A heartwarming book about finding who you are again after a relationship leaves you gutted.
Mhairi McFarlane tells the story of Laurie and Dan 18 years after the start of their relationship and Dan ends it. I’m serious, that’s how this starts. A relationship that started when they were 18 and then ended as many years later, what a gutter. So then this story isn’t about Laurie and Dan… who is about? Who’s the love interest? What If I were to tell you that while this is a romance, definitely a romance, the story is really about Laurie, a 36 year old lawyer who is freshly dumped by her longterm boyfriend right once they were planning on having kids, and it’s about her healing from their breakup, coming to terms with everything involved in it, owning herself and her power, and valuing the love of her family and friends. It’s good. Like really good.
There was so much to love about this book. A fantastic fake dating trope where there was a good thorough acknowledgment of the rules, intense moments that make you realize the repercussions of said fake romance, and a brilliant job of being good supportive people. I found Laurie to be a little annoying at times, foolish for someone seven years my senior, but she grew on me. The annoyance did happen throughout the whole book, so I’m not saying her annoying habits went away, I’m saying she charmed me, imagine that. The love interest, Jamie Carter, is the most swoon inducing leading romance man and I found myself falling a bit in love with him by the end as well. Think Josh from The Hating Game by Sally Thorn, but more soft. Ugh, love me a soft boi but really love me a soft man.
Laurie and Jamie each have a best friend, Emily and Hattie respectively, and they bring such a wonderful balance to the characters they’re friends with and allow them to shine in a way that they don’t without them. Where and how we meet Hattie is probably my favorite part of the book. So emotionally genuine and candid and provided a plot point that wasn’t just fodder for angst or smut. I’m going to be thinking about those few chapters the most from this book, I guarantee it. Emily brought another dynamic to Laurie, someone powerful in her corner but allowed to be vulnerable and have different perspectives and opinions. There was a human touch to these characters that I don’t normally seen given to side characters anymore.
I will say I do have contradictory thoughts about the first third of this book. It’s slow and tough to get through, but it does such a good job creating the tension, emotional arc, and showing the backstory, therefore, establishing the characters and their current state of relation. More novels need to do that. So often we’re quick to get to the good parts, but sometimes it’s the journey along the way. I think that a popular book that is not the same as this and I am in no way comparing their stories, but I am referencing a specific critique that I and some others pointed out about Red, White, and Royal Blue where the enemy relationship wasn’t well/as strongly established as we would like. I think it is one of a section of so many genres that have fallen into that style, romance being hit the hardest as so often, we just want the goods.
But I believe, the back story, that build up, that detail, makes the goods of later so much better. I added to Laurie’s overall emotional arc to have such a strong history of behavior and relationship to go off of. That’s not achieved from two paragraphs, that takes clever writing and time. I think this novel is a good example of why background is important and how it can enhance the story and the reader’s connection and reaction to it.
Really pleased with this novel and happy to have read it. Laurie was a star and Jamie was a dream. And Hattie is probably my favorite character of the bunch, Emily too. A good strong supporting cast and good strong mains, stellar work.