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Monday, February 26, 2018

'It’s Not Me, It’s You' by Mhairi McFarlane

From the BLURB:

Delia Moss isn't quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ was the 2015 stand-alone romance novel from Scottish author, Mhairi McFarlane.

Okay – full disclosure – I’m a twit. I had no less than three friends whose reading tastes are very similar to my own, and whose opinion I highly regard telling me that Mhairi McFarlane is one of their favourite romance authors. I half-heartedly took their recs onboard, by buying three Mhairi books … and then didn’t read them. For about a year. And a half. Now I’m out the other side of one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of my life, and I’m fluctuating between beating myself up and just nosediving into her backlist!

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ presents us with Northen lass Delia Moss – and then proceeds to get her as downtrodden as possible when she discovers her boyfriend of ten-years (who has just become her fiancée) has been cheating on her. Delia’s life spins out of control upon this revelation – she quits her job, perhaps gets herself a virtual-stalker and accepts an invitation to go and live with her best friend in her London apartment while she sorts herself out.

What follows is Delia getting gainful employment with a rotten PR-agency, rediscovering her love of comic-creating, befriending someone over email and getting blackmailed into being a whistleblower … all while the relationship she left back in Newcastle remains with a giant question-mark over her future.

I love, love, loved this book – not least because nobody in it played to clichés. From the ‘other woman’ to the initially antagonistic new love interest, and even the rat-bag cheating boyfriend, and Delia herself … nobody plays to type (or, the archetype of romance fiction) but everyone is thoroughly believable, imperfect, and wonderful.

All these against-type characters also meant that the book kept me in utter suspense throughout – and the last 20 or so pages were a heart-palpitating emotional thrill-ride that had me bouncing between elation that a romance-book kept me guessing so marvellously, and pleading with Mhairi McFarlane to indeed fulfil the romance-genre promises.

Some storylines didn’t *quite* get the service I’d hoped for … like Delia’s virtual-stalker turned friend (whose storyline I half-anticipated was gearing up for a somewhat similar turn to Rainbow Rowell’s debut romance ‘Attachments’) but this was partly because of the aforementioned avoidance of clichés, where expectations could be set up but then pivoted and improved.

The book was also terribly funny. I snort-laughed as much as I swooned – and I swooned pretty darn hard.

'I wasn't trying that hard with men before Paul, though. I usually had the upper hand.' Delia swiped her travel-greasy fringe out of her eyes. 'Am I allowed to say I was quite a bit in demand, now it's so long ago?'
'You completely were,' Emma said. 'I remember in the union bar when you wore your hair in those buns which had all the boys sighing. You were one of those manic pixie dream girls. Without being a twat with a ukulele.'  

I think the best romance books are probably the ones that leave you half-desperate that the author had written an extra fifty, superfluous pages of just pure, giddy happily-ever-afterness … but much like a good meal leaving you salivating for one more mouthful, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ was a satisfactory craving and now I’m just chuffed that I have her backlist to fall into.


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