Content warnings: suicide of parent (off screen, described in context of mental illness)
Although it wasn’t a specific recommendation for this book, thank you to Sophia for the reminder rec for McFarlane!
There are authors of the romance genre who people deem “must reads”–Jasmine Guillory and Courtney Milan come to mind immediately. There are also other authors that I have deemed “must reads” who I then get disappointed by–I thought T.J. Klune might be it but have had to shelve him. E.K. Johnston I’ll read, but so far she’s been a three star average. Even Naomi Novik has had some books that landed really poorly for me (will never stop griping about reading Uprooted after the perfection of Spinning Silver).
All of which to say, I don’t always find authors who are must reads, but I think McFarlane might be making a play for that shelf.
What is it about her work? The books are longer, for sure, which gives you time to get more into the psyche of her characters. The twists aren’t always as obvious as they might appear (I mean, it’s a romance novel) and she has a keen eye for the realities of interpersonal relationships.
So to get the spoiler out of the way: this ending is a bit more vague than your usual romance novel ending [because Edie makes the sensible, 36-year-old decision that there’s no real way to have a relationship with someone who lives half the year or more in the States filming movies while she’s rebuilding her life and her emotional support network in a small town outside of London]. But for what it’s worth, I actually…enjoyed said ending? I’m not saying it’s not sappy, and I’m not saying we don’t have a case study of what their happy ever after is going to look like ([It’s Notting Hill, her friend Nick basically gives away the plot early on, they’re going to be Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant but in Nottingham as opposed to London]) but for once I enjoyed the touch of realism [and uncertainty ] that we see towards the end.
Other parts I enjoyed: Edie’s realization and evolution on her weird relationship with Jack (the office charmer/cad), her real trauma around her mother and how it affects her life, and Edie’s fully fleshed out personality (despite what other reviewers might think). Things I didn’t enjoy: her sister Meg’s lazy characterization of “shrill vegan harpy who’s a bit of a hypocrite” and the use of the term “dreadlocks” to describe Meg’s hair (or her choice to have her hair in that style, honestly). Things I put up with in romance novels because it’s fun: adult characters oh-so-conveniently not realizing truly obvious takeaways (perhaps…he is being possessive…because he likes you…?).
Looking forward to reading the rest of McFarlane’s back catalog!