Title: If I Never Met You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: March 24th, 2020
Genre: Adult – Contemporary – Romance
My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: Loved it!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?
When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.
Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
This was my second Mhairi McFarlane book and I’m starting to think I really enjoy her writing. If I Never Met You was an amazing rom-com read, but to call it a rom-com also does not quite feel adequate. This is MORE than a rom-com and I’ll gladly tell you all about why I loved it:
Amazing character journeys
Just like with my previous Mhairi McFarlane read, Don’t You Forget About Me, the story of If I Never Met You is all about the characters and their journeys. And don’t be mistaken, these journeys are incredibly real, painful and raw. When Laurie’s boyfriend of EIGHTEEN YEARS suddenly breaks up with her and then tells her he has a new girlfriend – and oh yeah, she’s pregnant – it’s devastating to her and as a reader you get really drawn into her pain. You go through all Laurie’s feelings with her and follow her through the stages of grief over this breakup. So yes, this is way more emotional and character-driven than a typical rom-com. Throughout the book, you’ll get incredibly attached to the characters, especially Laurie since it’s her POV, and you’ll be rooting for her and wanting her to succeed, get to know her own self-worth and be happy.
But not just Laurie, also Jamie – our office playboy – is so incredibly well-developed. Though at first we see him as a pretty one-dimensional character – brought on by Laurie’s POV which is biased through all the office gossip at first – he quickly develops into so much more as we get to know him throughout the book and he goes on his own journey. He’s actually one of my favorite romance heroes as he’s funny, respectful and earnest and treats Laurie right.
The best fake relationship trope
I’m a sucker for the fake romance trope, but this was still so refreshing to read about. And that’s because throughout the entire book it felt REAL. With a lot of fake dating tropes, you have to suspend your disbelief just a tad to be able to enjoy it, but that was not the case here. From the start, all pitfalls of their plan are talked through. Laurie’s best friend Emily strongly cautions her about the consequences. And Laurie and Jamie constantly discuss what they’re doing and why. Also, every single step in their growing relationship feels real, like it could actually happen in real life and it’s not like at one point there’s a sudden realization of ‘OH MY GOD, I LOVE HER/HIM!’ I also loved that there are some tropes throughout, like the sharing of a bed, but with a fresh, unique take so that the story never actually felt tropey at all.
And the chemistry, oh the chemistry. Laurie and Jamie actually become friends while executing their fauxmance and the way they support each other and stand up for each other… MAJOR SWOONS. This is a very smut-free story, but prepare to be left in a puddle on the floor by hand holding and back hugs and all that good stuff.
Yes, there is definitely the friendship between Laurie and Jamie, but that’s not the only, nor is it the best friendship in this book. Laurie has a best friend, Emily, who she’s known as long as her ex, and their friendship is so powerful. I loved how, even though Laurie and Jamie promised not to tell anyone, Laurie’s first thought is still to talk to Emily. And I love how Emily, despite being against the charade, supports Laurie in what she wants and needs and is there for her. And how Laurie is there for Emily as well. To me, their friendship was just as heartwarming as the blossoming romance between Laurie and Jamie. Also, though she is not as present, Jamie also has a best friend called Hattie , and though I wish we’d had more of her, their friendship was so evident and heartwarming in just the few scenes we had.
The issues it raises
Throughout the book a lot of important issues are raised and talked about among the characters. There’s a heavy theme of feminism and gender politics in the workplace as Laurie deals with misogynist colleagues at work, but also supposed friends who treat her differently for being a single, childless woman in her thirties but still revere Dan, the one who left her. Laurie’s also a mixed race woman, so we definitely deal with some racist comments. And there are quite some family issues in her past as well, and we slowly see Laurie realize not all relationships are worth maintaining just because they’re family. Overall, I loved how the book dealed with all of these issues in a way that’s both witty, insightful and topical.
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend If I Never Met You. It’s funny yet emotional, swoony yet realistic, insightful yet escapist, witty yet topical. It’s the best execution of the fake romance trope I’ve read in a while, with amazing character journeys, characters you will become extremely invested in, swoonworthy chemistry and amazing friendships.
“Those who said family mattered above all else were wrong. People you love, who love you back, matter above all. Crap people you happen to be related to: you need to stop thinking you owe them a limitless number of chances to hurt you.”
“This was a category error that too many people made – thinking untruths that didn’t add up were better than a hard truth.”
“She’d never been called a survivor. She turned the word over her in mind: she liked how it sounded, applied to her. It wasn’t victimhood and it wasn’t self-aggrandising, it was about coping. And she had definitely done that.”
“The trouble with liars, Laurie had decided from much research in the professional field, is they always thought everyone else was less smart than them.”
“Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.”
“Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.”
“Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?”
“We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.””
“Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.”
” Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you. “