If you’re after an easy-read romance with all the classic ingredients, Unrequited Alice might be the one for you.
Read my honest review here.
Purchase the novel here.
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.
Always by Sarah Jio (Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine)
Review copy provided by Netgalley.
Genres: Romance, Drama, Mystery
Kailey is in love with life, her city and her handsome fiance. Her life is perfect. At least, until an encounter with a homeless man drags her straight back into the past. The man is Cade, once the owner of a successful music empire, and the love of Kailey’s life. Devastated at what has happened to Cade, she takes it upon herself to help him. Cade barely recognises her and has no idea why his life turned out the way it did – it is up to Kailey to piece his life back together, but in doing so she risks tearing her own life apart.
You never forget your first love. The old adage certainly holds true in this beautiful, thoughtful novel by Sarah Jio.
From the very first page, I feel like I know who Kailey is. That is Jio’s gift. Writing believable characters is hard at the best of times, but being able to do in a subtle, nuanced way is a real art. Jio uses the words and actions of this cast to show their personalities and emotions. The novel is a rollercoaster of emotion, and we live it inside Kailey’s head. Being able to accurately portray Kailey’s thoughts and feelings during some quite traumatic situations is key to the success of this novel, and Jio nails it.
From the very beginning of this novel, I felt like I understood Kailey’s situation. She has a great fiance, an exciting job, a fantastic future awaiting her, but there’s an air of hesitation about her. In a way, it all seems a little too perfect. The opening chapter does a brilliant job of making me curious, and I love a book that makes me curious.
This intrigue is maintained for the entirety of Always, helped immensely by Jio’s clever use of time-jumps. We live through Kailey’s present and past in alternating segments, slowly piecing together her story. These flashbacks to the past are great not only for providing context to Kailey’s current situation, but also for explaining to the reader all that Cade has lost, and how difficult it is for Kailey to see him like he is.
It’s a novel which is uplifting, emotional, thoughtful and at some moments truly heart-wrenching. What it isn’t, however, is a sappy, wet tale of stereotypical love. It’s nuanced. Kailey ends up in an impossible situation; helping her first love to get his life back together, whilst also making sure her new love doesn’t think she’s abandoning him. Always is a novel that makes the reader think. What would I do in this situation? Often there is no right or wrong answer, but in the end we are left with a satisfying story which feels like everything happened the way it should.
It’s a very unique idea for a novel, but one which I think every reader could relate to in one way or another. My only criticism? Though intriguing, the novel is, on some occasions, a little predictable.
Always is released on 7th February 2017, and is available for preorder now.