I could not do it you guys. I could not give this book more than a star rating. The more I thought about, the more issues I had besides this not being a romance book though it is promoted as one. The main character Harriet had too much stuff that just didn’t work for me. And I loathed the fact that there is a very real topic in this one (gaslighting/coercive control). And the larger issue was that the whole thing with Cal was too contrived. There was no there, there. Most of the book dealt with Harriet’s past relationships so there was no room for him at all. I did not cheer at the ending especially since it was just told to us as an aside. I still saw lots of plot holes with regards to one of Harriet’s friends, Jon, Cal’s parents, etc. I don’t think I have disliked one of her books this much since “After Hello” (gave it one star) and didn’t love “You Had Me at Hello” (gave it 3 stars) as much as other people did. I absolutely loved her last two books, so this was definitely a surprise.
“Mad About You” follows wedding photographer Harriet Hatley. After a disastrous wedding where the groom bounces before the nuptials she is ready for a long weekend away with her boyfriend Jon and his family. Going away with Jon’s family is always tricky, but Harriet is determined to keep a smile on since it’s a celebration of his parents anniversary. Unfortunately, Harriet who does not want to get married, gets a surprise when Jon proposes in front of his family. Harriet, forced to say yes, quickly turns that into a no when alone. This leaves Harriet with a timeline to get out of Jon’s home so they both can hopefully move on. Due to her friend Roxy, Harriet is able to find a room in a lovely home with a landlord named Cal. Things are tricky there, but things get even more messy when Harriet’s ex Jon refuses to let her go quietly which brings up past memories from Harriet’s last relationship.
As I said upfront. This is not a romance. This book really should just be marketed as women’s fiction. There are really serious topics included in this one and it takes some time before everything starts to unfurl for Harriet. One thing that made me sad was that I saw a lot of readers saying that they gave up on this book because Harriet seemed to be such a victim. And I would like to emphasize with regards to some of the plot she was. I will definitely say though that she had way too many blinders with Jon and I don’t think McFarlane ever threaded the needle there. For example, we find out that Jon would never let her hang fairy lights in the house, that he hid pictures that meant a lot to her away. That would have been enough for me to leave, and based on Harriet’s past it should have been too. I just don’t think McFarlane ever just showed us that Harriet was keeping her head buried about way too many things and her judgement seemed off. That’s another reason why the budding whatever with Cal didn’t work. There were too many red flags and excuses there. It didn’t seem believable at all. And there’s zero build-up.
The other characters felt flat to me outside of Lorna and Sam. If only the book had followed them both. Roxy didn’t ring true at all. Once again there’s no set-up for what happens there and then there’s no resolution. Jon was the same issue. So was Harriet’s past boyfriend before that. I also called BS on the way that whole thing got resolved. It just didn’t fit. But it did remind me a bit of the [redacted] thing which made me grimace. I think that McFarlane got it right in how people always seem to pile up on women online and decide they are suddenly ‘experts’ on everything under the sun when it comes to women they have decided to hate.
The writing was typical McFarlane, she tries to be breezy through some tough topics, but it doesn’t work. Also there’s a whole info dump told to readers via a letter that I loathed. It was such a cheap move to do and I think that it happened because at that point we were at around the 50 percent mark or more and we still didn’t know what happened in Harriet’s past besides it affected her still.
The flow was awful. A great portion of the book deals with Jon, then with Harriet’s other ex, and then some madness with her friend, and oh yeah there’s Cal. It does get boring and it feels like nothing is happening.
The ending didn’t feel earned in my opinion. Though it does end on a Happily Ever After (HEA) I would still argue this was not a romance for the simple reason the couple does not center in it at all and we don’t get to see the buildup between them. Cal was treated like an afterthought and only appears sporadically it felt like. For a book to be a romance besides how it ends (HEA or HFN), the central focus should be on the development of a romantic relationship between two people. And that piece was definitely missing here.
I read this for Cannonball Read 14 book bingo:
- Dough: Can refer to dough and its many varied products; can refer to money or American soldiers in WWI; can be a homonym or part of an author’s name.
- The main character of Jon is filthy rich apparently. It’s brought up many times how much money he has and how many expensive trips he has taken Harriet on. The weekend away to celebrate his parent’s anniversary with family was very expensive.