good adult romance stories that are both steamy and heart-warming and for people who enjoy rivals-to-lovers tropes done quite well.
This review first appeared on my retired sibling blog, The Djinn Reader. Also, I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of St. Martin’s Griffin.
Publication Date: February 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: South Asian Literature, Adult Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 336
Content Warnings: Death of a parent (off page). Car accident. Alcohol consumption. Mention of marijuana use. Consensual sex (on page).
GoodReads: Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon