Rated Reads

You Had Me at Hello

by Mhairi McFarlane

Rated: High

Ben and Rachel were close friends at university; they were the kind who had their own private jokes, that knew each other just so well.

It’s a decade later, however, and they haven’t seen each other since graduation. Rachel is working for a newspaper, covering court cases. She’s been with her boyfriend, Rhys, since before university started, and now that they’re planning their wedding, the relationship finally ends.

As Rachel is commiserating with her three (other) friends from college she still hangs out with, Caroline, Mindy and Ivor, Caroline mentions she’s seen Ben. At the city library. And Rachel goes and finds him there as well, thus rekindling the friendship.

Readers get flashbacks from Rachel and Ben’s university friendship as the book goes on and know even early on that Rachel has more than just platonic feelings for Ben. Unfortunately, now Ben is married.

As the story plays out, Ben and Rachel spend some time together, with Ben’s wife and other friends, of course, all just-as-friends. But Rachel doesn’t know how to handle the feelings that have come flooding back. And a happy ending couldn’t possibly be in sight, as Caroline warns.

Rachel relives the old times, gets flustered in the present, and deals with the possibility of dating again (she even gets asked out by a friend of Ben’s) and works on a big story that could lead to better things at work. Eventually, it all comes crashing down and she must face the facts of where her life — and her choices (or lack of deliberate ones) — have led her.

I couldn’t resist getting pulled in to this story. It made me chuckle and even laugh out loud at times, and the rapport between Rachel and Ben in the past and the present, as well as the camaraderie of Rachel’s circle of friends, was charming and drew me in. I had fun with these people, and my heart broke with them when they went through painful experiences. There were some twists and turns that seemed a bit contrived, and much of it was predictable, but it was fun. Not the great American novel (or, rather British, since it’s set in England), but entertaining.

Rated: High, for a solid three dozen instances of strong language, plus more moderate language. There is a sex scene but not very detailed, and there are various sexual references throughout.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • You Had Me at Hello
  • by Mhairi McFarlane
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: