How Not to Fall in Love, Actually is one of my favourite types of novels. That is, it’s the type that sets the bar really high so that any books of the genre I read after it have to work really hard to stand up against it. Debut novelist Catherine Bennetto has written exactly my kind of romantic comedy: funny, engaging, clever, emotional, quirky, and truly uplifting.
This is a book about accidents. 27-year old Emma seems to have it all. She has a great television job as 2nd Assistant Director (okay, maybe not that great, after all, she’s more “assistant” than anything, and on a medical soap opera), and she’s in a stable, long-term relationship with the well-meaning and optimistic Ned, who is very good at coming up with ideas that never make any money (while living on Emma’s salary). When she accidentally falls pregnant, Emma not so accidentally tells her boss where to stick his job, and she breaks up with Ned, the father of her growing foetus.
Knocked-up, unemployed, and homeless, the news that she’s accidentally inherited her late grandmother’s gorgeous Wimbledon cottage couldn’t come at a better time. Her new home comes fitted with batty, Doberman-wielding octogenarian neighbour, Harriet, and, before long, accidental (and extremely sexy) flatmate, Joe. And, when she lands a part-time job, things seem to be getting back on track. Only, her baby bump is still growing, and how can Emma possibly look after another human being when she hasn’t even figured out how to look after herself?
Emma is instantly likeable. She’s authentic, easy-going and equal parts strong and vulnerable. As is the case for many young, first-time (unplanned) mothers, having a person growing in her tummy is a surreal experience, and there is a genuine quality to how this part of her story is told. Bennetto drew on her own experience to create some glorious portrayals of the film and television industry and, through Emma’s perspective, offers some wry observations.
This is a book brimming with hilarious and delightful characters, full of personality, that truly jump off the page. Each and every one of them feel as though they’ve been created with as much care and thought as the protagonist and, as a result, they bring so much colour to this story…they completely bring it to life. I have to give a special mention to Emma’s best friend Helen who, if I could ever magically have a drink with a literary character, she would be it – what a hoot! And, Emma’s mother really tickled me, too.
What I adored most about How Not to Fall in Love, Actually is how Bennetto’s fresh and exciting voice shines through on every page. She doesn’t miss a beat in this wicked and marvellously feel-good romp that had me laughing out loud from beginning to end. This is a clever and very talented author who I can’t wait to see more from.