My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is how chick lit should be written.
I’ve read a couple of Mhairi McFarlane’s other books and enjoyed them but I think this may be her best yet. She somehow manages to create very real characters who don’t always act they way you want them to but who you can’t help but get behind. It isn’t your usual predictable chick lit but I think that’s why it really works. I laughed, I cried and I was completely hooked and didn’t want it to end.
The story follows Edith Thompson (Edie) a copywriter for a PR firm and begins with her attending the wedding of two of her co workers with her gay BFF Louis. As a long term singleton this is not the happiest of occasions for Edie particularly as she has a bit of a crush on the groom Jack. They’ve been messaging each other and flirting for months at work so she’s finding it a bit hard to let go of the fantasy he’d ditch his partner for her. The sh*t hits the fan however when, at the wedding, Jack approaches her and kisses her and the bride catches them.
Suddenly the villain of the piece, Edie feels like she has no choice other than to pack in her job but is offered a lifeline by her boss. He gives her the opportunity to go home to Nottingham to ghost write the biography of famous actor Elliot Owen. Returning to the family home to live with her father and sister brings back old ghosts and memories Edie would rather forget but is home really as bad as she fears or could this be the opportunity she needs to get her life back on track.
I have to confess that at the start of this book I was not a fan of main character Edie who seemed to encompass all of my pet hates in chick lit heroines. She’s unhappily single (and kind of bitter about it), she’s “in love” with a work colleague who’s in a serious relationship with one of her so called friends, she’s a bit of a coward (she runs away and hides after everything blows up at the wedding) and she’s willing to sacrifice her career to avoid confrontation even when she’s done nothing wrong. What makes it worse is that even though she’s the one who’s made out to be the bad guy she still wants the man.
Despite this rather dubious beginning however the author manages to turn it all around and somehow by the mid point it all made sense and I was seriously rooting for our heroine. As I learned more about her past I could understand why she was the way she was and why she acted the way she did and I don’t think anyone could help but feel for her with everything she goes through. While social media is great it does provide the opportunity for some serious bullying and abuse and Edie’s one small error leads to a hate campaign against her that no one deserves.
Added to this she seems very much on her own. Relationships with her family are strained (her sister hates her and her father is struggling) and she’s lost the closeness she once had with her old school friends. When her new friends and work colleagues all turn against her she has no one she can trust to support her. She has to put on a brave face and pretend all is ok when she’s actually falling apart.
The only thing she has left to keep it together is this one assignment to write the biography of famous, hot, young actor Elliot Owen. It is quite a common book trope, the famous person and the average Jo being flung together but this doesn’t feel like that stereotypical relationship. It feels real somehow. Their relationship has a fairly rocky start but there is a definite connection between them. I loved pretty much every scene they were in together and I have to say I want an Elliot of my very own. He was just sooo sweet and not at all what you would think.
There is definitely a lot of character development and growth throughout this story for both Edie, Elliot and a number of the other more minor characters and I think that’s what I liked so much about it. Particularly as it all felt very natural and real. All of the characters within the story were well rounded and no one was either perfect or all bad even by the end. I still got frustrated with Edie in the last few chapters when she didn’t behave the way I wanted her to but her actions were right for her.
The writing throughout the book is very good and while it is quite long, the pacing of the story is spot on. It’s a story that’s full of feels. There are some very funny moments but also some very sad scenes too. One particular scene had tears streaming down my face which I really didn’t expect. Thankfully I was reading in the privacy of my own home so that wasn’t too much of an issue (although I may have freaked the cat out a little)
While parts of the story are a little bit on the predictable side there are a few surprises along the way which keep it from falling into the usual cliches. I’m trying to avoid spoilers but the ending was not what I was expecting and while I like that the author did something different I can’t make my mind up whether I actually liked it or not.
This is definitely a book I’d recommend to all chick lit readers. It’s a little on the long side but it totally worth it.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.