In this romantic novel we meet two people who seem to be so perfect for each other it must have been very difficult for the writer to manufacture enough obstacles to keep them apart. Lottie Wentworth is ringing in the New Year with a little more gusto than normal. This is because she is so relieved to be rid of the ‘year of saying yes’, a scheme dreamed up by her friend Jess to jolt her out of the blues following a break-up. Lottie admits she has enjoyed some of the wild escapades they’ve been on, but now she’s ready for a different challenge. She’s used to being kind, doing favours for others and spending most of her time on her new business as a virtual assistant. Lottie thinks that it is now time for a year of saying no.
The first step has been to get herself a dog, a little scruff she has called Humphrey. When reclining on the sofa in her PJs with Humphrey next to her, she feels safe and comfortable. Apart from regular meet ups with Jess and the obligatory Sunday lunch round at her Mum and Dad’s, she is enjoying a quiet social life. She has fallen into the habit of daily FaceTime calls with her main client Seb. She is the virtual assistant for his charity which helps injured veterans adjust to life outside the army. Seb was injured by an IED and lost one of his legs as well as his best friend. They’ve become close friends, despite never meeting in person. Lottie is happy to tell him anything and they often speak when she’s still got bed hair. Unfortunately, more and more, Lottie has been feeling a little more than friendship and has developed a crush. She loves his work on the charity, his kindness and integrity, plus she has to admit to herself he is very attractive. So when he suggests that she accompany him to the theatre one evening, she agrees to go. Lottie is then on tenterhooks wondering how Seb sees this outing. Is this just friends meeting up, or does he want more? If he doesn’t want more, how will she cope with her crush in person? If he feels the same way, how will it affect her fledgling business if she becomes involved with a client?
There were times in the novel when I wanted to bang Seb and Lottie’s heads together. Lottie’s inability to say no and her inability to see that Seb might be interested in her, show quite low self-esteem. She doesn’t seem to realise she’s attractive, despite men hitting on her when she’s at parties. Seb clearly enjoys her company, and despite her family and Jess seeing they’re perfect for each other, Lottie still doesn’t see it. Her Mum seems rather amused when Lottie calls to ask if they can look after Humphrey a little longer. We get the feeling that Mum isn’t surprised at all. The family dynamic is an interesting one, especially when it comes to Lottie’s sister. Often those closest to us are the ones we need to say no to and Helen definitely needs to hear it. She assumes Lottie will host her monthly book club because she’s been asked to work. Helen is a stewardess, immaculately groomed and well put together. At Sunday lunch Lottie notices her sister’s self control when she only takes one roast potato. Lottie looks down at her own plate, very full and swimming with gravy, and feels inferior to her sister. She has hated hosting the book club in the past because the guests barely notice her, treat her more like a waitress and insists she shut Humphrey away in her bedroom. When Lottie says no, her sister can’t believe it and becomes angry, but Lottie stands her ground. She has to go outside afterwards to cool down. She even apologises to her parents for causing a scene, they are kind and in Helen’s absence agree that she shouldn’t be expected to do it. I found in interesting though that they don’t say anything to, or in front of, Helen. It could be that this is the root of Lottie’s low self-esteem; perhaps she has never felt good enough next to her sister.
This critical moment with her sister seems to give Lottie the courage to be more forthright and assert herself. When Jess and Harry have an engagement party, she has to deal with an entitled ‘posh boy’ who isn’t used to women saying no because of his money and status. Lottie says no very clearly and when he suggests Seb isn’t a real man due to his injury she flies to his defence. I get the feeling that Lottie finds it easier to stand up for those she loves, than she does for herself. In fact she might have a tendency to try and fix things, which doesn’t go too well when she’s invited for dinner with Seb’s family. These family dynamics are a real strength to this novel because they add depth to the characters and we understand them more in the context of their place in those families, I would have liked more of this. This is a good lockdown read because it is not taxing to read and is genuinely uplifting. We like these characters and want them to be together, happily curled up on a sofa with both their dogs.