In brief: Laurie has been with Dan forever. When he dumps her, she is devastated. But a chance trapping in a lift with colleague Jamie has benefits – they will stage a fake romance to get Laurie her revenge, and Jamie his promotion. But it almost starts to feel real…
The good: Fun, interesting and entertaining.
The not-so-good: Dan is a dill.
Why I chose it: I can’t go wrong with Mhairi McFarlane.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Setting: Manchester, UK
Rating: 9 out of 10
I knew that starting 2020 off with a Mhairi McFarlane novel was a good idea. Not only was the book released on my birthday, but it was in store to buy it too (these two planets rarely align). If I Never Me You is a lovely story, both serious and funny, with a smart and likeable heroine.
Laurie is a lawyer, and a very good one. She is whipcrackingly smart and seems to have her life sorted. That is until her boyfriend of nearly twenty years, Dan, sits her down for A Talk. He claims to want to find himself, feeling hemmed in within their relationship etc etc. Basically, it’s over. Laurie is naturally devastated which turns to rage when some detective work finds that Dan wasn’t exactly telling the truth. She’s sad and enraged and getting stuck in a lift with office Lothario Jamie wasn’t really what she needed in her life. But weirdly, it turns out to be the best thing ever as they hatch a plan for a fake romance. Jamie has been told to turn down his female fraternisation if he wants to be made partner and Laurie wants to get Dan back (and make him come back begging if she’s honest). Rules of engagement are set and social media posts are carefully staged as the fauxmance begins. But as word gets out, Jamie and Laurie are forced to attend family gatherings together, eat lunch together at work…and find that they really enjoy each other’s company. Surely falling for each other is just good acting, right?
There is so much more to If I Never Met You than just the fake romance between Jamie and Laurie. Laurie is the kind of character you want in your corner as she’s a good friend, smart and caring. She’s also very good with telling weak Dan what she thinks of him and the odd cutting line or three. She can hold her own in her office, even when others are ganging up on her. So she ruminates on Dan a bit in private and she’s timid about getting back into the dating scene – if ever. Her relationships with her parents aren’t great, but during the course of the book she works at them. Laurie’s not perfect, but she is very likeable. Naturally, Jamie is too (he’d have to be to be a match for Laurie). He’s someone who puts on bravado in public, but is really much quieter. He’s intelligent and caring and thinks he is driven solely by his work – or is he? The minor characters are drawn just as finely with quirks, annoyances and endearing traits. Laurie’s friend Emily has some great words of wisdom and her father is an excellent example of someone who refuses to be an adult. As for Dan, he starts off being described as Laurie sees him – pretty much perfect. As the novel progresses and Laurie begins to consider him with a more distant perspective, his weaknesses are revealed.
If I Never Met You also shows some insights of working in a close-knit office, both the good and bad. The gossip, those who have your back and those who would like to interfere with everything. Not to mention that Laurie and Dan work for the same company, so there are sides to be taken. It was great to see Laurie grow at work as she steps outside of her comfort zone to take on injustices (and there are a couple of confrontations that will make the reader recoil is disbelief). She carries this over to her personal life too and puts some unresolved events firmly in the past. A little more serious in parts that McFarlane’s previous books, this shows that she can tackle the difficult emotional parts just as eloquently.