20 December 2012

Book Review: You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

"What happens when the one that got away comes back? Find out in this sparkling debut from Mhairi McFarlane.

‘Think of the great duos of history. We're just like them.’
‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’
‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’."

Rating: 5/5

Mhairi McFarlane's debut novel You Had Me At Hello first caught my eye when I saw the gorgeous cover for it online a few months ago. It looked fun and fresh, and from things I had read about it, it sounded like it would be a bit of comedy read too. As much as I like Christmas novels at this time of year, I was actually really excited to pick up something a bit different, and so I think Mhairi's book came at just the right time for me. I was picking it up at every opportunity I had... even sneaking a read on my lunch break at school as it was a great book to escape into, and I rather loved Rachel and Ben quite a lot! It's a stonkingly brilliant debut, and judging by the many glowing reviews on Amazon, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks so!

Rachel and Ben were the best of friends at University, and were pretty joined at the hip. They went everywhere together, did everything together and despite what everyone around thought, they didn't think they were attracted to each other. Fast forward ten years, and the friends haven't spoken after one particularly fraught night at a party. When Rachel bumps into Ben again, all those feelings come flooding back, but she's shocked to find out how Ben has moved on, with a wife and successful career in tow. Rachel realises she rather likes Ben as more than her friend, but how will she be able to mend her broken heart, and make sure Ben won't be leaving her life again any time soon?

I think what drew me in so much about this book was the honest relationship and friendship that Rachel and Ben had together. It was so readable, and I loved both of them straight away, they were flawed but at the same time perfect for each other. Rachel was so funny, like a girl next door, and the perfect heroine in all ways. She works as a journalist in the local law courts, but doesn't seem to have that killer instinct required to really demolish people as she perhaps should. Rachel's line throughout the book are genuinely funny, her quick observations had me giggling along, and she was in so many ways the best character in the book, I really did love her. Ben on the other hand was a quite swoon-worthy male lead, and you could feel the tension between these two characters, McFarlane writes their relationship perfectly and I was just willing them to get their acts together quite often in the book!

I really enjoyed the way that the story is told in two time periods. There's the present day story, with Rachel and Ben reuniting with each other and their struggles to find a place for each other in their otherwise stable lives, and explaining it to those around them too, and then there is the Rachel and Ben of their University days, which gives the reader a good insight into how their friendship came about and why they feel as they do for each other. McFarlane really sets up a good backstory for the pair, and makes you want to read on and find out if they ever did hook up and how/why/where/when! There are a few other storylines in the book, involving Rachel's friends and while these were enjoyable, the main focus for me was totally on Rachel and Ben, and what was going to ultimately happen for them.

This is the ultimate in feel good romance stories, and I loved every page of it. McFarlane's comic writing is a joy to read from beginning to end, and I was so reluctant to finish it because that meant I'd have to leave Rachel and Ben behind for good. It was a hilarious read, that manages to tug at the heart-strings at the same time, and I really can't praise it highly enough. For a debut novel, it's fantastic and it makes me so excited to read more from McFarlane as soon as possible, because she's certainly a bright shining star in the chick lit world, and I can't wait for more. This is one read from 2012 that will be making its way onto my keeper's shelf, and it was certainly worth the wait. A truly fabulous book!

You can buy You Had Me At Hello as a paperback or an eBook.

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