Published by Avon Books on December 5th 2013
What if the last person you wanted to see was the person you needed? After the runaway success of You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane is back with a new cast of characters in her second book, Here's Looking At You. In essence it's an ugly duckling tale. Our heroine Aureliana returns to school after fifteen years for a reunion. School doesn't hold happy memories for her, as being a roly poly Italian (known as the Italian Galleon), and always armed with a Tupperware full of pungent Mediterranean food, she was bullied incessantly throughout her years there. Now in her 30s, Aureliana wants to put the past behind her once and for all and face up to the bullies who made her life hell. But she is much-changed from the girl she once was - all curves and because I'm worth it hair - and no one recognises her when she arrives. Losing her bottle, she backs out on her plan for revenge and slinks off, hoping never to be reminded of her years at school again. But fate gets in the way, and after the reunion her path keeps crossing with James - major hunk and Aureliana's major crush back at school. But alas, as a cronie to the bullies, Aureliana to this day believes that his beautiful exterior hides an ugly interior. As they continue to cross paths a love/hate relationship ensues until eventually something shifts, and they both start to discover what the person underneath is really like...Full of Mhairi's trademark laugh out loud humour, Here's Looking At You is a novel about facing your demons and being happy with who you really are.
While I adore YA and NA (most of the time) sometimes it’s nice to change things up and enjoy a contemporary adult romance and remind myself why I adore the British and Irish female writers that dominate the genre. Mhairi McFarlane was a new to me author when her latest release HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU popped through the letterbox but now I can honestly say I’m an affirmed fan and can’t wait to read more from her.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU is told from two POV’s – Anna Alessi, 30-something successful history academic who suffered through years of abuse as a roly poly teenager and is desperate to shrug off the dark cloud of memories always threatening to remind her of that time and James Fraser- the object of her affections turned greatest tormentor who’s now older, wiser and heartbroken after his wife left him with a parting gift of a very grumpy cat. When Anna and James are thrust together in a work project for the national museum Anna is horrified, even more so when James doesn’t recognise her and she’s forced to pretend all is okay. As the pair spend more time together Anna, begins to realise that James isn’t the same boy who made her life a living hell 20 years ago. Can she let bygones be bygones or will the truth come out and crush Anna once and for all?
I adored this book from start to finish. McFarlane’s writing is warm, witty and filled with humour that had me laughing out loud so many times. Equally weighty in emotion, this book deals with some pretty dark issues and Anna’s memories of her days of being bullied and the lasting effects on her and her life were heartbreaking.
Anna was an amazing character, I loved her outlook on life, her attempts to find happiness with online dating exploits that had me snorting with laughter and her caring nature to her friends. Snarky and ballsy, she’s taken the hurt and pain of her past and tried her best to fuel it to make her stronger in her present. Friends Michelle and Daniel and sister Aggy made great additions to her support network and their exploits together were entertaining to read.
Despite the mistakes he’s made in his past, I adored James as a character. Literally decades away from the mean, good looking boy of the past, James of the present is sweet, kind and lost as his world is turned upside down when his wife of less than a year decides marriage isn’t for her. Confidence knocked, he immediately clicks with Anna despite her best efforts to blow him off and the couple form a great relationship that had me aching to develop further into romance territory but that I equally enjoyed as a solid platonic friendship. Whether they want to deny it or not, James and Anna for all their differences are kindred spirits and their chemistry was excellently developed by McFarlane.
Filled with humour, sharp dialogue and awesome characters balanced by a deeper emotional edge, HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU is a sharp reminder that you can’t outrun your past but must accept it and yourself in order to move on and in doing so…well online dating disasters will most likely not be your future!
Fabulously funny and sweet, HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU is a winner!