Unrequited Alice by Sarah Louise Smith (Crooked Cat)
Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review.
Genres: Romance, Chick lit
Alice was delighted when her oldest friend, Hannah, asked her to be her maid of honour. As the hen party approaches, Alice’s head is filled with her list of duties. One is more important than them all; to fall out of love with Ed, Hannah’s gorgeous fiance.
The wedding fills Alice with a nauseating combination of joy for Hannah and heartbreak that Ed will never be hers. What she doesn’t realise is that the wedding will change not only the lives of the happy couple, but hers as well.
Whilst on the hen party in Canada, Alice meets Toby, a handsome but mysterious man with whom she feels an immediate connection. As they spend more and more time together, her feelings for Toby grow and she begins to think that her love for Ed might not last forever after all. There’s just one problem. Toby is in love with another woman.
Oh, Alice. I think we all know what it’s like to have unrequited feelings for someone else. Most people, I’m sure, have experienced a school-yard crush. It might even have felt like love at the time – everything is more intense during puberty.
It’s an awful situation for her, made worse by the fact that the man is dating her oldest friend and they’re about to get married. She has to watch their happiest day ever, all the while believing her chance at happiness is lost forever. Quite early into the novel I found Alice to be a sympathetic character. During the hen do she was clearly trying to do what was right for her best friend, but at the same time she was struggling to cope with her feelings for the groom.
Unfortunately my sympathy for Alice dissipated fairly swiftly after the hen party. I found she became quite irritating, frequently changing her mind, or claiming she would behave in one way and then do the exact opposite not two seconds later. She repeatedly says she needs to accept that herself and Toby won’t be romantically involved, but then acts like they’re dating and gets offended when he calls her his ‘friend’.
What’s more, there were many occasions where Alice had ‘revelations’ which I as the reader was already well aware of, thanks to a repetitive, detailed description of our heroine’s thoughts and feelings. WE KNOW SHE LOVES ED. I’m not sure it’s necessary to remind us in virtually every paragraph of the first few chapters. She starts developing feelings for Toby, which is very clear from her thoughts and interactions with him, but she doesn’t ‘realise’ this until much later. That just doesn’t seem realistic to me.
I’m also struggling to see Toby as a desirable male character. He’s too moody, manipulative, petulant, stubborn, and he doesn’t respect Alice or treat her well. He’ll call her beautiful but also says there’s no chance of anything happening between them, when he knows full well that she might be developing feelings for him. He wants her around but only when it’s convenient for him, and I am not happy with him at all.
I kind of think Alice can do better. She’d be a lot less irritating if the men in her life would just be straight with her and stop messing with her emotions. The novel revolves around them, and they’re not doing her any favours. I’d much prefer a story where we actually got to hear a bit about her life away from these men. She has a great job at a bookstore, and a promising interest in photography, but these areas of her life are breezed over to get back to what’s ‘important’ – finding love.
As chick lit, it’s a perfectly good novel. There is romance, tension, heartbreak and challenge, but it lacks substance and depth. Although we learn about her family and interests, it’s in a passive way which makes it seem as though there is nothing more important to her than finding a man who loves her back. Sure, it’s not a bad goal, but for a 21st century woman, I’d like to think it’s a bit two-dimensional.
Unrequited Alice is released on 16th March.