Guest Post: Ivy and Li Qiang By Natalina Reis

Who would have thought that pretending to be in love could feel so real? An age-gap romantic comedy that will make you smile, break your heart, and then make you believe in love all over again — Dating the Intern by @TichaB

Ivy and Li Qiang
By Natalina Reis

Every author will tell you they can’t choose a favorite character from among all they have written throughout the years. With fifteen published books under my belt I couldn’t possibly play favorites with any of them. But, that said, I so love Ivy and Li Qiang from DATING THE INTERN.

Ivy is a bit like me, always down on herself, an introvert-extraordinaire who has no problem talking in public for work but who couldn’t chat about the weather socially if her life depended on it. I created her because I wanted to give people like me, who don’t normally have a voice (because of their shyness) and who are wildly underrepresented in romance in the age of the kickass heroine (or what people normally think it’s a kickass heroine—a discussion for another day), a chance to show how brave and amazing they really are. I would love to hear from readers as to whether I have succeeded or not.

Li Qiang is the reflection of my crush on a Taiwanese actor I follow. My head was full of Ethan Ruan after watching him on a C-period drama and I just couldn’t envision anyone else playing the role of Li Qiang in my thoughts. So, Qiang’er was born. That’s where the resemblance ends though. I wanted Qiang’er to be the total opposite of other guys Ivy had dated in the past and be the catalyst of her “revolt” against her abusive father.

I also wanted them to have some fabulous sidekicks because what’s a hero without one, right? I think you’ll love Ivy’s best friend, Amber Lee, and Li Qiang’s little brother, Li Wei. Together they will make you laugh and cry and then laugh some more. Which is always a good thing.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this story for a lot of the book.  I didn’t immediately connect with Ivory. Sure, Amber Lee was an on-the-spot like. I fell instantly in love with Li Qiang and eventually his entire family (especially Li Wei). Even after he and Ivory started their relationship, I still couldn’t warm up to her. He just seemed a little too accommodating and she still seemed a bit of a flake about it, if I am honest.

I am glad I stuck it out though. Li Qiang had his reasons and in the end Ivy, not Ivory, was a person I could learn to like, as she, maybe, learned to like herself a bit more. I didn’t do a lot of laughing while reading this, Ivy’s father issues and the layers of Li Qiang’s story arc were both quite serious, but I did come to enjoy it very much. It turned out to be just my brand of Chick Lit.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Silver Dagger Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Dating the Intern
by Natalina Reis
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Chick-Lit

Who would have thought that pretending to be in love could feel so real?
Ivory Tower is the successful owner and CEO of an online dating service who prides herself in matching her clients with their true love. Everyone except herself. When a TV studio wants to spotlight her company live on air, Ivory runs into a problem; she can’t produce the boyfriend she needs so she doesn’t look like a fraud.

When Li Qiang, her ten-years younger and toe-curling handsome intern, offers to pose as her boyfriend, Ivory thinks her problem has been solved, but it’s going to take more than the perfect algorithm to get out of this situation. Li Qiang is too easy to love and too hard to forget, and the question remains; does he really love her or is he only playing his role?

Dating the Intern is an age-gap romantic comedy that will make you smile, break your heart, and then make you believe in love all over again.

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Natalina Reis

Excerpt 1

“You look stressed,” he said, with what sounded like genuine concern in his voice. “Is everything okay? Can I help with anything?”

I didn’t know if it was the look he gave me, the fact that I had indeed kind of just woken up from a weird dream, or the whole nonexistent boyfriend fiasco, but I lost it. I burst out crying. Not just crying, ugly crying. Thankfully, I hadn’t gone crazy with the mascara that morning or the raccoons would have nothing on me. The poor intern looked as lost as I was out of control, his hands hovering close to my shoulders and arms but not actually touching. His lips were pressed so close together, they had lost all sense of shape. If I hadn’t been so hysterical, I would have felt sorry for him. As it was, I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself, and in the back of my mind I knew I would be mortified later, but all I wanted—all I needed—at that moment was a strong shoulder to cry on, and his was the only one available. Much to his dismay, I’m sure, I dropped my head to his chest, as close as I could get to his shoulders, and allowed the waterworks to continue.

The tears fell for a long time, punctuated ever so often by little sobs that I couldn’t hold in. I lost track of time and my dignity as I stood there, leaning on a man I barely knew and who was my subordinate—worse yet, who was much younger than me. 

As soon as the tears finally dried out, I became acutely aware of his hard pecs underneath my face and the awful, snotty stains on his immaculate shirt. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry,” I said, in a panic, trying to brush the dark spots with my hands. Holy mother of God, it looked as if I was caressing him. I pulled my hands away, horrified. “Double sorry. I don’t know what got into me. So, so sorry.” Scared of looking at his face, I stared straight at the ugly blotches on the white of his shirt. “I’ll buy you a new shirt. How unprofessional of me.”

Before I knew what was happening, he held on to my hands. His were large and warm. I had the insane thought that my tiny, puny hands belonged in his. I couldn’t avoid it any longer; I looked up at him. “Stop fussing. It’s okay.” He bent his head just enough to look me in the eyes. “Everyone has bad days. I’m glad I was here when you needed a good cry.”

I sniffed like a little girl. “But your shirt… I made a mess out of it.” I was glad he was holding my hands because I would have touched him again. I’d taken a total leave of my senses. “There’s mascara all over it.”

He clicked his tongue in an oddly old-fashioned way. “Nothing that won’t wash out. Will you stop worrying about my shirt and tell me what’s going on?”

I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t confide in him. But he would be gone in a few months once his internship was over and I’d most likely never see him again. Who better to vent out my frustration about this whole mess? So, I did.

Excerpt 2

“You must be wondering why I’m here.” The little flame of curiosity had turned into a full tundra fire. “I work for programming at the TV station, and Mr. Robertson put me in charge of the details for the Spring Into Love spot. We have received the signed contract, thank you very much for being so prompt.” I had to be, otherwise I’d forget. That was a strategy I’d learned as a kid—do what you have to do right away before your brain puts it in a dark, forgotten room in your mind.

“Was there a problem with it?” It was a pretty standard, no-frills legal document that made my agreement to be featured on their news official.

She laughed softly. “No, no problem. I just want to go over some of the specifics. We have your professional bio, but we need something a bit more personal.” I startled a bit at that. How was my personal life of any interest? “The public loves to feel as if they have an inside look into your life. Don’t worry. We don’t have to give them anything terribly private, but it will help if it’s something that is directly connected to your job—in your case, the matchmaking services.”

I was confused, and I was sure it showed because she tilted her head as if assessing whether I was fooling around or just plain stupid. “I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand what kind of information you’re looking for.”

“Your love life.” What? What was she talking about? “You’re the CEO of a successful matchmaking company who stands out from others because of the personal interaction with your clients, the advice you give them. You have a special insight into the world of dating and romantic relationships, which is what makes your services so successful.” I was still confused, and I furrowed my eyebrows in response. “In other words, we need information about your love life. We’d love to meet and interview your SO.”

What fresh kind of hell was this? “You want me to do what?” I was so shell-shocked I forgot to hide my surprise.

She raised her hands in a reassuring gesture. “Don’t panic. It won’t be anything too personal, just a matter of bringing your boyfriend along—I’m assuming you’re not married—and answering some simple questions about your own relationship.”

“What kind of questions?” What I should be asking was “What boyfriend?” but I was too stunned to think straight.

“You know, where did you meet, how did you know he was the one, are you planning a wedding soon… simple stuff.” Simple enough for someone with an actual boyfriend.

“What if I don’t have a SO?” Which I didn’t.

“That would look really bad for you and your company,” Teresa said, her lips cutting a small smile again. “How can someone without a romantic relationship dish out advice on it? You would lose the trust of your clientele.” She gave me a sideways glance. “You’re just being coy, right? You do have a fiancé or at least a boyfriend.” Oh, you have no idea of how much I’m not bullshitting you.

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of thirteen. Since then she has published eleven romances that defy the boundaries of her genre. She enjoys writing all kinds of rebels and outcasts into her stories and she always roots for the underdog.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.
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