Blurb from Goodreads
I almost gave up on love. My ex, who called his private parts ‘Nigel’, was enough to put me off men forever. But then I met Joe.
Alice thought she’d found Mr Right. Her blue-eyed boyfriend Joe gives her butterflies, makes her bacon sandwiches when she’s hungover, and doesn’t have a nickname for any of his body parts.
She should have known it was too good to be true. Because one day, Alice and Joe bump into Zoe. According to him, Zoe’s ‘just an old friend’. But Alice saw the way they froze, and heard the strange note in Joe’s voice when he said her name.
Then, out of the blue, Zoe needs a place to live. And Joe has the bright idea of inviting her, and her fluffy ginger cat Frazzle, to stay with them.
Alice tries her hardest not to feel threatened. But the thing is, Zoe doesn’t survive off microwave meals, or go days without washing her glossy copper-coloured hair, or accidentally get mascara in her contact lenses.
Joe’s ex might be pretty much perfect, but there’s no way that Alice will let Zoe steal him. She’s on a mission to prove that three (four, if you count the cat) is definitely a crowd…
Content Warning: sexual assault
The blurb for Just Saying conjures images of a light and frothy romantic comedy read, but once you get stuck into the book you realise there’s a lot more grit to it.
Main character Alice ends up losing her solicitor placement when her boss gets unceremoniously fired for misconduct and needs a filler job to help pay the rent of her flat where she lives with boyfriend Joe. She somewhat stumbles into barwork at the local pub on her street, The Nag’s Head. But the pay is not great. So boyfriend Joe has another idea to help them pay their rent… invite ex girlfriend Zoe to live with them in their spare room.
And hi-jinx ensue!
Alice suspects Zoe of still having feelings for Joe and so Alice becomes crippled by anxiety and jealousy causing cracks to develop in their relationship. But under the surface we begin to see that Alice’s anxiety is rooted in a horrible secret that she has kept from everyone else: she was the victim of a sexual assault.
This book is a really interesting read! It mixes the fun and banter of a romantic comedy with much darker themes of sexual assault and the subsequent guilt that the victim feels at keeping the assault under wraps. It also explores issues surrounding the evolution of love in a long term relationship and the implications of what happens when trust is lost and fidelity is questioned on both sides.
I really enjoyed the style of the narrative and read this book in double quick time as I was eager to see how the plot would pan out i.e. whether Alice and Joe could weather the storm of interfering exes and cute business owners, and if Alice would be able to begin a journey of healing from her sexual assault.
I quite liked Alice as a main character. I liked how as the book developed we kept getting through the layers of her personality and deeper connected with her true wants and needs in life. I think the author did a nice job of showing how victims of sexual crime can be deeply affected by their assault without the victim realising how much their sense of self worth has been impacted. Personally I would have preferred there to have been a greater emphasis on getting appropriate counselling and treatment to help Alice deal with what happened to her, but I do like how Alice was determined to use her skills and knowledge to help other sexual assault victims.
I was less keen on the character of Zoe, Joe’s ex. She seemed to be an almost caricature of an ex girlfriend rather than a fully realised character in her own right. Outside of her love for veganism and healthy living, she seemed to have no other interests outside of hanging out with Joe which was irksome. I would have liked her to have had other facets to her personality rather than just be the gorgeous ex bent on home wrecking.
I also that Joe was entirely underdeveloped as a character. I never understood what was so great about him to make Alice love him so much and have Zoe just as keen. He was just altogether too bland to make his presence truly felt in the novel. There was an interesting side story that Joe was involved in that focused on deportation and homophobia which could have helped to really show why it was that Joe was so passionate about human rights… but because of lawyer-client confidentiality we never heard of the ins and outs of that case, nor did we get a true picture of the outcome.
Overall this was an engaging read but one that did suffer from a case of being undercooked with regards to development of the supporting characters and their story arcs.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Publishing 3rd July 2020, Bookoutre