Book Review: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Read the If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane book review for: a quick synopsis, plot overview, common themes, opinions, and rating

Book Synopsis:

“If I Never Met You” by Mhairi McFarlane follows the story of 30something lawyer Laurie Watkinson. The story starts out as a typical contemporary romance; we find out Laurie is with her long term boyfriend Dan, whom she met during fresher’s week in college and have been together since. That’s roughly 20 years which honestly, sounds like a lifetime. The story takes a turn when – SPOILER ALERT – Dan breaks up with Laurie. Obviously, this is a big deal. Laurie’s long term boyfriend, who she planned on marrying and birthing his kids, who she shared a mortgage with for their house, and who she thought was “it” for her decided to pull the plug. She was devastated, and with reason.

I’ll spare some of the spoilers that came with this big shock, to save some of the drama and suspense for you to discover yourself, but this event is clearly the catalyst for the story. And here is where I began to get bored. In mourning the end of her relationship with Dan, we see that Laurie has become a shell of a person. She was content with being a supporting character in Dan’s life. Throughout the book, she makes mental notes and discoveries about how things were with Dan, which show how much she prioritized him over her own self. She was perfectly content playing small, and that made me feel uninterested in her story at first. How could a successful lawyer be fine with playing second fiddle to her partner? Laurie admits that she was fine not being ambitious at work because she liked her co-workers in her section and was good at it – all of which are fair. She instead preferred to support Dan in trying to go for more promotions, which would have helped their dual income – and is also fair – but didn’t give herself going for the same things a second thought.

My Opinion:

It was difficult reading this for two reasons. One, I can’t imagine NOT being ambitious at work. Like I get it, playing in the background is safe but not all things that feel safe are good for you long term. Everyone knows the adage that “nothing good comes from your comfort zone” and it’s true, but Laurie has seemingly set up camp there and did not want to leave it. And two, I can relate with her prioritizing her partner in a romantic relationship and losing herself. I’ve done it before and old habits die so, so hard. It made me sad to see that even a fictional character can lose themselves in a relationship, which made me feel like there’s opportunity to lose hope in general. However, because I could relate with that in Laurie, I was determined to continue reading in hopes that she would redeem herself.

Plot Points:

You may be asking yourself “if she broke up with her boyfriend very early in the book, how is this a contemporary romance?” Enter Jamie Carter. Jamie, one of Laurie and Dan’s co-workers, comes into the scene post Laurie and Dan’s breakup. Known at the firm as a playboy for his “womanizing” ways, it’s unexpected that Laurie would even be seen with the man. In fact, she runs into him in the first chapter but shares very few words. How do these two even get together? Well for starters, they end up getting stuck in an elevator at work for a few hours. Here is where Laurie begins to see the more human side of Jamie but thinks nothing of it at the time. They end up going for drinks, and find that they get along pretty well. Laurie doesn’t feel pressured to be anything but herself – already a small redemption. 

This is where Jamie concocts the idea of a fake relationship between them. That’s right, folks. This book contains the “fake dating” trope, so I know y’all know how this ends up. The deal? Another SPOILER ALERT – they fake date through Christmas to help Jamie become partner. Why Laurie? The partners/owners of the firm love Laurie and see her as a serious woman. Playboy + serious woman = a man you can take seriously. Laurie, who has nothing to lose or gain from this deal agrees. Her sole motivation is to make Dan jealous in hopes that he’d come crawling back. This part, I rolled my eyes big time but again, I was rooting for her so I let the petty in her slide (though I was hoping Dan would seethe given what he did to Laurie but I digress).

Final Thoughts + Rating:

The plot develops, and thickens, throughout the course of the book. We learn more about Laurie and why she is the way she is, and more importantly, we see her slowly come back to herself. By the end of the book, Laurie is once again her own person with her own thoughts, ambitions and goals, and I’ll admit I was proud as hell to see her turn her shit around. That gave me hope that if a fictional character can snap back and realize what a badass she truly is, and how she doesn’t need men that are beneath her caliber, then I or anyone else can certainly do the same.
All in all, I rate this one 3 out of 5 stars. The slow pick up made it challenging for me to want to keep reading, but because I could relate to Laurie and so badly wanted to see her win, she gets three stars. And for the spice? This one gets 0 out of 5 peppers. There is zero spice in this book except for salt (ahem, Michael), but no spicy love scenes here; this book could be rated PG-13.
Have you read ‘If I Never Met You?” Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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