Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Bethany Chase - The One That Got Away

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas,and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer — and former flame — Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn.
Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices — and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life — and in love.
Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.

Comment: This is another buddy read pick with my friend H. It was in the pile since  2015 and I can't remember why anymore... I already tried to write down in my all-purposes notebook why I get interested in some books but I realized I was too lazy to carry that notebook so often I simply forgot. Anyway, this is a contemporary story and, overall, I liked spending my time reading it.

In this story we meet Sarina, an architect who is very proud of her work, who has a steady relationship and a close circle of friends which means her life is a little predictable but just the way she likes it. Things change when Eamon, the guy she feels is "the one who got away", returns to Austin and she knows they will see each other often for he is one of her roommates' best friend. At first she feels awkward because they had one night stand which led nowhere and Sarina has always wondered if Eamon simply didn't like her as she felt she liked him but somehow she finds herself working for him as he plans on renovating a house. The more time they end up spending together, tough, the more she realizes her feelings for him might not just be about missing closure from the past and she starts questioning several things...

Like I said, I enjoyed reading this book for the most part. It is true it is quite predictable in how it develops, especially the romantic relationship, but the author has managed to convey a very solid emotional response and I think that is how this can be seen as different from other books with similar plots.

Sarina is an everyday character, she is a busy working woman, she has a personal life which seems balanced and she clearly loves her friends and doing things with them. Her personality comes in little descriptions, in small things but it allows us to have quite an idea about how she is. What I liked the most was how we could see she still missed her late mother and how much she cares for her stepfather, who still lives back in Virginia, where she is from. In fact, the element in this novel I liked the best was precisely this, how the author wrote about Sarina and her stepfather, about the emotions an their relationship with one another and in relation to her mother.

I also liked how much of Sarina's job was on the page. Unlike other stories where 1) or the job is just an excuse to develop the plot or 2) we barely see the character work at all, in here the author has written quite a lot of scenes where Sarina is working or dealing with work things and there's even some professional/realistic talk about it. I don't think it was detailed enough to put off who doesn't care about the subject but to me it helped me to have an idea about her skills, her interest and professional responsibility. It was a nice detail and the author obviously asked questions!

The romance is a little...not as wonderful as I wanted, to be honest. On one hand, I must say the author was clever in creating division between Sarina and her boyfriend, in letting us know how he might not suit Sarina in the long term but I didn't dislike him. It was also refreshing to see he wasn't painted as the "villain" and until the very end I felt conflicted about the fact Sarina might pick him instead of Eamon, the new guy, a decision that Sarina left to the very end of the book.

Eamon, in my opinion, was just an OK love interest. Perhaps it's the fact this was told from Sarina's POV but I'd say this book is more 60% woman's fiction and 40% contemporary romance. Therefore, I wasn't too annoyed at not having Eamon's POV but as the story moved forward and things got to a point where it was obvious Sarina would end up choosing one guy over the other, it started to be too noticeable for me and there were some things I wasn't too fond of, some situations between them all were dragged and I'd say were there just for drama purposes. 

In my opinion, the end was rather quick for the amount of time it took to get there. One small last chapter saying how things went with Sarina and her chosen guy certainly didn't feel rewarding enough and after a story with so many interesting and complex emotions ongoing, the end did feel a little weak and incomplete. Perhaps it was just an impression on that moment but I did wish for more on that regard.

All in all, this was a good enough story, easy to read, fluid writing, interesting elements and execution but there were things I feel weren't as well done as they could. I might try something else by the author one day, and compare.
Grade 8/10

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