Note: This ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
“I’ve made a thousand mistakes in my life, and I might make a thousand more, but walking away from you won’t be one of them. I don’t deserve you, but if you were mine, I’d spend every last damn day of my life trying.”
The last thing elementary school art teacher Claire French wants is to spend the entire reception of her friend's wedding stuck at the singles only table. Who wants to be relegated to a proverbial no man's land simply because she, well, has no man to call her own? So, can you really blame her for lying and telling her friend that she is, indeed, bringing a plus one and that he looks like Ryan Gosling? Desperation has Claire going online and stumbling upon a website that offers up hotties for rent and the closest that comes to her description of her faux boyfriend is a guy named Fred. With positive reviews from his past "dates", Claire goes for it and they agree to meet. Except Fred looks nothing like Ryan Gosling. He's hotter, with his dark hair and brawny body. He isn't even named Fred. Nope, the hottie she's just hired is Theo MacLeod. He's too free with his opinions while not really freely sharing much about himself. They also weren't supposed to kiss...but they did...and more. What's a girl who's always believed in home, hearts, and happily-ever-after to do when she falls for a guy who's never believed in any of that?
Here we go again. I swear, you would think that I would be better prepared when it comes to reading a Melanie Harlow-penned novel, especially after having already been through this five previous times with her Happy Crazy Love series, plus Man Candy and After We Fall--the latter two being the loosely interconnected standalones that go with this new release, and they're about Claire's two best friends, Jaime Owens and Margot Thurber Lewiston, who find love with Quinn Rusek and Jack Valentini, respectively. But nope, silly me went into this excited to finally read Claire's story and If You Were Mine lulled me into lighthearted, comedic complacency...and then crack! There goes my heart. And it's not like some overly angsty, tearjerker of a moment every time it happens; it's the little things that happen to and between the main characters that get to me because I'm all in each and every single time. Claire and Theo were different from Jaime and Quinn and Margot and Jack, but they were just as endearing as the first two couples, even if they (more Jaime, Jack, and Theo) seriously wanted me to pull my hair out in frustration.
Theo took my heart the same time Claire gave him hers and he broke mine alongside Claire's three times over. You would think that the whole baseball adage "Three strikes and you're out" would have come into play here, but Theo is a complicated thirty-one-year-old man and his issues are firmly and deeply rooted ones. Fortunately, Claire is exactly who Theo needs but doesn't believe he deserves--her dreams and wants are simple, but she lacks the confidence that Theo has when it comes to taking certain risks. Ironically, he's the one who isn't too much of a risk-taker when it comes to commitment. They were like each other's missing pieces, but were they willing to admit that to one another, what more themselves? When things were good between them, they were really good, but there were things that they needed to overcome as a couple and to do that, they first had to overcome what they had yet to deal with within themselves. And yeah, admittedly, it was more Theo than Claire who was all conflicted, but part of what makes their love story all the more worth the read are watching them struggle and then succeed.
Aside from Theo and Claire's story, I was thrilled that fans of this unofficial and unnamed series of three books got to see where Quinn and Jaime and Margot and Jack were at in their respective relationships. And just like the two books before it, this latest release has a side story that both piqued my interest and tugged on my heartstrings--that of Theo's older brother Aaron and his struggle with sobriety and being the man his wife and children should have. It's both a situation that ties in to Theo and, to a lesser extent, Claire, while still remaining separate enough that you want to know how Aaron is going to handle his alcoholism and how he's going to fare with his family. It's a Melanie Harlow thing that I've come to expect whenever I have a new book from her in my hands. Add to that the fact that she's given us yet another love story that makes us smile, snicker, and sigh and Harlow continues to raise the bar for herself. With Jaime, Margot, and Claire all getting their happy endings, I can't wait to see what this go-to author has up her sleeve. Whatever it is, I'll be waiting with bated breath. If You Were Mine gets five-plus stars. ♥
Release Date: 28 February 2017
Date Read: 26 February 2017
Learn more about Melanie Harlow.