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The State We're In by Adele Parks

The State We're in
This is an unexpected pleasure for me; a grown-up contemporary romance that I struggled to put down. It is such a compelling story that the 400+ pages just whizzed by.

Jo is a die-hard romantic who has spent her whole life searching for her One True Love. Recently though she's started to have her doubts about the wisdom of her quest. Now a thirty-something singleton working for a slushy bridal magazine, has she let the love of her life slip by? The news that her ex-fiance is getting married to someone else propels her into action. Obviously she has to stop the wedding and make Martin see that it is her he should be marrying. He wanted to once, he can't have changed his mind so quickly, it's only five years since she all but left him at the altar! So, off Jo dashes on an ill-conceived, and most likely ill-fated, mission to ruin Martin's wedding day all over again. Jo is written so brilliantly that even though she is acting in a most bonkers fashion, according to me, I completely adored her.

She isn't the only one with relationship issues. Her parents' perfect marriage has some cleverly hidden but deep cracks. Jo has idealised their partnership her whole life, but the facade might be about to collapse. Dean's childhood was as unlike Jo's idyllic upbringing as it's possible to get, but a dying plea from his estranged father offers a chance to find some answers and maybe a little bit of peace. Dean has no plans to ever get married, or even have a semi-permanent relationship with a woman. He's straight-up honest about it, although his general gorgeousness does seem to turn women a bit deaf on that account.

Of course, Dean and Jo are destined to meet, and they do when they sit next to each other on the plane. Dean's going home and Jo's off the reclaim Martin. Her idealistic, naive, and unreserved nature are the opposite of Dean's guarded, cynical, persona. But he's strangely charmed by her, a bit like I was I guess. And for once, because she's not looking at him as a potential lifelong mate, Jo relaxes and stops trying so hard. She does notice how very yummy he is, naturally. Even though Martin is definitely (probably) the one, where will this chance encounter lead? Both Jo and Dean could learn something about life and love from the other.

The writing is funny and smart, I cared about the characters, and as I mentioned the story grabbed me from the start. Most of the book is set in 2005, but there are a couple of earlier vignettes that set the scene at the beginning. The narrative is told not only from Jo and Dean's perspective but also through her mum and his dad. This rounds the story out in some unexpected ways. And the ending...well, I'm not sure if I've fully digested the ending yet. I absolutely loved this book, and am in awe at how Adele Parks has managed to hook such a wedding-hating marriage-scorner as me with her clever writerly ways. Well played Parks, well played.

Thank you to the folk at Headline for sending me a proof copy of The State We're In, a new reading door has opened before me. The book is out now in eBook and large paperback format.

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