The Best Thing I Never Had – Erin Lawless

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Originally and aptly titled in my opinion “Little White Lies”, The Best Thing I Never Had is precisely the warning Sir Walter Scott and the author of the adage about “good intentions paving the way to hell” had in mind. I think we have all been in this situation to varying degrees of failure. Before I explain further let me digress for a moment, on my daily commute the only thing that keeps me sane is listening to the radio and casting mental aspersions on those I hear about, be it the “Edge Files” on 102.1, “Bad Boyfriend Poker” on 99.9 or “Mad Dog & Maura’s Roses” on the same channel. The premise of Roses is that suspicious women have the DJ’s call their significant other under the guise of awarding them a dozen long stemmed red roses from some anonymous florist. The listeners and their partner listen in on the call to see to whom the poor schmuck is going to send the bouquet, God help them if it is not the eavesdropper. This morning “Lauren” called in stating that her current boyfriend was the former fiance of a close friend of hers and said close friend stated that he had never been faithful EVER. Thus sowing the seeds of doubt, which had taken root and come to fruition on the radio of all places. To add to the dramatic impact of it all, listeners can call or text in their opinions etc, one caller stated unequivocally that you NEVER date a friend’s ex, permission or no. In conclusion Lauren’s boyfriend opted to send the roses to her although if their relationship survives trial by social media, I for one would be very surprised.

What you may ask does Roses have to do with The Best Thing I Never Had? Erin Lawless’ novel opens with the engagement of a couple who have been together forever or so it seems. Miles and Nicky are the common element uniting five seemingly unrelated people. Remembering the solemn promise she made to her flat mates years prior Nicky invites them to be members of her bridal party. The friends have since dispersed living different and far flung lives from their university days but it seems that more is dividing them than the typical reason of simply growing apart. In what could be a plot straight from the morning show it soon becomes apparent that two of those five became involved and when procrastination and half truths become involved the result is disaster.

Sukie, Leigha and Harriet are childhood friends bearing many of the petty jealousies that only people have known each other for years seem to carry. Effortlessly attractive and confident Harriet is unknowingly envied by Leigha who was in love with her ex-boyfriend Seth. Subtly punished by her friends for not remaining in a relationship with someone she didn’t want Harriet is reluctant to date again convinced that she is heartless and will just throw the next guy over the same way. Leigha, displaying an unfortunate but all too common lack of judgement when it comes to men, transfers her affection to Adam, one of Miles’ housemates. Also typically and cringe worthy in my opinion Leigha creates a detailed and completely fictitious relationship with the unavailable Adam. When Adam does become available he realizes that he is in love, but not with Leigha. If this situation was not complicated enough Johnny, Miles and Adam’s other housemate adores Leigha.

The author captures the reader perfectly, detailing situations that we all have been in accurately and nostalgically. Personally, I am not overly fond of ensemble pieces in general as they can become over complicated and yet remain under developed at the same time. However, in this case the author has masterfully woven a tale of friends who in trying to preserve the status quo set in motion events that can only drive them apart. The reader in turn sympathizes with their plight and is frustrated (in the best possible way) at their lack of foresight. It remains to be seen if the listener from this morning was right and that you can never date a friends ex.

5448348Erin Lawless has published a book of short stories and flash fiction (The Last Train Home & Other Stories) and a British contemporary romance for HarperCollins’ award-winning romance imprint Harper Impulse, (The Best Thing I Never Had).

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.

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