Cover of Betting on You, featuring three sets of the same couple at the movies, eating pizza, and lounging on a couch

About the Book

Title: Betting On You
Published: 2023
Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Cover Story: Start to Finish
BFF Charms: Roger Murtaugh, With Benefits
Talky Talk: Old-School Rom-Com
Bonus Factor: Nicknames and Fake Dating
Factor: Divorce
Relationship Status: Heart Eyes

Cover Story: Start To Finish

This cover looks a bit like an IKEA instruction manual. Step 1: Be flirty and joky during a movie. Step 2: Go on a date during which you lock eyes after touching hands while trying to grab the last piece of pizza. Step 3: Give into your feelings and become a cozy couple, complete with heart pajama pants and a cat. Step 4: Live happily ever after. (At least until college.)

The Deal: 

Bailey Mitchell and Charlie Sampson have—much to the chagrin of them both—known each other for a while now. First, they were seatmates on a flight from Alaska to Nebraska, a one-way flight Bailey took after her parents got divorced, during which Charlie was horribly obnoxious. Then, they unexpectedly ran into each other at a movie theater, both of them with significant others, but oddly intrigued by the older versions of each other. Now, they’re coworkers—not friends—who’re getting closer and closer, thanks in part to a bet they made that two other coworkers would eventually hook up. Bailey still can’t stand Charlie’s cocky personality and Charlie bristles against Bailey’s rule-following nature, but there’s something between them that just can’t be denied.

BFF Charms: Roger Murtaugh, With Benefits

BFF charm with Roger Murtagh from Lethal Weapon's face.

While I’d probably like her were I the same age, reading Bailey as a 40-year-old had me more annoyed than enamored. She’s rightfully worried about her mom’s new relationship and frustrated with unwanted feelings toward Charlie, but she never talks to anyone about the things that are bothering her, even when she’s given ample opportunity. Additionally, her quirks—such as ordering a half-Coke/half-Diet Coke on a flight and a complicated popcorn order at the movies—are more annoying than endearing.

BFF Charm With Benefits - a pink BFF charm with a lipstick kiss

Charlie, on the other hand, can also be obnoxious, but his good looks and flirtatious nature are annoyingly sexy. The guy knows how to make a girl swoon, even when she’s determined to dislike him. I 100% would have had a massive crush on him in high school, and although I am an Old now, I wasn’t immune to his charms.

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Although there’s little actual spice in Betting On You, the chemistry between Bailey and Charlie is undeniable. It’s giving old-school rom-com vibes, and I will never turn down reading a story that gives me those kind of butterflies. And Charlie’s the right kind of sarcastic and cocky. So much swoon!

Talky Talk: Old-School Rom-Com

The plot of Betting On You revolves around the relationship between Bailey and Charlie and the progression of said relationship from antagonists to … something more. Painter does an amazing job at creating swoon while crafting characters who seem real, from their best qualities to their worst. There’s not a whole lot of world-building or tension, other than the sexual kind, but that’s not what I needed from this novel.

Charlie: My favorite thing about you is the way you always bite the inside of your cheek when I tease you.

I made a noise in my throat and texted: what???

Charlie: For real. It’s like you don’t want me to know I got to you. But Glasses—the minute I see your move, it’s like the gauntlet has been thrown and I can’t stop until you’re smiling at me.

Another noise—something like a squeal—emanated from me, unbidden. Because that was an incredible answer.

Bonus Factor: Fake Dating and Nicknames

Nicole and Chase from Drive Me Crazy

Painter included these two classic rom-com tropes in Betting On You, to great effect. From the beginning, Charlie calls Bailey Glasses (meant at first, of course, to be an insult) and the two of them fake date in the hopes of causing strife between Bailey’s mom and new boyfriend. Naturally—and thankfully—the nickname evolves into something more, and the fake dating doesn’t stay fake for long.

Factor: Divorce

Bailey and Charlie connect over their shared experiences as a child of divorce, including their struggles with their respective mothers’ boyfriends. My parents didn’t get divorced until I was an adult, so I didn’t have the same experiences as either of them, but I certainly connected with some of it.

Relationship Status: Heart Eyes

You and I aren’t meant to be, Book, but I’m so happy you found your person. I’m rooting for you both, and am grateful I got to share in your swoon.

Literary Matchmaking

How to Break a Boy

Laurie Devore’s How to Break a Boy is another book with opposites who attract fake date until things get real.

Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes, Transformed

The Serendipity anthology covers ten different tropes, including fake dating.

All Alone With You

Amelia Diane Coombs’s All Alone With You also features a couple who do not like each other at first, but have undeniable chemistry.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Betting on You is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.