Just Last Night (2021)

by Mhairi McFarlane
ASIN/ISBN: 9780063036857
Publication: May 4, 2021

Eve was in love with Ed in their teens, and now in their thirties, she remains in love with him. Although he has a girlfriend, she still keeps wondering about what could have been, hoping there might still be a chance for them, especially since she believes he might still be in love with her too. Everything changes in a single night and secrets are revealed that make Eve doubt the things she thought she knew.

Just Last Night retains the elements that make me gravitate toward McFarlane’s books from realistic characters to poignant reflections on life, yet I couldn’t help but be unfulfilled by it. It’s almost as though there are two distinct books bounded together into a single novel. Separately, I’d give the first half 4 stars and the second would also receive 4 stars, but when they’re together the sum is not exactly equal to its parts–I’m giving it 3.5 stars. It’s a story of love, grief, hope, and learning to move forward.

Part I: Eve recalls how she and Susie became friends with Ed and Justin along with memories of Ed and Eve’s missed connection. Eve is incredibly lucky to have a close knit group of friends, but just because they’re close doesn’t mean there are aren’t secrets. Betrayal can be found in unexpected places. Eve learns this the hard way when she discovers secrets that make her wonder if she might have been better left in the dark. Eve’s seemingly blind loyalty is challenged, which adds on to the grief she is already battling with. This first part tugged at me because I hate regrets and loose ends. McFarlane emphasizes that, unfortunately, we don’t always get the answers to the questions that we have. The emotional turmoil is prominently center as Eve is left struggling to understand why.

Part II: Eve makes several realizations about her life and about the people around her during and after an unplanned road trip. Insight from an unexpected individual helps her discover that she deserves better than what she’s had. In this section, I discovered that Eve is definitely a better person than I am–she is much more forgiving. My reaction would been terrible and I would cut off ties. It was empowering to see Eve ask for more for herself. It was a “hand raising, finally” moment for me. It’s true. Sometimes we don’t get the closure we want, so we have to create our own. It’s ultimately up to us to decide what is worth keeping, what we need to let go, and how to keep pushing forward.

The two parts are connected with Eve’s arc being the thread. They are very much before and after, but I would have liked something to help transition from one part to the next. It is a hard hitting book, so if you pick it up please be prepared.

Just Like in the Movies (2021)

by Heidi Rice
ASN/ISBN: 9780008372576
Publication: March 12, 2021

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Ruby becomes part-owner of The Royale movie theatre when her boss and best friend Matty suddenly dies. While she’s intent on making sure The Royale continues running, her new co-owner Luke, Matty’s nephew, would rather rid his hands of the crumbling theatre. Ruby will need Luke’s help to save the theatre, but he’s not exactly the easiest person to get along with.

Just Like in the Movies was a treat to read. We can only hope to have friends and a supportive community such as Matty’s, especially someone like Ruby. Ruby’s earnestness to save the Royale Theatre and to celebrate her best friend Matty’s life was endearing. 

Sharing a similar love of rom-coms, I liked Ruby almost immediately, nearly just as fast as I found Luke unlikeable. Ruby is kind and likeable but has never ventured too far from home until Matty’s death thrusts her into a new role. She’ll fight for what she believes in, but she doesn’t feel the same about herself; she doesn’t exactly believe in herself.

It’s easy to dislike Luke, especially with his attitude and suspiciousness over Matty’s intentions in leaving him part ownership of the theatre. Of course, I’d be suspicious as well should something like that happen to me (as if it would ever be likely, except, you know, like in the movies and books…lol), but his quick assessment of Ruby irritated me. His automatic assumption, as expected, is that Ruby was Matty’s mistress. He’s a grumpy character with what seems like a heart of gold, and eventually, it becomes a bit difficult to dislike him, even though I tried. I really did.

The story is fairly straight-forward with Ruby trying to keep The Royale open and Luke finding himself more or less roped into helping out. There are several funny scenes throughout the book, and I liked the chemistry between Ruby and Luke as they learn more about one another.

Ultimately the ending was a satisfying one, but I couldn’t help but wish that Ruby’s lesson in all this had been a more prominent theme throughout the book. It seemed to have just dawned on her at what felt like the last minute. I would recommend this book to those who like movies in their romance novels with characters who grow from hate to love. Those who enjoyed Waiting for Tom Hanks may enjoy this novel as well.

Jane in Love (2020)

by Rachel Givney
ISBN: 9780063019089
Publication date: October 27, 2020

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
(Did I mention I was an Austen fan…)

Jane Austen finds herself in modern-day England after being promised that a spell will lead her to true love. She befriends Sofia Wentworth, who coincidentally is starring in a movie adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and finds a potential love interest in Sofia’s brother Fred. Just as she finally has love within her grasp, time travel deals her a harsh blow: staying means her literary works will disappear from history but returning home means she will lose a love that doesn’t exist in her time.

The beginning is a bit slow but picks up once Jane has been in the present for a while. There are multiple storylines, making it difficult for the author to allot enough time for each to appropriately play out. There’s Jane and Fred falling in love. There’s Sofia trying to figure out how to get Jane back home. Then, there’s Sofia trying to get back with her husband. At first, the latter story seems a bit out of place but Givney does successfully connect it all in the end.

With so many moving parts, I sometimes did not know what I was getting in the next chapter. A lot of time was spent on Jane’s marveling at the new world and trying to get around that I don’t think enough was spent on establishing Fred and Jane’s relationship. They do have some cute moments but I’m not sure if I could add it up to love so quickly. Their relationship felt rushed. But, that could just be the skeptic in me. Sometimes when you know, you just know I guess.

The other story I wanted more time with was that of Sofia and her ex-husband. Sofia initially came across snobbish but she quickly became a favorite character. Her personality grew on me, and she had some of the funniest lines in here. One of my favorites is probably at the hospital, and she’s talking to the doctor: “ ‘What’s the prognosis, Doc?’ Sofia asked. ‘Don’t dumb it down. I did a three-episode special-guest run on ER where I played a beautiful but troubled neurosurgeon.’” I couldn’t stop laughing. I think Sofia’s story could have been a book of its own. I would definitely pick that one up.

There doesn’t seem to be any rules with the time traveling. Jane travels through time and items travel with Jane. How does it work exactly? I’m not really sure but if you just take it as is and not ask a lot of questions, then you’ll be fine. The book is somewhat predictable as well but it doesn’t necessarily take away from being able to enjoy the book. If anything, you just have to stick through Jane seeing the modern world and once you do that, the rest is a good read (much closer to a 4 star).

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was slow to begin but once friendships were formed and love was found, I was fully immersed in the novel and invested in the relationships. The ending was expected, albeit bittersweet. Givney does an excellent job of tying everything in but it nevertheless left me a bit dejected, making me wonder if Austen’s true ending was still a happy one… because I like her and I want people I like to have happy endings.