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ONE TRUE LOVES by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves has an irresistible premise.

Emma and Jesse are high school sweethearts from Boston who stay together through college and move out to California together after they graduate. They are adventurous spirits who love to travel, and are glad to have escaped the predictable lives their parents had planned for them. They get married, and on the eve of their first anniversary, Jesse goes on a helicopter trip in Alaska to take photos. The helicopter he is on disappears, and his body is never found. Emma, heartbroken, moves back home to Boston and gives up her adventurous life to take over her parents’ bookstore. She reconnects with an old high school friend, Sam, and they end up falling in love and getting engaged a few years after Jesse’s disappearance. All is going well until one night when Emma’s phone rings… and it’s Jesse.

What to do? She’s in love with two men, and feels loyalty and responsibility to both of them, but she of course has to pick one. One True Loves is about Jesse’s re-entry into Emma’s life and how she comes to a decision about which man to pick.

So One True Loves isn’t perfect. It’s repetitive – Emma says the same things about both men over and over – and there are aspects that are really unrealistic, most revolving around Jesse’s return. (Also, three years on a rock island?) I also think that Reid favored one man over the other, making Emma’s wrenching choice just a little less wrenching.

But damn if this wasn’t a really addictive read. I finished it in a few days and I was very, very eager to find out who Emma picked. This is my second Taylor Jenkins Reid in the last seven books. There is something about her characters that I really like – they are relatable and compelling, especially the women. This novel wasn’t quite as good as After I Do, but I still liked it. When I got to the end, the premise seemed more outlandish than at the start, but I certainly enjoyed it while I was reading it.

Who will Emma pick? The soul mate she mourned for three years, or the man who helped her get her life back?

You’ll have to read One True Loves to find out.

AFTER I DO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel After I Do opens, married couple Lauren and Ryan are having a fight that many couples might find familiar: they can’t find their car in the Dodgers Stadium and, tired after a long game, they each blame the other for not remembering where it was. This fight, while insignificant, winds up being the catalyst in the couple’s mutual confession that they are both miserable. Their relationship started out strong – romantic and passionate – but after ten years, they are each resentful, lonely and very unhappy. They decide to take a year off from their relationship, with no contact during that time, to decide whether they want to try to fight for their marriage or split permanently.

After I Do is told from Lauren’s perspective, and readers aren’t privy to Ryan’s side of things. Reid takes us through the days leading up to and immediately following the separation, and they are dark indeed. Despite her unhappiness with Ryan, Lauren is devastated over the demise of her marriage. I liked this book because it is realistic and sad and doesn’t hold back at all. You can really imagine this playing out. We see how the relationship broke down over time, the almost imperceptible shifts that led to the distance between the previously happy couple.

Lauren’s family plays supporting roles in the book – her divorced but dating mom, her single and proud-of-it sister, her feisty but possibly dying grandmother, and her commitment-phobic brother who ends up getting someone pregnant on a one night stand. The secondary characters here were less compelling; they seemed like stock characters that I’ve read about in other books. But the Lauren-Ryan relationship was fresh and original, and I felt invested in them and wanted to see where they ended up.

Speaking of endings, this one was a little too tidy.

Overall I liked After I Do quite a bit. Lots of incisive observations about marriage and relationships, written in a smart and realistic style. Don’t dismiss this one as chick lit, as there is more to it than that. I am intrigued by this author and have sought out another of Reid’s novels.