Sunday 7 September 2014

#CBR6 Book 91: "You Had Me At Hello" by Mhairi McFarlane

Page count: 465 pages
Rating: 3 stars

SPOILER WARNING! There are plot spoilers in this review, as I found it impossible to express my feelings without going into specific plot details.

Rachel has just broken up with Rhys, her boyfriend of fourteen years, who she'd been dating since University. Once they got into an argument about what band to have at their wedding, it became obvious to her that they really didn't have a future together, and she's been staying with him more out of habit than anything else. Now they have to divide the furniture, she has to get a new place and live on her own for the first time as an adult. Her friends are supportive, but also rather concerned about her.

She runs into Ben, her best friend from University, shortly after moving out of her and Rhys' shared house. Due to a series of complications, mainly that Rachel was dating Rhys for most of her time at Uni, Ben and Rachel only ever shared one night together, but Rachel has never really been able to forget Ben, and what might have been. Now Ben is a lawyer and married to a pretty lady, newly moved to Manchester and eager to make new friends. He's very happy to see Rachel again, but clearly in no way romantically interested in her.

I got this book on the recommendation of my friend Elizabeth, who loves it and has apparently re-read it a number of times. Unfortunately, I cannot share in this love. All I can muster is a tepid like, mainly because I liked the flashbacks to Ben and Rachel's time together at Uni and I enjoyed Rachel's interaction with her group of friends. I mainly found present day Rachel incredibly frustrating, however, and while I absolutely applaud her ending a dead end relationship before she ended up married to the man who was all wrong for her, desperately stalking her old school friend who she never gave the time of day until the very end of their time together at University because she was too oblivious to notice him, and then apparently pining for him for the next ten years (despite being in a relationship to another man) and sort of hoping that he will be miserable with his wife, is no way to endear yourself to me.

A romance where one of the parties is currently in a committed relationship is always frustrating to me, because for the romance to work out, said party clearly has to break up their current relationship to find happiness with the non-committed party, or even worse, cheat on their current partner. That sort of thing makes me uncomfortable. I liked Ben. I can see why Rachel fancied him. What I cannot understand is why it took her four years of Uni in an unsatisfying relationship to Rhys to notice that Ben was great, spend one night with him when she broke up with Rhys briefly because he was being an inconsiderate idiot, just to run straight back into his dead-beat arms when he decided to make a half-hearted gesture at her graduation ball. You don't get to mourn for the one who got away when you're pretty much the person who forced him to get over you by picking another, Rachel!

While breaking up with Rhys before they end up married and miserable, some of the choices Rachel makes in her professional life are less than stellar as well. She keeps trusting the wrong people and making dubious decisions. I tried so hard to like her, and see why my friend loved this book so much, and it just did not work for me. Ben was sweet, the flashbacks were fun, and the supporting cast were enough that I can give it a thin 3 stars. It also allowed me to complete another book in my Alphabet soup challenge, but I'm certainly not going to be re-reading this. If I owned it in physical book form, it would be donated to a charity shop. Sorry, Elizabeth.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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