Title: Mad About You (review copy)
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Romantic Drama, Toxic Relationships, Emotional Abuse
Blurb from Goodreads
Two reluctant housemates.
Two broken promises.
One crazy plan…
Harriet Hatley may be one of the most in-demand wedding photographers in Leeds, but she hates the idea of marriage.
Cal Clarke is used to the world falling in line with his plans – apart from his own love-life, which has gone hopelessly wrong.
When they become unlikely housemates, it’s clear they’re both running away from something bigger.
Can they take a crazy risk to face the past and change everything?
I really don’t know how to frame this review. The book, Mad About You, is really well written as is indicated by my inability to stop reading it; by 8% through the read I was going to DNF this and only returned to the novel about a week after abandoning it to refresh my memory so I could write a quick review for NetGalley explaining my reasons behind not finishing….
But then 8% quickly became 16%, which in turn became 51%… and well then I had to finish!
But yet I feel hollow, or bereft even. This book guzzled up all of my energy which meant I never really enjoyed it…
I know that sounds strange to say.
When I first picked up this book I thought I was going to be reading a light and flirty romantic comedy. It’s what I was in the mood for as my own personal life has been a bit “heavy” of late. So with the cutesy cover and blurb promising one of my favourite tropes (throwing two strangers who seem like complete opposites together and then boom sparks fly) I thought that I was going to be reading some swoony, escapist fiction….
Reader this book is very much not swoony, escapist fiction.
The romance is there but in essence it’s essentially an afterthought as it’s entirely slow burn and not the book’s driving plot line.
Instead this book goes down a much darker road and delves into emotionally abusive relationships by exploring the devastating impacts of coercive control and gaslighting that main character Harriet endured in a past relationship.
And I have to say it’s brilliantly handled.
As a reader I was sucked into this dark storyline …but at times I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.
The darkness of the plot was too much for me.
I hated the way Harriet was treated by both of her exes, and at times I hated Harriet too…
Well maybe hate is too strong a word choice. More I was incredibly frustrated by her because I desperately wanted her to believe in herself more, have more self confidence etc etc. I guess my own feelings of frustration must be minuscule to those of the friends and family of people who’ve become swallowed by an abusive and toxic relationship; I can only imagine how painful it must be to sit on the sideline as they feel powerless to help the victim. That’s what’s so great about the character of Harriet’s best friend Lorna in the book. It is really heartbreaking that though her you can really see the emotional damage that has been done to Harriet because Harriet does have these moments of second guessing herself.
One of the best bits about this book really is the camaraderie of women. It’s brilliant to see that Harriet’s “ride or die” person is her best friend Lorna because that’s something I feel is so true for women. There’s such a beautiful intimacy and depth to female friendships that this book perfectly shines a light on.
So really there are tonnes and tonnes of brilliant things to say about this book.
The writing is incredibly tight, the narrative is gripping, each of the main characters is written in an authentic and believable fashion, it’s got moments of epic hilarity juxtaposed against moments of deep sadness and hurt…
But I didn’t love it.
I couldn’t love it because of where I am emotionally right now. I needed light and whimsical which this book is the very opposite of.
This is very much a case of right book but wrong time for me. If this hadn’t been an ARC it would have stayed on the back burner for a while (with me DNFing at 8% as I wouldn’t have urgently needed to write a review for NetGalley) and I could have read it at some later date when I was feeling better.
I have absolutely no qualms about highly recommending this book to anyone who wants to read a well written contemporary novel that explores emotionally abusive relationships. But if like me you’re looking for a light hearted romantic comedy, then this is not the book you’re looking for.
Do better with your blurbs and cover choices publishers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with marketing this book as a thoughtful contemporary instead of promoting the illusion that it’s first and foremost a romantic comedy.
*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*
Publication Date 14th April 2022 Harper Collins U.K.