The Decent Proposal: A Novel

The Decent Proposal: A Novel

by Kemper Donovan


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An addictively readable debut romantic comedy, drama, and mystery rolled into one, about two very different strangers whose lives become intertwined when they receive an unusual proposition. This is a funny, tender, and enchanting story about love, attraction, and friendship: Jane Austen in Los Angeles.

A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).

At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.

Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?

What ensues is a delightful journey full of twists, revelations, hamburgers, classic literature, poppy music, and above all love, in its multitude of forms. The Decent Proposal is a heartfelt and often hilarious look at the ties that bind not just a guy and a girl but an entire, diverse cast of characters situated within a modern-day Los Angeles brought to full and irrepressible life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594858362
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 112,447
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

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The Decent Proposal 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars The Decent Proposal was just that, a decent read. There was nothing blatantly wrong with it, but it did not have the hook I was looking for to really draw me in. Richard and Elizabeth are strangers who meet for the first time in a lawyers office. There, they are told that they will each receive $500,000 in a year’s time as long as they get together and talk once a week. At first these two have nothing in common, but then they start to connect and have to learn if the path they are following is true or manufactured by outside influences. I enjoyed the plot Kemper Donovan created. It is an interesting take on blind dating and combined a meet cute with a bit of mystery. Donovan’s writing was clean and conveyed the story well. The pacing had a few weak spots, at times it dragged, then evened out and then it would ramp up a little too quickly. The world built was solid, although a few times it lacked cohesion. The emotions were there, but they were more low key than I would have liked. The characters were where I had the most issues. I loved the mains, but their sidekicks were both overbearing and obnoxious and I would have preferred less attention on them and more on Richard and Elizabeth. The premise was cute and I enjoyed the interplay between the two main characters. However the other characters dragged the story down by siphoning attention away. This did not make The Decent Proposal a bad read, it just dragged a great story to a good story. The big reveal was also a little lacking as in the scope of the story it never quite made sense. Kemper Donovan’s debut was a cute read that suffered a few issues. But the heart of the story worked and I did love the main characters. The Decent Proposal was a step above the average and Donovan has potential to be a very successful author if the true heart of the story comes across more. I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan is a highly recommended light hearted L.A. boy-and-girl-are-paid-to-meet story. Richard Baumbach and Elizabeth Santiago are strangers who have been presented with a more than decent proposal through a lawyer representing an anonymous benefactor. They are being offered five hundred thousand dollars each if they will meet once a week and spend two hours together, talking, for one full calendar year. It is an offer that is legit, with a legal contract, which they both find hard to refuse. Richard is a struggling, broke, frequently hungover Hollywood producer with a large credit card debt to pay off. He's a charming, optimistic, handsome 29 year old whose best friend is Mike (Michaela). The offer, what he calls starts calling the #DecentProposal (which Mike reduces to the DP) on social media will allow him to help finance his production company and it might provide him with a good plot for a future project. It could be fun too, an adventure. Elizabeth, 33, is a serious, driven lawyer on her way to becoming a partner in the law firm. She is known around her law firm as "La Máquina" (the Machine) for billable hours and ability to focus on the task at hand without distraction. She doesn't do social media or TV. Running the numbers, the proposal will more than compensate her for her time and allow her to help a homeless man, Orpheus Washington, that she has befriended. The two agree to the proposal and first meet at an In-N-Out Burger. It becomes clear that, while they both might like In-N-Out, they are also vastly different people whose lives and interests are quite disparate. If they are to survive 52 weekly two hour meetings comprised of one-on-one discussions, they need to find some creative plan to help facilitate it. The ingeniously decide to make it a book and film discussion club. One week they will read chapters and discuss a classic book under Elizabeth's guidance and the next week they will watch and scrutinize a movie of Richard's choice. The Decent Proposal is satisfying on several levels. It succeeds as a romantic comedy with elements of a mystery. The writing is quite good in this debut novel. It flows well and the plot is well paced and even. The contrast between the two main characters is well defined and their interaction with each other is believable. While I'm not normally known for reading novels described as romantic, The Decent Proposal is a comfortable, comedic, entertaining novel rather than a heavy romantic romp. It is very clearly set in a current Los Angeles that will be recognizable to those who know L.A. and its environs. Donovan captures the culture and life style of those in the entertainment industry. He contrasts those in the entertainment industry to those who are native Californians (Elizabeth grew up in South Central) and not transplants from other parts of the country. In addition, the choice of movies and books the two discuss is interesting. Don't expect any great literary or cinematic discussion as a part of the novel, just the titles are provided as part of the plot. They serve to highlight the many differences between Richard and Elizabeth. I had a few minor issues, especially with the ending. It felt a bit abrupt and awkward compared to the rest of the narrative. But don't let that stop you from reading The Decent Proposal. This would be a perfect choice for a summer vacation novel. It is light hearted escapism with some self-discovery and personal growt