by Jenny Holiday
Publication: June 26, 2018
Series: Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #2
**This is going to be a bit of a long one. Sorry!**
I’ve read It Takes Two a few times since first picking it up towards the end of 2020. I just finished reading the entire novel again and am currently picking my favorite parts to reread. I never thought about doing a review on it, but I realized I wanted to, maybe even needed to, because it kept creeping onto my reread list. When I first read it, I liked it but didn’t think I’d be reading it again. Sometimes there are books like that. On the first reading, it was good but not great, and then on the subsequent readings I didn’t know I would do (heh), it just got a little better each time. My subconscious knew before I did that it would be a favorite read. It’s nearly a comfort read now because I keep picking it up when I need a break or am stressing over things. Part of it is knowing what will happen but a lot of it has to do with the plot and Holiday’s writing. Also, maybe I feel a bit of camaraderie with Wendy, who always has her armor ready.
It Takes Two is a mix of friends/rivals-to-lovers, unrequited love, and forbidden love–all tropes I enjoy reading. Holiday weaves a romance about how the past can mold us into who we are today and how something seemingly insignificant can have greater consequences than we realize. That’s the case for Wendy Liu, who hides her vulnerability under a tough exterior because two events inextricably changed her life: her dad’s death and the boy she liked standing her up. When she sees Noah again, after avoiding him as much as possible for seventeen years, it forces Wendy to confront how his actions changed her, how much more it affected her than she remembered or even gave credence to, realizing that maybe it still holds some power over her.
Noah’s feelings for Wendy are slightly more complicated because she embodies so many different roles in his life. Forced to grow up too fast when his dad died, Noah’s played the protective older brother to Jane, and by extension to Wendy, for so long. Despite being his sister’s best friend, they have their own connection too. Not only has he taken on the role of being a surrogate older brother, but he’s also always felt like Wendy understood him, seeing him when most people didn’t. Despite his insistence on Wendy being like family, he’s also thought about her in non-sibling ways. Noah, bless his heart, is not as attuned to Wendy as much as he thinks he is. It’s not clear what his feelings are toward her, at least it’s not clear to him.
Their longstanding and very petty rivalry is entertaining as they try to outdo each other. It’s as simple as who doesn’t get shotgun in Jane’s tiny car–that’s right they fight over being polite and giving up shotgun for the other person–to who gets to pay for Jane’s wedding dress. They’re also constantly baiting one another into competing as well. Some of my favorite scenes are Noah picking on Wendy but then inwardly cringing and chastising himself for doing it. It slowly begins to feel like their bickering and competitiveness has just been a long courtship, possibly even foreplay, with their attraction to one another just simmering below the surface. Neither, of course, fully recognizes what is going on, which is funny because they’re both lawyers. The evidence is all there. They just need to piece it together.
It’s a well-crafted story with complex characters. While it largely takes place in the present, the flashbacks we get are handled well–intermixed with the present to provide insight into the current status of their relationship. It’s usually Wendy or Noah jolted back to reality from remembering rather than separate chapters that interrupt the present-day timeline. When I first read it, I wasn’t a fan of the constant flashbacks because I wanted more of the present, but I like them more now. Holiday presents the same events but through the eyes of both Wendy and Noah, allowing readers to see the event through different perspectives. They’re reminders that two people can be together, sharing the same moment, and feel things so differently, or maybe even feel the same thing and not know it. They’re also reminders that there are some things in our past that we cannot easily escape, especially if it’s the person we’ve always loved.
I’ve been reading so many romance novels, but one of the reasons I liked this book so much more was because it made me feel more grounded. Similar to how I liked Helena Hunting’s Meet Cute for its predictability, I liked It Takes Two for being grounded in something closer to my reality (if my best friend had a hot brother who I had a crush on and might feel the same too…hahaha…that alternate reality). Wendy wasn’t swept off her feet by some millionaire or a famous person; she wasn’t swept off her feet at all. It certainly wasn’t about this all-consuming passion that could no longer be controlled. And for the record, I don’t mind any of those types of books at all. It Takes Two felt like it could be someone’s real story where the constant ache of having been hurt long ago by someone you like never completely goes away; those feelings have just been buried away until seeing that person again pushes it to the surface. And, when it does, maybe there can be a happily ever after.