rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
published: 1st January 2020
When Laurie’s partner of eighteen years, Dan, dumps her to ‘find himself’ (and leave her on the shelf at 36), she is blindsided. But not as blindsided as when he announces that his new girlfriend is now pregnant.
Working in the same office with Dan is soon unbearable – until the day she gets stuck in the lift with her handsome colleague Jamie. Jamie is looking for a way to improve his reputation in the company and what better way for Jamie to advance and Laurie to give the rumour mill something else to talk about than a fake relationship?
As Laurie and Jamie progress from Instagram snaps to dates, dancing and more, Laurie feels herself falling further for her unlikely hero. But you can’t break your heart in a fake relationship. Can you?
‘Fuck “meant to be”!’ Hattie said, heartily, “Meant to be is too passive in a crisis.’
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: emotional abuse by parent, past paedophilia
Fake dating is a god-tier trope, we all know this. So when one of your favourite authors announces that their next book is going to include fake dating? Well who wouldn’t jump at the chance to read it.
If I Never Met You is like your classic fake dating trope, where both parties need something out of the relationship – Laurie to get back at her ex who has just dumped her for another woman and suddenly announced said woman’s pregnancy, and Jamie to prove to the partners at their law firm that he has settled down and is the right person to offer the position of partner to. But the fake dating ends up a little more like real dating and, yeah, it’s obvious where I’m going with this, but that’s the whole fun of the trope. You know exactly what’s going to happen, so the excitement is more how well the author can build up the relationship and make you desperate for the happy ending. And Mhairi McFarlane does it so incredibly well.
One of my favourite things about Mhairi McFarlane’s books is her ability to write realistic and sympathetic characters you will fall in love with within the first few pages. And that is no different here. Both Laurie and Jamie are characters to root for, and ones you’ll want to be reading more of after you’ve turned the final page (no really, Mhairi, what do I have to offer to get an epilogue). And it’s not just Laurie and Jamie – the surrounding cast is equally great (and detestable when they need to be).
What McFarlane does best with these characters though, is make you want them to be together. And then gives you a slowburn to end all slowburns. In too many romances I’ve read, the couple has got together before I’ve even thought that they might like each other. You know the ones, where all the attraction seems to be shallow and full of lust. The best romances give you that tension before all that (though not wholly disregarding the lust either). This is one of those romances.
If I had any minor issues with this, it was these. Firstly, there’s not so much of an emotional kick to this one as there was to Don’t You Forget About Me (i.e. I didn’t end up almost crying in the kitchen). Though, obviously, I’m going to need to reread again soon and then I might get the kick. Secondly, the main character is biracial, and a couple of times I was a little… hmmm about the rep. Couldn’t tell you more than that, just… hmmm.
But probably the marker of a good book is how desperate I am to go right back to the beginning and start again immediately after finishing and, in that case, this was an excellent one.