I decided to consolidate my three recent reads that lean more Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction in my mind than they do romance even though all three have a strong romance element and all end with HEAs. So today, I’ll be reviewing for you Nothing but the Truth by Holly James, Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan, and Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane. All three of these books are already available and I would generally recommend each of them to the right reader. So let’s get into the nitty gritty so you can decide if you are, in fact, the right reader.
Nothing but the Truth by Holly James
Nothing But the Truth was a really enjoyable read for me. Essentially Lucy Green makes a birthday wish for a perfect day and when she wakes up, she starts making all of these choices that are things that she WANTS to do, but normally doesn’t because she isn’t supposed to. In a lot of ways, these choices are comical and you don’t really catch on to the fact that something is going very wrong, until suddenly… Lucy can’t lie. And when you have that realization, it’s a whole thing.
Now, something that you should know is that this book addresses the #MeToo movement in the sense that Lucy’s boss is sleazy and gross. And this book takes a stand on that issue. In a lot of ways, this was really difficult subject matter to cope with, but at the same time, I thought James had a deft hand and also never let me as a reader, feel like things weren’t going to somehow work out.
Additionally, there’s a really delightful bartender/bar owner character who is fantastic and wonderful. And Lucy is great. I do think the writing is something that will either work for you or not, so try a sample to decide, but if the storyline of going after what you want (partially because you don’t have a choice as fate is intervening) appeals, then I would definitely recommend!
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Thank You for Listening is a really interesting book that straddles the line between “women’s fiction” and romance very strongly. I would argue that for me it landed more strongly on the side of women’s fiction, although the sort of You’ve Got Mail esque situation with Sewanee corresponding with someone you KNOW has to be the cute Scottish guy in Vegas even though I could NOT figure out how they were the same person, is strong enough I wouldn’t argue with anyone who disagreed.
Essentially though, this book is a very meta experience, especially if you listen to it, which I did because Julia Whelan is hands down a favorite narrator for me. It follows Sewanee who agrees to narrate a romance novel one last time for financial reasons and those reasons are really heavily explored. Sewanee’s grandmother, Blah, is in an assisted living facility and needs to move into a more advanced stage of care for memory care. This entire storyline is honestly heartbreaking. Anyway, the point is though, Sewanee is really anti-HEAs at the beginning of this book. So she goes on a whole journey with romance and whether or not romance novels are something that deserve to be celebrated (obvs) and on a journey to romance herself. I really loved the romance storylines in here, for the most part, though perhaps unsurprisingly I would have liked even more. But honestly, Nick was a gem. I really loved him. And the way the reveal happens? Excellent.
Anyway, at this point I feel like I’m just spoiling the book if you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with the tropes of the genre, but basically, trust in Julia Whelan and you’ll have an emotional reading experience that will hopefully leave you feeling encouraged to follow your dreams at the end of it as well! Because that’s the other thing I forgot to mention, a lot of this book really is about figuring out what and how to go after things that you want, especially when you’ve convinced yourself you can’t have it anymore. All that to say, I enjoyed this one a lot and would recommend!
Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane
So, you know how at the top of this post, I mentioned that I would generally recommend all three of these books to the right reader? Well, I was very much not the right reader for Mad About You and the fault doesn’t lie with the book. The simple fact is that I cannot currently cope with intimate partner violence of any kind if it’s detailed at all on the page. And, it turns out, Mad About You has an entire emotional abuse storyline that I did not see coming. So here are my thoughts I posted to Goodreads in the pretty immediate aftermath of me completing the book:
I have so many complicated thoughts on this book and most of them deal with the fact that I really need to remember that when I read a women’s fiction style book, I really do need to look into the content warnings because the entire storyline about the emotional abuse being unpacked in this book made me want to crawl out of my skin. Not because it wasn’t done well, but because the idea of listening to more discourse that sounded like the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard situation made me actively want to eject myself from the planet. I know I sound melodramatic and I’m sorry for that, but truly… If I hadn’t been in the car trying to wrangle my cat from wandering around the car so I didn’t crash, I would have figured out a way to DNF this book. Probably. But at the same time, Mhairi McFarlane’s writing is pretty enjoyable and I really liked all of the scenes with Cal and Lorna’s entire storyline (minus everything with Roxy). So… Yeah. If this book is for you, I’m so thrilled for you. But I shouldn’t have been reading about this storyline at this moment in time.
I hope these reviews may have been helpful to you in some way! If you’ve already read any of these three books, please do let me know. And if you want to read them, I would love to hear about that as well!