STARRED REVIEW
May 2021

With friends like these

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

STARRED REVIEW

With friends like these

May 2021

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

STARRED REVIEW
May 2021

With friends like these

May 2021

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

STARRED REVIEW
May 2021

With friends like these

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

STARRED REVIEW
May 2021

With friends like these

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

May 2021

With friends like these

Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

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Complex and delightful friend groups ground two new romances in warts-and-all reality.

Trying to find love can mean putting your best foot forward: being the hottest, smartest, coolest version of yourself whenever the object of your affection is around. But as guarded as we are with romantic prospects, we open ourselves wholeheartedly to the friends who love us exactly as we are. By showcasing strong friend groups, two romances offer a glimpse into their characters’ truest, facade-down, flaws-exposed selves.

In Kris Ripper’s The Hate Project, Oscar Nelson and his friends have been fixtures in each other’s lives since college, providing encouragement, nagging, advice, excessive emojis and unconditional love. These are all things that Oscar needs badly, given the powerful and pervasive anxiety that threatens to crush him when he loses his miserable customer service job and must put himself out there to find another gig. 

A temporary reprieve comes when Jack hires Oscar to clean out his grandmother’s house. Jack’s late grandfather was a hoarder, so this is no easy task. It’s potentially awkward as well, as Jack and Oscar have never really gotten along. And since Jack and Oscar slept together that one time, well . . .

This story, if you’ll pardon the pun, has a lot of unpacking to do. Ripper digs deep into Oscar’s issues, depicting them with such uncompromising starkness that readers may have trouble envisioning how he will come out on the other side and step into healthy choices and happy endings. Ripper also devotes time to Jack’s issues, since he’s got his own burdens to carry. 

By the end, Ripper methodically reveals that nearly every character has had to work hard to get where they are—even the sunniest character, Jack’s hilariously irrepressible grandmother, Evelyn. While The Hate Project depicts a lot of struggle, including a fair and realistic amount of backsliding, it also showcases lovely moments of hope, steadfastly suggesting that troubles can be overcome with loyal friends.

The friendship group in Just Last Night faces a challenge that’s far more abrupt—painfully so. Three 30-somethings who’ve been tightly wound into each other’s lives since they were teenagers are forced to grapple with a shocking and sudden death among their ranks. 

Eve, Ed and Justin are wrecked at the loss of their fourth, Suzie. But their bond is further undermined when Eve discovers that, 10 years ago, Suzie had a one-night stand with Ed. Ed, who is now engaged. Ed, whom Eve has been hopelessly, silently in love with for years. This revelation shakes Eve down to her foundations, causing her to reevaluate the relationships that define her and those she'd written off, including her relationship with Suzie’s gorgeous, estranged brother, Finlay. He and Eve grow closer as she sorts through the impact of the past on her present and the ways the people around her have influenced the person she chose to become.

With complex subjects and complicated characters, Mhairi McFarlane's unflinchingly honest romances often go where other authors fear to tread. The turmoil and heartache in Just Last Night feel visceral and real, as do the scars from the past. A scene that describes a character's experience of childhood abuse carries a lot of weight and is particularly difficult to read. 

But McFarlane’s romances are always worth the journey. With incredible warmth, humor and humanity, they stir such deep empathy and engagement that you won’t just watch the characters’ cathartic experiences; you’ll feel them. Likewise, you won't just admire this group friendship; you'll feel like you're a part of it, and that you’re all the better for it.

Get the Books

The Hate Project

The Hate Project

Carina Adores
ISBN 9781335509178
Just Last Night

Just Last Night

By Mhairi McFarlane
William Morrow
ISBN 9780063036857

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