I put Mhairi McFarlane on the same day as Christina Lauren and Katherine Center on purpose, because, like those two, her books are just a little bit special. If you’re a fan of theirs (and you absolutely should be! they’re amazing!), you should totally give McFarlane a try.
When I think about what makes a great book, I know it’s a combination of things—satisfying relationships; interesting characters; good conflict that forces the characters to grow; an interesting story told in a way that’s completely engaging and intriguing; often, but not always, a great voice.
I can’t always tell you what exactly makes a Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Katherine Center or Christina Lauren book so great (among others!), but I know it when I see it.
Whatever the alchemy is that comes together and pushes a good book into the realm of great, Mhairi McFarlane has it. I’ve read a number of her titles now, and they’re all wonderful.
Her March release, IF I NEVER MET YOU, is no exception. Great voice, amazing storytelling, and a number of sly twists that you don’t see coming. It definitely is (main female character) Laurie’s story, and the romance is slow-burn and subtle, not too surprising given the fauxmance set-up and the horrible break-up at the start of the book that sets Laurie on a new romantic journey, and would make any woman wary of relationships.
I love Laurie’s triumph, not just in love but in life, and the way she steps up to be her own biggest advocate is so gratifying. I love the secondary characters, and how she really begins to understand who she can trust and who should be kicked to the curb.
I love that Laurie is a smart, successful woman of color and that by the end of the book, she clearly knows she dodged a bullet in her old relationship, and found a real gem in her new one.
As usual, McFarlane’s characters are beautifully set up, with changes to make and mistakes to overcome. Also as usual, they do so in brilliantly satisfying ways, gaining valuable lessons and an ever-expanding sense of value and self-worth, and the space and courage to stand up for themselves.
Laurie realizing not only that Jamie is a gem, but also that he’s lucky to have her, and he knows it, is the turn we’re looking for, along with all the other details that spotlight how special Laurie is, how she truly shines in the end and is aware of it, and how the people who took her for granted quickly begin to regret it.
This one is great, but they all are.
IF I NEVER MET YOU
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…
(This review is part of Read-A-Romance Month. Hope you’ll come back every day to check out my book recommendations. You can find the calendar here. Also check out The Romance of Reading, a Facebook “book club” where we’ll have great authors guest hosting every week.)
Some post and image links are connected to an affiliate portal. A small percentage of your purchases supports my work and this page. Thanks so much!