Review: Shipped (ARC)

Expected publication: January 19th 2021,  336 page

The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.

First and foremost, I absolutely commend this author on her research of the Galapagos Islands. These islands are amazing and do not always get the love they deserve, even though they are extremely famous. The scenery, the atmosphere, and the wildlife are all highlighted and the conservation efforts are highlighted. It’s nice that this location takes center stage as it not only provides the backdrop of the story, but also brings awareness to the threats facing this gem (I encourage any reader to read up on conserving these islands as many species, including the marine wildlife, face many threats).

The immediate connection to two novels that I enjoyed: The Unhoneymooners and The Hating Game created a need for me to get my hands on this novel to read. It takes the idea of two rival co-workers who are up for the same promotion like The Hating Game and places the two of them together on a destination vacation where they constantly have to interact with each other a la The Unhoneymooners. Even though it has similar aspects to both novels, this book makes the storyline its own and can stand on its own two feet.

Henley Rose Evans is a marketing manager for the cruise company, Seaquest. While working full-time, she is also getting her MBA with night classes. She’s incredibly busy and barely has time to keep up with her personal life, or lack thereof, and to take care of herself. When she’s called into the Chief Marketing Officer’s office, her boss James, she is informed that she up for a promotion for the new Director of Digital Marketing position. Unfortunately, she finds that her rival is also up for the same promotion and with him being James’ favorite; Henley has to now work twice as hard to prove she’s the best one for the job.

Graeme Crawford-Collins is the remote social media manager for Seaquest. He and Henley are both informed by James that they will be competing for the promotion. Their task is to go on their first Seaquest cruise to the Galapagos Islands and create a proposal for promoting this region when they return.  Not only are they both tasked with going on the cruise, but they both happen to be going on the same one due to their schedules. How will they survive being together on the cruise and who will ultimately get the promotion – read the novel to find out in this fun and entertaining novel.

As the novel is told from Henley’s point of view, you get to experience her ups and downs as she navigates everything.  She admits to herself that she had an attraction to Graeme early on in the novel and she constantly has to battle her feelings as he is not only her competition, but he’s not a good person in her eyes.  However, maybe all this time together trapped on the same cruise could open her mind to the possibility that Graeme may not be as bad as she originally thought.

My first thoughts with Henley as a character are that she is very relatable to someone trying to balance working a full time demanding career while moving through a demanding graduate program. It was nice to read a character that’s working hard to move ahead in her career and it shows that it’s a ton of work to do both.  She’s a bright woman who works hard for what she has which was refreshing. There are moments that happen to her that are very far-fetched, but it didn’t take away from my reading as it wouldn’t be a work of fiction otherwise.

It was hard sometimes though to remember that this was a rom-com novel as the characters go on daily excursions while on the cruise and the scenery seems to be the focus rather than developing the love the story. The two characters interacted and we get brief reminders of their work rivalry and the stakes they are facing to receive the promotion, but it was not centralized like I thought it was going to be. If the reader was Earth, the Galapagos was the Sun and the romance was the moon. Sure they all interact, but the romance was attached to the story rather than being the story itself. It was still extremely enjoyable – it just wasn’t what I expected from the description.

Graeme and Henley don’t quite fit into the enemies to lovers troupe as Henley definitely had her reasons to dislike Graeme, but you never quite felt that Graeme disliked Henley for any reason. He was a very nice and understanding individual so you never quite felt tension between them as it was more one-sided dislike.  The chemistry between them was heart-warming and they shared a lot of sweet moments. The background characters of her co-workers Barbara, Christina, and Tory, and of course cruise passenger Nikolai were fantastic additions and was all enjoyable in their own way.  Nikolai was the perfect addition as he was extremely entertaining and his scenes definitely stole the show. Henley’s sister Walsh comes along on the cruise as well, but she was not enjoyable to me. She was a very spoiled character who didn’t live up to her one obligation to Henley when it came to the cruise. Her one job was to help Henley gain a new perspective and she was brought along to act as Henley’s support system.  She was annoying to me and I just couldn’t get behind her as a character from beginning to end.

Overall, the novel was a very entertaining and light-hearted read. It was enjoyable and I would easily read another novel from this author. My main disappointment was Henley’s career and the cruise itself were more main plot-points than the romance. I wish more development was done to build up the will they-won’t they romantic aspect of the story.  The idea of going on a free cruise for the purposes of a promotion sounded fun and almost makes me want to go work for a smaller cruise company for those types of perks. It’s a great and easy read that’s perfect escapism especially for those that miss traveling and want a feel-good story along the way.

**Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for ARC and a chance to experience this great novel. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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