Review: Wait For It by Mariana Zapata
Mariana Zapata's Wait For It is by far the best example of the single mom trope I have read. Wait For It is the story of Diana who, after the tragic death of her brother and his wife, finds herself the new guardian of her two young nephews, Josh and Louie. The book begins a few years into her guardianship and starts with their move into a new home and neighborhood. And with that new neighborhood, comes a new neighbor, Dallas, who is tall, dark, and handsome…and just happens to be Josh's new baseball coach.
When it comes to “single mom romances”, I always have reservations. Many books that follow this trope use the children as a convenient plot device to keep the heroine and the hero apart. The main obstacle these two have to hurdle is the mother's trust issues when it comes to her children. I understand that entrusting children with someone else is a delicate issue however, more often than not, the child isn't even a character in the story. Or if they are, they act as an ill-timed (or convenient?) cock-blocking device. Children are used as props rather than treated as actual characters. They are forgotten, easily left behind in the story, rather than adding to it. In some cases, the hero and the children very rarely interact, which, to me, seems like a huge oversight in the story especially since the main obstacle the lovers need to hurdle is her trust in him with her kids. How can she gauge that trust if the man never meets the kids????
What I love about this book is that, while it employs the single mom trope, the boys are a very real part of the story. Diana's love and devotion to these two boys is made unequivocally clear time and again. She is a mama-bear when it comes to them. Fighting for them, loving them, and reprimanding them when they need it. But there is a huge undercurrent of doubt and vulnerability when it comes to her ability (and credibility) to raise Josh and Lou. I imagine most parents feel some sort of doubt when raising their kids, but Diana's is compounded based on the fact that, 1) these are not her biological children, 2) these kids came to her due to traumatic circumstances, 3) she receives criticism on how she raises them from multiple sources, and 4) raising kids is hard. Her life took a very sudden and abrupt turn when she became the boys' guardian, but she has poured her life into making sure Josh and Lou know they are loved.
Josh and Lou interact with Dallas almost as much as Diana interacts with him. It helps that Zapata made him the baseball coach and neighbor, to be sure, but all the times in which all four of them are in the same scene together, it never feels forced. Dallas never steps on Diana's toes as she raises them. Never makes a bid to seem like the “cool” adult leaving Diana behind as the “mean” one. There is no power dynamic struggle between the two of them. As the story progresses, it becomes evident that Dallas has come to love and care for the boys in his own way. It is a family of three slowly accepting this new person into their lives…eventually forever.
I'd be the star of the show until this man came into it and set this space for himself that no one else could ever fill. The boys loved him almost as much as me. I wasn't even a little upset about it. - Diana
If there is one thing I've learned from reading Mariana Zapata's stories it is that she is the queen of the slow burn. She manages to weave these captivating stories of two people gradually falling in love. So gradual, in fact, that near the end of the books I am yelling at her characters to just, “do the do already!!!” The reader can tell, the hero can tell, every other supporting character can tell that these two people are in love. Everyone, that is, except for the heroine. She manages to capture the excitement and doubts a person feels when falling in love. I'm sure any woman who has ever liked anyone can relate to Zapata's heroines.
A misunderstanding borne out of misread intentions gets these two lovebirds started out on the wrong foot. It is amusing to read these stilted interactions between Dallas and Diana, knowing that somehow she'll win him over. And once she figures out why he's being so standoffish, she confronts it, head on.
Just so you know, yes, I think you're a good-looking guy, but you're not my type. I swear I'm not trying to get in your pants or anything. I can see your wedding ring, and I don't do that kind of thing…You and Trip scouted Josh out. It wasn't like I was trying to get him on the team to seduce you or something…I'd like us to be friends since we live across the street from each other, but if that's not something you're willing to do, it's okay. I'm not going to cry about it...So? Should I fuck off or not? - Diana
And that's part of what I like so much about Diana's character. She's bold, sassy, and willing to go to the mats for her boys. But she is also a very vulnerable character (see above about raising the boys) and that is where Dallas comes in. Dallas becomes the support that Diana didn't know she needed. He slowly becomes a friend and then a confidant to her, being willing to listen to her and support her even when he may not know exactly what to do. It is his quiet support and steadfastness that has Diana eventually falling in love with Dallas.
Dallas was the most constant man I had ever met in my life. His patience, steadfastness, and determination covered every inch of his entire being as he smiled at me. - Diana
Dallas, raised by a single mother himself, recognizes that Diana's stubborn ass needs help every once in a while. And so he helps her, not taking “no” for an answer. Not because he doesn't believe she is capable, but because he recognizes that she needs someone else to help shoulder the burden. It is through their friendship, the inside jokes, the teasing, the laughter, and their vulnerability with each other that Dallas falls in love with Diana.
I thought you were crazy at first, and then I got to know you and I liked you-you were my friend and you were nice just because that's how you are, not because you wanted anything from me. And then that day I was taking lice out of your hair, you looked up at me while we were laughing and I knew I was done…Diana, I love you, and every bone in my body tells me that I'm gonna love you every day of my life, even when we want to kill each other. - Dallas
While the book is slow in some places, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It does take a while for Diana and Dallas to start interacting regularly, but those parts only serve to develop the relationship between Diana, Josh, and Lou. While, yes, this is a romance story, I'd like to say more that this is a love story. It is the story of the love between a mom and her boys. A story of love between a man and woman. A story of love of a growing family. It's a story about the messiness of love.
- The hand connected to the forearm I'd been touching came up to my eye level. His fingers went to my chin cupping it as he looked directly into my eyes. “If something happened to you, I wouldn't be okay. I would never be okay.”
- “What do you want from me?” “Everything.”
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