If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Are you looking for a fun, silly, sexy read? 

This book is not for you.  

If, however, you’re looking for an author to take you on an emotional journey with a soul-satisfying conclusion If I Never Met You is just what the doctor (or the romance reviewer) ordered.

Laurie has her life together.  A talented lawyer, and one half of a long-term relationship, Laurie relishes the fact that she doesn’t have to play the dating game like so many of her friends do. They’re even planning to start a family soon. Her comfortable life comes crashing down when her partner of eighteen years suddenly leaves.  To make matters worse, Laurie’s ex works at the same law firm, and within weeks his new squeeze is knocked up. 

Jamie is the new guy in the office, whose rakish reputation is proving to be a barrier to professional advancement. After a few subtle hints from the bosses about “settling down,” Jamie is looking to rehabilitate his reputation. Perhaps he and Laurie can help one another… 

After a chance encounter on a broken-down elevator, Jamie proposes a daring plan- an office fauxmance! Jamie will show the bosses he can be serious and respectable. Laurie will remind her ex what he’s missing out on, but what will happen when the photo-ops and staged dates start to feel real? 

If I Never Met You is marketed as a romantic comedy. It’s certainly romantic, and you will definitely laugh, but this book is NOT a rom com.

The first third of the narrative deals with the emotional fallout of ending a decades-long relationship. I ugly-cried for two hours while reading, prompting my husband to ask if I’d run out of zoloft again.  Nope.  I was just feeling all the feels! McFarlane elicited emotion from me in a way that only a few writers have done. I experienced all the emotional gut-punches Laurie received, and I rooted for her to find healing and love. When the story becomes more about what the heroine can have in her future than what she no longer has from her past, readers can’t help but cheer Laurie on. That’s what brilliant writing does.

The downside of this book is that it’s kind of a downer (pun intended).  There’s a substantial dose of grief, plus a few helpings of racism and workplace sexism. It’s absolutely worth the read, but not when you’re in the mood for something lighthearted and fun. I’d recommend this book be enjoyed with a glass of wine and a generous portion of chocolate.  You’ll probably need it. 

Favorite Tropes:  Fake Romance, Workplace Romance, Friends to Lovers, Only One Bed, Slow Burn, Jilted Heroine, and Rakish Hero

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