Blurb from Goodreads
Anna and Marley are best friends. So when Anna rings Marley, panicking because she has to miss a tour of an exclusive wedding venue, Marley agrees to go in her friend’s place.
After being totally ignored by the glamorous receptionist who can tell she doesn’t belong there, Marley meets handsome hotel manager Cameron. He assumes she’s Anna and instead of admitting that she’s not the blushing bride, but the unlucky-in-love single friend, Marley plays along to see what it’s like to be Anna for a day.
After all, Marley is unemployed, single and was woken up that morning by her flatmate playing the bagpipes. Anna has a high-flying career and is planning the perfect wedding. Why wouldn’t Marley want to be her?
Only she wasn’t counting on Cameron being so smart and funny. Or this spark between them that she can’t ignore. She hasn’t felt this way about a guy in forever. But he thinks she’s somebody better.
Marley needs a way out of this mix-up to get her shot at true love. But her fictional fiancé is now standing in her way and it’s harder than she thought to stop living someone else’s life…
This book has enraged me. Enraged me not because it’s poor or unenjoyable in any way, but because it is exactly the opposite. It’s an incredibly well written book with fantastically interesting characters… but in my heart of hearts I know this book will be dismissed by many potential readers. Dismissed because a certain cohort will look at the blurb, the author’s gender, and make assumptions. Assumptions that this book is ‘chick lit’ and take that to mean that it’s somehow disposable and unworthy of merit.
And that enrages me. And saddens me.
Why is it that contemporary fiction written by women is somehow deemed less than? Why is it that when women write stories that feature romance, humour, happy endings, and female lead characters, that it’s deemed lazy writing and disposable fiction suitable only to be read by women? But yet when men do likewise they are somehow being brave and vulnerable by exposing their emotions and romantic tendencies?
The Mix-Up is the second novel I’ve read by Elizabeth Neep through NetGalley and on both occasions she has astounded me. There’s a raw honesty to her books. Underneath the perky blurbs and cute covers there are characters that make me as a reader feel like I’m looking at a mirror that reveals those most diffident and quiet parts of myself. Neep exposes the insecure inner voices of personhood in the most subtle and sublime of ways.
If you want light fiction that you can escape the manic existence of what we call life these days then absolutely this book has all that and more; there’s a brilliantly silly plot, idiotic decision making, quirky characters, an engaging plot with a nice few twists and turns but ultimately a satisfying resolution… everything that you want from this genre is there.
However there’s also a beautiful muddiness to the characters. They’re flawed. Some of them you may even hate. As you’re reading the story you won’t understand why they’re friends, will question the preposterous nature of certain events…
But if you keep reading then you will see this novel unveil its true gift.
It explores the complexities of maintaining friendships when adult responsibilities are calling. And examines the impact of what occurs to a long standing female friendship when one of the friends has a romantic relationship that leads to imminent marriage.
Readers in their mid to late twenties and beyond will see much of themselves in these characters. If you’re the one in a committed relationship with a steady job you’ll be able to relate to Anna and the pressures to keep up appearances of being happily loved up that that brings. And if you’re single and living from paycheque to paycheque you will see much of yourself in Marley.
The book places its spotlight firmly on Marley. Marley, who in an attempt to escape her feelings of unworthiness, pretends to be her successful best friend Anna for a few hours… but hours turns into a whole lot more as career opportunities arise and the ability to tell the truth just feels more and more out of her reach.
And through the journey arising from this well-intentioned subterfuge Marley essentially learns the true meaning behind that well known saying “You can’t fully understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”… but she learns it in a compelling way. It’s a storyline that thoroughly kept me enthralled. It kept me wanting to know how things would pan out, and I was desperate to discover what the fallout for Marley would be once the truth was revealed…
And I wasn’t disappointed.
The Mix-Up was funny and filled with enjoyable hare-brained moments courtesy of Marley being utterly senseless but still somehow endearing. It was completely engaging with regards to seeing how the female friendships evolved and the journey to discover what is and isn’t a toxic friendship. It places its focus firmly on friendship rather than romance, but there is a romantic storyline for those that do love a bit of a swoon (which I very much do!). The book was a wonderfully easy read making it effortless for me to lose myself in its pages for a few hours. And it was a story that made me cry because of the deeper meanings and life lessons that were under its shiny surface.
Basically I loved every single aspect of this book. I was desperate to get to the end, but yet I also never wanted it to end. That to me is the measure of a truly great read.
Neep is 100% a writer whose career I will follow with great interest. I already have purchased her first novel which is now sitting on my kindle awaiting reading. And I look forward to more titles from her in the future.
Highly recommended to fans of contemporary fiction.
*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*
Publishing 27th May 2021, Bookouture