A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

on October 5, 2022

CW: suicide

This started out well for me, lively, funny and relatable, and ended pretty well too. (Until the very end. Let’s just say that if you’re going to refer to your characters as “hero” and “heroine” in your author’s notes, you should deliver a less ambiguous ending.) It maybe redeemed the rest for me?

The story is from the pov of view of Edie, who’s the extremely uncomfortable guest at the wedding of her co-worker Charlotte to her co-worker Jack — whom Edie’s been having an emotional affair with over text. When all hell breaks loose at the wedding, Edie finds herself labeled a Scarlet Homewrecker Tart all over Facebook, and doesn’t feel she can ever face the office again. Her boss, who doesn’t want to lose her, sends her on assignment to her home town of Nottingham, to be a ghostwriter for actor/heart-throb Elliot Owen.

The whole “dogpiled and bullied on social media” element of the plot might have worked better for me if the author hadn’t used it again so recently, in Mad About You, which I didn’t love. There’s a lot of similarities in the plots and it made me uncomfortable in the light of recent events with She Who Will Not Be Named; writing about “keyboard warriors” nudges my bullshit meter. And the same set-up of two poor beleaguered woman being so cruelly treated by a bunch of cartoon villains… it’s just a lot and seems to primarily exist for the purpose of letting the woman grow a spine and get her own back.

Thankfully the book is about more than that, which I can’t really say about Mad About You. Edie has some good character growth, including making peace with her family, which has never been the same since her mother’s suicide when she was nine. I was very touched by this section in which Edie and her sister discuss their mother’s death for pretty much the first time:

“I read an analogy of depression,” Meg said, as they steadied, wiping under her eyes with a floppy cuff. “About how killing yourself is like jumping out of a tall building when it’s on fire. You don’t want to jump out, but bit by bit, it becomes impossible not to because you’re so scared and in so much pain. No one thinks anyone jumping out of a building on fire wants to do it.”

“Every time I think that Mum chose to go, I’m going to remember that,” Edie said. “I know in my heart that she didn’t choose it, but sometimes when it’s hard to bear, being angry is easier.”

The slow burn (also closed door) friendship to romance with Elliot is pleasant, and I was pleased that what seemed like a really obvious and dumb lead-up to a third-act-breakup scenario didn’t actually happen. But the lengthy “is he or isn’t he into me” section bothered me by seeming so much like what Edie had already gone through with Jack, where there are constant clues that maybe he might like her that she’s always trying to decipher. It made it harder to like Eliot and to root for them as a couple, though he finally won my heart by being exceptionally twitterpated.

There are also some enjoyably over-the-top characters, like Elliot’s director, a pithy Dorothy Parker in a permanent state of utter outrage. And Edie reunites with her two closest friends. for much fun and laughs. The “questions” section for this book on GoodReads is entirely people begging for a follow-up, because of the noncommittal ending, but I would also really like to catch up with the friends again and also see them happy.

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