Your tolerance for Big Misunderstandings peppered with a million small misunderstandings based on poor communication skills will determine whether you enjoy this or not. This book is about the ways in which couples often fail to talk to one another and allow resentment to build until there is nothing left but resentment, and that it is possible to still find their way back to each other.
Plot: Naomi and Nicholas have been together for two years and their wedding is a few short months away. Only they pretty much stopped getting along as soon as they moved in together, a year into their relationship. The only thing keeping them together at this point is the non-refundable wedding related contracts, or is it?
This is a really interesting and, dare I say, necessary topic to engage with in Romancelandia. The vast majority of books in this genre get you as far as people being in love and engaged or married and it’s presumed that this couple can just continue the same way forever, but falling in love can’t happen just the one time. Being with someone for years necessarily means that they will change, you will change, and you will fall out of love and into it a million times over, if you’re willing to keep making yourself vulnerable, keep working to make your partner feel loved (reciprocally), accept when you’ve made mistakes and apologize, all that good stuff. This book tries to answer the question of what happens after the HEA, and if you lose it, can you get it back?
Where this book doesn’t work for me is that while it does TRY to show a second chance romance between two people who have fundamentally failed to communicate with one another, they don’t actually ever properly communicate to get to their resolution. They make a couple of superficial strides with talking to each other in a meaningful way, but most of the plot can be summarized as:
- Partner 1 has Expectation A of Partner 2. Does not tell them this expectation. It is not intuitive or logically deduced.
- Partner 2 fails to meet this unknown expectation.
- Partner 1 resents Partner 2’s failure to meet their needs. Sits on resentment for months.
- Passive aggression and mean pranks.
- Partner 2 feels bad for failing to meet these unspoken expectations. Changes conduct instead of calling out their partner’s unreasonable expectations.
This happens several times for both partners.
The idea for the book is a good one, but it really just ended up being about two adult children who, neither at the beginning or the end, are equipped to handle a long term relationship. They acknowledged that they never talked about whether they wanted kids or not, and by the end of the book, had still not had that conversation. Naomi started off being aimless and ended the book being aimless but with a minimum wage job that, by her own assessment, will likely not make it past a year and with no plans on how to get any meaning in her life beyond this job. Nicholas badly wanted to leave their town and by the end this was just forgotten. We never even learned why he wanted to leave or why he made any of the other changes to his life he did during the book.
The other issue is that because the relationship is so toxic, and because you only get one side of the story which is demonstrated to be an unreliable narrator very early on, it’s hard to enjoy the pranks either. They are such an obvious manifestation of their toxic relationship it’s reads more like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf minus the self awareness rather than a Hating Game or a Dating You/Hating You.