Updated: Jan 19
by Sophie Ranald
Published by Bookouture
I almost gave up on love.
My ex, who called his private parts ‘Nigel’, was enough to put me off men forever. But then I met Joe.
Alice thought she’d found Mr Right. Her blue-eyed boyfriend Joe gives her butterflies, makes her bacon sandwiches when she’s hungover, and doesn’t have a nickname for any of his body parts.
She should have known it was too good to be true. Because one day, Alice and Joe bump into Zoe. According to him, Zoe’s ‘just an old friend’. But Alice saw the way they froze, and heard the strange note in Joe’s voice when he said her name.
Then, out of the blue, Zoe needs a place to live. And Joe has the bright idea of inviting her, and her fluffy ginger cat Frazzle, to stay with them.
Alice tries her hardest not to feel threatened. But the thing is, Zoe doesn’t survive off microwave meals, or go days without washing her glossy copper-coloured hair, or accidentally get mascara in her contact lenses.
Joe’s ex might be pretty much perfect, but there’s no way that Alice will let Zoe steal him. She’s on a mission to prove that three (four, if you count the cat) is definitely a crowd…
RATED: 16+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Just Saying by Sophie Ranald is a stand-alone book, about a woman named Alice, who, just as life was shaping up the way she thought it ought to, with her wonderful boyfriend of two years, their own flat, and job offers at a prestigious law firm, has it ripped away after finding out her boss was terminated, and the position she was offered, no longer there. Instead of looking for work in her field, she ends up wandering into a local pub, and after helping out there, ends up working there and falling in love with the run down place. To make ends meet, her perfect boyfriend suggests moving in his friend ... who happens to be his ex who he was in love with ... into their second room, which, as you can imagine, leads to a slew of new problems.
This is the hard part of receiving advanced reading copies. The books that leave you ... stumped. I don't want to be too rough, but I need to be honest. Just Saying is ... a bit of a mess. For a few reasons. But I want to say what I liked about it first.
I liked that the raw emotions felt from the characters in this book, given the situation, were realistic. Insecurity. Jealousy. These are normal, human emotions, that happen even in the best, and most trusting, of relationships. We are a flawed species, and it's natural. I also felt, in the too short times that Alice and Joe were together in the book, that their chemistry was there. The emotional turmoil one goes through when going through a rough patch with their partner was pretty dead-on. I also enjoyed that our main character, while pushed out of her job in a way, found something she actually loved, instead of something she felt she should do.
Now for what I didn't like.
The cover, and the description don't match with the book. At all. "Who Needs a Boyfriend When You Have A Bottle of Wine." doesn't even remotely make sense with this book. The description, makes you think that our main character Alice is fighting for her man ... which, spoiler alert, isn't the case at all.
This book is labeled as a rom-com. I didn't find it funny. There is a bitter under-current to the whole book. I found the whole time I was reading it mildly anxious. Living with your boyfriend's ex, and watching them get along better than you are ... it's icky feeling, and not at all comedic. The most comedic scene in this book was Alice and her best friend talking about the "Ick" factor that ruins relationships. A couple of pages of dialogue doesn't make for a comedy.
It was hardly romantic. Most of the book is about Alice and the pub she works at. I won't lie, I ended up skimming chapters (which I NEVER do), because a lot of it was pointless. It had no bearing on the story that was described. For a romance, we hardly see Alice and Joe together at all in the book. I know their separate schedules could be blamed, and their rough patch, but in order to be classified as a romance, you actually need a couple to read about, and the only times I felt like they were a couple, were the first couple chapters, and the last one.
I mentioned this already, but there was a lot of pointless "scenes" in this book. I think Alice falling in love with the pub could have been established with a lot less.
There is a bit of a back and forth in timeline in this book. Which I am fine with. I only wish it was more clear at the beginning of a chapter, that we were going back in time.
The plausibility of someone EVER agreeing to have their partners ex, who they loved and had sex with once upon a time, to move in with them ... no. I read fantasy, and THAT even seems far-fetched to me.
The characters in this book were okay. Often, though, I found I was mostly frustrated. So many times I read that Alice KNEW she needs to talk to Joe, but continually found excuses not to, but then was in constant turmoil over the state of their relationship.
Just Saying is a bit of flop. The cover and description, hell, even the genre, is all wrong. The story itself had promise ... but it kind of went everywhere, and by the end, I didn't quite know what I just read. I still don't.
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Alice: "You pinched my bum and distracted me."
Joe: "Your bum distracted me first."
Joe: "Hey, Alice. You're not jealous, are you?"
Alice: "God, no. I mean, why would I be? It's not like I care about you, or anything."
Alice: "So the hotness comes at a price?"
Heather: "It does. I mean, he lives on whey shakes and hard-boiled eggs. So we can never go out anywhere nice, not even the pub, because he doesn't drink. And the protein thing - let's say he's not exactly regular."
Alice: "You mean you know ...?"
Heather: "When he shits. I do. And it gets worse than that. I know because he tells me."
Alice: "Oh my God! After six weeks?"
Heather: "I know, right? Sorry, I know you're eating. But last Friday, he spent the night at mine, and the next morning he went to the bathroom and shut himself in there for about three-quarters of an hour. I was bursting for a wee and I had to wait for him to finish. And then he came out, with a copy o f Men's Health that he'd been reading in there, and he said, 'Morning, babe. Jeez, talk about constipation.'"
I burst out laughing.
Alice: "I presume you weren't in the mood for a deep-and-meaningful about constipation?"
Heather: "I was not. But that didn't stop him. He told me he hasn't had a poo since Tuesday, and he was going to have to add some soluble fibre to his next protein shake, and he was planning an eight-mile run the next day because, he said, that was the best way to 'get things moving'".
Alice: "Romance is not dead."
She rolled her eyes
Heather: "And the sex we'd had the night before was off the scale, but I just knew that next time, I wouldn't be able to look at him without thinking about his impacted bowels. Or go to the bathroom until I'd fumigated the place."
Alice: "Ewww. You mean there's going to be a next time?"
Heather: "Not yet. Not for want of trying on his part, though. He said, 'I always feel horny after a good clear-out,' and then he started groping my tits."
Alice: "You're the best."
Joe: "I'm out of practice. I've had ready meals that took longer than I did back there."
Alice: "That was better than any ready meal I've ever had."
Alice: "I got that with one of my very first boyfriends, back when I was uni. It was pretty short-lived. The relationship, not the Ick."
Heather: "Because once the Ick's there, it's there to stay."
Alice: "Correct. With this bloke - Stephen - it was ... Oh my God, I can hardly bear to think about it."
Heather: "Go on, Alice! What did he do?"
Alice: "He .... He had a name for his penis."
Alice: "Yep. Nigel. I mean really, fucking Nigel. Although in hindsight, it did look a bit like Nigel Farage."
Heather: "Nigel Farage looks like lots of people's penises."
Alice: "This is true. But anyway, he talked about it all the time, like, 'Come and give Nigel a kiss, Alice.' "
Alice: "Exactly. The Ick set in right there. But I thought it was love, and I tried to pretend it was all cute and quirky."
Heather: "My God, woman! Have some self-respect! Okay, I guess it was a long time ago and you were young and naive. But what happened to make you see how wrong it was?"
Alice: "He gave my fanny a name, too."
Heather: "He gave your ... No way. Are you going to tell me what it was, or shall I guess?"
Alice: "You'd never get there. It was Belinda."
Heather doubled over, her hair almost brushing the tabletop
Heather: "Belinda? Did you ever find out why? His childhood nanny? A Playboy centrefold?"
Alice: "I honestly have no idea. I never asked, but every time he said, 'Is Belinda feeling frisky?' I just about died from the Ick."
Heather: "You were still shagging him? Jesus. What happened to make you realize what a terrible mistake that was?"
I put my hands to my face My cheeks were burning, just remembering it.
Alice: "So he must've given all his girlfriends' minges names. And one time, he called mine the wrong one."
Heather: "Oh for fuck's ... He didn't."
Alice: "He did. He was like, 'Nigel's grown, look. Nigel wants to get intimate with Veronica - I mean Belinda."
Heather: "Veronica! I'm dying."
Alice: "Mmhmm. So that became a terminal case of the Ick, right there."
Alice: "I never want to shag anyone except you."
Joe: "Not even Kit Harington?"
Alice: "I believe he's taken."
Joe: "And I guess you're taken, too."
Joe: "How could I not like you? This incredible, strong, brilliant, beautiful woman? I'd have been mad. You could have told me practically anything and I'd still have fallen for you."
Alice: "But I didn't tell you."
Joe: "You've told me now. That's all that matters."