Author: Anna Bell
Rating: 4 Stars
Dates read: 05 Dec 18 – 09 Dec 18
Publication date: 24 Nov 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Lydia’s not exactly #LivingHerBestLife. She never imagined she’d be here at thirty – newly single, a job that’s going nowhere and her friends all winning at life when she’s still barely taking part. So she jumps at the chance of a free holiday and jets off to sunny Spain.
Then, out of the blue, she bumps into her childhood friend, the handsome and charming Danny Whittaker. She’s always had a crush on him and they soon enter into a passionate holiday romance.
But this relationship could be more than just a fling. Years ago they made a pact that if they were still single when they turned thirty they would get married. But noone really follows through on these pacts . . . right?
Could Lydia’s back-up man really be her happy ever after?
*I received an e-ARC of this book courtesy of Bonnier Zaffre and Net Galley in return for a fair and honest review*
Well hello a series of tropes that Liz doesn’t always want to admit that she likes but reads a lot of because they’re classics and bloody awesome. This book sounded like something I would like in a trashy rom-com kinda way, so when I was granted it on NetGalley I was pretty ecstatic. I think we all dream of being wooed in Barcelona by an attractive guy we’ve been in love with for years and who happens to have aged like a fine wine, right? A guy we can sing ABBA obnoxiously with in our granny pants and who will probably end up loving us more for it, right? This book delivers in that sense, and is good, and enjoyable, and entertaining, it’s just not spectacular.
I want to start by saying that I really quite like Danny. Not in a ‘oh he’s super attractive and successful’ kinda way, but in a moralistic and genuine kinda way. He is, of course, attractive and successful, and that helps, but he is far from obnoxious or showy about it and prefers to live a more sedate life in Ambleside, Lake District than a grand ol’ life in New York or London. He is thoughtful, as evidenced by the letters and presents he sends to Lydia throughout the story, even when he is pissed as a fart on a stag do in Riga (the beginning of each story is a letter sent by Danny to Lydia or vice versa, filling the other and the reader in on the next stage of the life between their young friendship to adult long-distance relationship). I hate to think of him as the ideal man, he’s not. He has flaws, he keeps secrets, but he encourages and befriends and normalises and those characteristics are wonderfully refreshing in a leading man.
Lydia is also pretty cool, but I get on less well with her because I feel like elements of her personality and her relationships just don’t gel. I love that she retains strong connections with friends and family, and not only that, she relies on them and they rely on her. There are so many books where these relationships are mentioned as being crucial, but when it comes down to it they ignore the advice given and plow on as though their friends and family don’t exist. Lydia is present, she is a strong cog in her family wheel and is clearly an integral part in her friendship circle. She has the backbone to get out of a stagnant relationship, and retains a friendship with him after. She continues to support colleagues and managers above her even when they’re in positions she wants doing a worse job than she is because she is a good person. But then she doesn’t celebrate a promotion she has worked hard for and been aiming for because of a new relationship, and she lets him walk away when they’ve spent years thinking about each other at every turn.
The real heroes of the piece are the mothers of the couple. Hazel and Linda are fearless warriors, they have maintained a beautiful and inspirational friendship that has allowed them to survive hardships, and they’ve done it with a laugh. Not only that, they’re learning new skills and doing things that many people forget. They think about each other and make an effort to see each other from across the country, and they cleverly set things up to be the best for their children and are influential in their relationship. They’re friends are equally funny, and even thought they’re all going through their own issues they care about the main characters. I think it is one of those books where the story just happens to be told from Lydia’s point of view and that actually reading the same story from each of the friends points of view would be fascinating.
My biggest issue with the story surrounds the pregnant wife of Danny’s best friend. Victoria is introduced under strained circumstances and straight away is billed as someone that may threaten the happiness of the main characters. I don’t like it when there is a female character that has to be a threat and a bitch and someone to be wary of, because the end suggests that very different things are going on with her than we are told for the first 300 pages. I have an issue with the bitchy ex or the crafty friend, because we don’t need that character and as women we don’t need to bill ladies against other for no other reason than you’ve read something similar before and it features in lots of books that are similar.
The pact made between the characters when their young undoubtedly influences the speed of their relationship, but the certainty that they have in their love and willingness to try and overcome obstacles in their path is inspirational. They have their secrets but they compromise and communicate and try to make any difficulties work which is seriously refreshing in a contemporary romance.
I really liked it, it was good, I just didn’t love it. It didn’t set anything on fire and I wasn’t compelled to read it in one go, but it was a good example of a well written trope.