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You Had Me at Hello #1

You Had Me At Hello

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What happens when the one that got away comes back?

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart.

It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

From the moment they met they’d been a gang of two; partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on. Ben is married. Rachel is definitely not. In fact, the men in her life make her want to take holy orders…

Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

If you love David Nicholls and Lisa Jewell then this is the book for you. Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.

436 pages, Paperback

First published November 8, 2012

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About the author

Mhairi McFarlane

25 books6,963 followers
Mhairi was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree.

After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels. It’s Not Me, It’s You is her third book. She lives in Nottingham, with a man and a cat.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,376 reviews
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,063 reviews479 followers
June 19, 2021

What a deliciously tangled tale of missed opportunities and miscommunication!! I didn't want this one to end - and lucky me, there is a novella (After Hello) that carries on after that spectacular ending! What a fabulous debut novel for Mhairi McFarlane!

I'm trying to recall which of Mhairi McFarlane's books I read first, but I can honestly say it was love at first sight. This author writes with a clear and confident voice and has a colossal sense of humour. I love the intelligent banter and quirky characters that are common to all of her novels. Her male leads are usually mighty fine, good looking, decent "fella's" and her women are always vivacious, intelligent, pretty and have generous curves. No wispy waifs here! Her heroines also hang with the mature crowd - thirty-somethings who've had a relationship fail or two. (Yay!)

What I enjoy most about McFarlane's books is the very realistic way she portrays characters who are on the threshold of a new relationship: that nervous uncertainty and self-doubt. Her female leads don't sit back and sigh with unhappiness. They get up, go to work and hide their sighs (in their beer or gin and tonics, mostly!) I only just finished reading this book and already I am missing Ben and Rachel. Ben is a dreamboat. I don't know why so many authors create male leads who are broody, difficult and hard to get along with. I never saw the appeal in a taciturn or bossy partner. McFarlane creates likeable characters who find themselves in difficult situations or facing life-altering life choices. It's like watching an episode of really good TV, but so much better.

Issues like infidelity, fear of rejection, insecurity, "settling" as opposed to looking for "the one", fear of being alone, second chances, true love - these are all recurring themes in this author's novels. She changes up the conflict and story line enough to create a fresh perspective, but in the end we are left with a very satisfying conclusion to all of the strife. Essentially, the characters have to learn to get past their fears and come out into the open. You guessed it: they have to come clean and confess their feelings, even if the other person isn't ready or will never be ready to return your warm (or burning) sentiments.

I loved this book and was really rooting for Rachel and Ben. His marriage was a sham, even though he tried to make it work. I loved that spectacular ending!

McFarlane is always my go to author for a long, satisfying read. I've got all of her books, and reread them often! Highly recommended!
Profile Image for La-Lionne.
482 reviews776 followers
October 10, 2013
***2.5 stars***

Ugh! I had such a high expectations for this book. I read couple of reviews that got me all exited, but it was a bit of a let down.

The story had a really great beginning. A collage kid proposing to a girl. It was funny, sweet and romantic. The prologue ends and you are in the present: heroine is engaged to another man, having an argument about a wedding arrangements, realizing it will never work, because they can't seem to agree on anything, and deciding that it's best to go their separate ways.

Now she is single. There is a lot of her hanging out with her friends. Some moments were fun and some were just blah. I struggled to see the relevance to the story. I liked her friends, they were a fun bunch, but their get togethers were soooo dragged out. The conversations went on and on. The story would have been just fine without a lot of them. The writing was good, but it could have benefited from a good editor.

Then our heroine meets (bumps into) the hero of the story. Here I though ok, let's have some fun reading about them catching up on the lost time. Unfortunately, I felt like their relationship took a backseat in the story. There was a lot of talk about her being 31 years old and having a carrier, her collage friends, and her social life outside their relationship. Which confused me, I thought this story was about the one that got away? I kind of liked their first interactions, but as I read further, she became kind of a bitch, in my opinion. And towards the end I couldn't care less what will happen to them.

The book is not horrible, the writing is alright and it wasn't a complete waste of time, but for me, overall, it was boring.

I hope our next BR is better, Rosalinda ;-).

BR with Rosalinda!
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Profile Image for Rosalinda *KRASNORADA*.
268 reviews504 followers
September 29, 2013

"Do nothing, and nothing happens. Life is about decisions. You either make them or they're made for you, but you can't avoid them"

'You Had Me At Hello' is a funny and romantic story set in Sheffield, close to Manchester, UK. I absolutely LOVED the writing style. If you've read Me Before You, I'd say the writing style is very similar. So why didn't I give it a higher rating you ask? Well, this one gets 3.5 stars because the story didn't totally grab me and the pace was very slow at times. I also think some scenes could have been deleted as they didn't provide anything important to the story. But apart from that it was a very decent read, I'm glad I gave this one a try, specially for the writing style.

This is the story of Ben & Rachel. They met 13 years ago when they were studying in the University. Rachel has a relationship with Rhys back them and Ben is single and they both start a very beautiful friendship. Yeah, I know, something is gonna happen, right?

13 years later Rachel is a journalist and she's still in touch with her best friends from Uni except for Ben. When you start reading the book you don't know how they parted ways after University so you are all the time wondering what happened and what made them lose contact. You'll get your answers eventually.

Caroline, her best 'happily married' best friend tells her she's seen Ben in town and as her life has been turned upside down after her breaking her relationship with Rhys, she decides she wants to see Ben once again. But Ben is not that single hot guy anymore, he's married now...

So this is the premise of their story, the book goes backwards and forwards all the time and you get to know more about their story when they were younger, what they felt for each other, what happened between them and what made them to come apart.

"Men who are hopelessly hung up on someone else tend to make crap boyfriends..."

There were some butterflies moments that I absolutely loved and even though the pace was very slow I loved the last part of the book. An Epilogue would have been nice.

"All I can say is, if you were my girlfriend, I'd certainly be desperate for you to take them off"

This is a story about friends being in love, about friendship, about co-workers who are and a story about second chances.

"I don't know what Ben saw in you"
I stop, think, turn. "...Himself?"

What I didn't really like? That part when Ben

If any of you are having second thoughts because you think there is cheating in this story, please open the spoiler.

Thanks for our BR, La-Lionne
415 reviews127 followers
February 2, 2013
What happens when the one that got away comes back?

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The story begins when Rachel, discussing her upcoming wedding, realizes that she and Rhys are not right for each other. To a point she doesn't know why they're still together. And she comes to a decision to call it off.

One day, after several turn of events she bumps to Ben, a friend from Uni, that she hasn't spoke in 10 years. Now we so get that it's a whole more in that story than meets the eye. And it always seems that they want to say more than they're able to.
But well, now Ben is married. Completely off charts but even so, she can't help to be friends with him, to have him in her life, even in a small way.

Did I really want to sit here listening to how he promised all his remaining days to someone else? Couldn't I have taken that as a given? Did I want to discover a broken man? No. I wanted him to be happy and it was also going to be the thing that hurt the most.That's the reason this was such a bad idea.One of the reasons.

Through the book, we get several flashbacks of their story, how they met and how they friendship grew. They were a duo, a club exclusive for 2. And in those chapter you can just feel how connected they were.And you keep wondering what went wrong? Timing? Misunderstandings?

Ok, i completely LOVE this book.
It was actually a whole lot more than just Ben and Rachel story.

I love her relationship with her friends, Mindy, Ivor and Caroline...and well, it's a constant in the story, since they all met in uni. And gosh they were fun! Each one of them could give advices and each one gave a different vibe in the whole group.

To Simon and Zoe especially....

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I seriously wanted to punch this 2 in the face!!

Anyway, i LOVE Ben and Rachel. But let me put the records straight, they could FRUSTRATED me to no end!!!!! Gosh, in some points i actually yelled at my kindle, because I couldn't believe how she didn't see how crazy he was about her...then when she took the easy way out and almost made the same mistake twice!! However, in the other scenes she was quite awesome.
Oh and don't let me start talking about Ben <33 Besides loving his sense of humor , in each more chapter i read, more i was having a crush on him...he is just wonderful!

I just wished we could get an epilogue or something like that, I know i'm greedy!
Oh and if you get the chance to read this book, do what i did...after i finished i went to read again the first chapter, many times people speak the truth when other only think they're joking :D

This 2 also had me at hello *

Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,901 reviews1,511 followers
October 25, 2019
Well crap. I fat-fingered a really nice rant that had lots of great allusions. It was frankly poetic. But I had got to the end when I accidentally hit the wrong button so my furious energy was spent. And now I'm just sad. Rachel was a waste. She's a weak coward who has persisted in a job she doesn't much care for (or have the heart for, frankly) and in a relationship where she wasn't happy with a guy who was a controlling snot-wad. And the author is all coy about the details of the past so that she can draw out the reveal of what did or didn't happen for literally ¾ of the book. I checked. And that reveal shows up how the author has manipulated the reader .

I acknowledge that my intense negative reaction is idiosyncratic and that those who engage with Rachel and are looking for the long-time-denied lovers finally coming together will find this very engaging. McFarlane does a great job with the side-characters and the setting and pace and plot. I just couldn't engage with the cowardly Rachel and having the background be thirteen(!) years in a static immaturity really doesn't sit well with me. Frankly, her still being with the execrable Rhys still in the present is probably what really broke me. I kept going so long because I wanted to see how it was possible that she had stayed with him all the way to where we picked up this story. Seeing those flashbacks unfold made it just not work for me because every step closer to Ben made Rachel's ability to stay with Rhys that much bigger a cowardly betrayal.

So yeah. One star and I'm sorry I wasted so much time hoping that McFarlane would pull something worthwhile out of the trainwreck.

And can I just end with how truly, blindingly stupid that title is?!? "You had me at Good-bye" would have been more apropos, frankly. Or "You don't have me because I'm a flaming coward and you're too good for me anyway", maybe. Not as punchy, I admit, but at least wouldn't make a mockery of the story as it actually turned out...
Profile Image for gigi hadidn’t.
201 reviews3,203 followers
December 24, 2021
3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

❝I was right I couldn’t fall in love with you. Because I never fell out of love with you.’


‘It’s true,’ Ben says, cheerfully. ‘Seems once was enough to infect me. From then on you’ve been lying dormant, like a virus. Or an incurable chronic condition that flares up from time to time.’

A long pause, where life transforms from black-and-white to colour.

‘I’m eczema?’

Ben beams. ‘Eczema of the heart. That’s it. Psoriasis of the soul.❞
Profile Image for Bethan.
16 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2012
I have no idea how this is rated so highly on Goodreads: a main character I wanted to slap into next week, and a cast of one dimensional supporting characters which add nothing at all to the plot. Add to this obscure references about Manchester, and "You had me at hello" quickly turned into "I can't wait to say goodbye".
Profile Image for Namratha.
1,058 reviews231 followers
July 7, 2014
Mhairi McFarlane, THANK YOU.

And also:

You, with your stellar writing and biting wit and pitch-perfect characterizations, have infused new life into the world of chicklet/ rom-coms.

Ben and Rachel met in university and hit it off immediately. They were young and idealistic and sharp as a pair of new scissors. They were best friends and partners-in-crime. A steady boyfriend on Rachel's part and a slew of blonde bedmates on Ben's part never put their friendship in their jeopardy.
Until one day, when things went *Ka-Blooey* quite unexpectedly.
Ten years on, Rachel has just broken up with her long-standing/suffering fiancé and Ben is dutifully married to a Stepford-ish blonde.
When they meet each other again, Rachel feels the friendship (and oh, so much more) come rushing back.


MY (gushing) VIEWS:

Dear Sweet Lord, I LOVED the book!

I have a brand new copy of this book and it already looks like an old-timer because I have moved back and forth, folded up my favourite bits and generally made it a tad messy with greasy potato-chip fingers (only the best and most engaging books get stained with greasy potato- chip fingers).

Why did I love the book to literal bits 'n' pieces?

a) THE HEROINE: Rachel Woodford is plain out lovable. She is. There are no silly dramatics, no oh-Lordy-I'm-such-a-quirky-doofus moments, no histrionics....nothing. Sure, she is self-deprecating and a tad confused. But she's also mature, intelligent and burdened with a vulnerable streak . However, she is never going to fall into the pitfalls of the done-to-death chicklit clichés. Her daydreams are geekily adorable too:
"I think of Ben's mum's easy laughter when she met me, and for a split second imagine a parallel universe where I'm her daughter-in-law and Abi was my bridesmaid, and how well we'd get along. More of my fantasy fiction: I should throw in a few elves as ring-bearers."

b) The EX: Rhys. Rhys was etched wonderfully. A wannabe rock star, topped with the obligatory Byronic locks and the love 'em-leave-'em vibe, Rhys has wanker/ twat/ wazzok/ effin' sod written all over him. And yet, the author furnishes him with just enough likeable traits so that he doesn't get slot into the bad guy-category.

c) THE HERO: Ben....sweet, lovable, oh-puh-lease-he-has-the-looks-of-a-boy-band-member Ben. Ben is beautiful, inside and out. Ben is noble. Ben is all about the happily-ever-afters and the orange blossoms and the white picket fence. Ben is funny, blessed with wit and also, with loyalty. He may not have married his soulmate but he will never cheat on his wife. Ben is the man of our untouched-by-cynicism dreams. Ben is the perfect mate. And despite being so faultless on paper, he never grates on your nerves. Never, not once.

d) THE SUPPORT SYSTEM: Streamlined Caroline, Mad-as-a-hatter Mindy and Acerbic Ivor. Hail the slightly demented but ever-faithful trinity.

Their characters are effectively summed up by these descriptions:
~ There's something about Caroline's kindly no-nonsense that really sorts you out when you're in a spiral. She's sympathetic without being indulgent. The difference between seeing the school nurse instead of your mum when you're grazed your knee.
~ A trek up and down King Street fashion stores on a busy Saturday afternoon leaves me frazzled and near-tearful. I call Mindy. She listens to the problem and writes a brief prescription. 'You've lost perspective and are no longer in the good decision zone. Go somewhere upmarket. like Reiss, find a simple black cocktail dress. Buy one size up if that looks better, shelve your pride. Pay whatever it costs. Wear with any heels you know you can walk in. Boom,done.'
~ Ivor: 'It's counter-intuitive. Why should a man surrounded by woman be homosexual? Hugh Hefner doesn't get this treatment. Obviously I should wear a dressing gown and slippers all day.'

I would kill for friends for Caroline, Mindy and Ivor. Okay, not kill, just maim or slightly injure (Hail Dobby!)

e) THE WRITING: McFarlane is flawless. Her writing flows like the proverbial butter melting on a hot knife. Her wit, her empathy for her heroine, her kangaroo-like ability to hop between the past and the present keeps you thoroughly engaged.

If nothing else, I fell a little bit in love with her just for this wonderful way in which she summed up a single woman in her thirties:
"You have the hunted, wary look of the serial monogamist who's unexpectedly stumbled back into the singles jungle and forgotten she needs a machete."

f) THE STORYLINE: The story is nothing new. It's isn't earth-shattering in it's originality. But the author's knack for accuracy,escalates it to addictive heights.

Falling in love with your best friend is the best (and seemingly secure) feeling in the world. Having that love reciprocated is like a fireworks show going *fizz-crackle-BOOM* in your system. Having that love unrequited makes you feeling pretty much buried under seven-layers-of-turd. McFarlane covers the whole spectrum of these emotions without ever getting maudlin or schmaltzy.

To conclude, it's a cozy, funny, spirited, funny, emotional, funny, romantic, BRIT funny read.
Did I mention that it's very very funny?!?

Pick the book up. You won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Jaffareadstoo.
2,567 reviews
November 9, 2012
There is nothing remotely contrived about this book, it is evident from the opening chapter that Mhairi McFarlane has a real skill with words. Her narrative is sharp and sassy, and she infuses her characters with such an abundance of spirit, that it is an absolute joy to read about them. Rachel and Ben's story engulfs from the very beginning, and alongside some laugh out loud funny moments, there are some situations which really tug on the old heart strings. When I finished reading the book I felt quite bereft, it was almost like I had lost some good friends, and unusually for me, I was sorely tempted to start back at the beginning and read the whole story again.

Without doubt, You Had Me At Hello is one of the best "rom-com" books I have read in a long time, and I look forward to reading more books by Mhairi McFarlane in the future.
Profile Image for Kylie&#x1f43e;.
72 reviews46 followers
December 30, 2017
I really love this book, sure I hated Olivia and Simon but screw them because I loved Rachel, Mindy, Caroline an Ivon (the last theee are the greatest friends I will tell you). At firs I struggled to get into the book. Considering that I brought it (from a charity shop, don’t judge even books need a good home 😊) I powered through it to make sure that I did love it. I do it’s romantic and witty .

I would definitely recommend it!. Props to the author.
Profile Image for Blackjack.
416 reviews139 followers
February 13, 2021

This book, maybe more than other McFarlane books I've read to-date, evoked lots of conflicting emotions in me. Told in two separate time periods, the romance between Rachel and Ben shifts fluidly back and forth from their college days as best buddies/unrequited love pair to their current moment ten years later as they attempt to rekindle a friendship and work through messy adult life issues, while also trying to understand each other better and attempt closure on past hurt feelings.

The college years presents a captivating but angsty romance where a big friendship-breakup is coming. We know it's coming because adult Rachel and adult Ben still live in its throes, but waiting for it to happen had me feeling some fairly high book anxiety. Rachel meets Ben on the first day of classes in her freshman year at a signing-in booth. She's relieved to have such simpatico with a new friend on her first day, whereas Ben also falls for Rachel immediately. Though I'm not generally inclined to like love-at-first stories, McFarlane presents a convincing case for why Ben is so smitten off the bat. Ben is pretty terrific too as a hero, and if only Rachel wasn't burdened with a hometown boyfriend who is clearly not the right guy for her, she and Ben would have become a romantic pair from the first. Clinging to loyalty to her boyfriend and insecure that popular, handsome, and charming Ben is too good for her, she comfortably settles for best friend status. Ben enjoys great success in college, all the while yearning for the one girl he can never have. When the confrontation and feelings and misunderstandings are all revealed right before graduation day, it's a heartbreaker.

Fast forward ten years later, and Rachel still feels the tremendous loss of Ben in her life, and so when she finds out he's moved back to town, she attempts to rekindle their friendship. Ben though is now a married man, clearly committed to the wrong person, and mirroring Rachel's ill-conceived romantic life in college. They've switched places, in essence, and Rachel suffers unrequited love while Ben attempts to live in a shallow and unfulfilling marriage. Second attempt at an "aggressively platonic" friendship, as Rachel brilliantly refers to it, isn't any more successful than the first attempt. Tiptoeing carefully through the minefield of love triangles and the barest insinuations of adultery may not be to everyone's liking, but I do think McFarlane pulls off the loneliness of unfulfilling relationships, the sadness of unrequited love, and the beautiful nature of true friendship. Rachel and Ben were always destined for more than friendship, but at the heart of their relationship, they are, first and foremost, true friends.

Having only read a few McFarlane books now, I can attest to characteristics here in this book that I see in her other ones. Friendships outside of the primary romance are central, and it is an aspect I love in this author's writing. The characters have goals and ambitions and careers that are explored and give much depth and character development. The setting comes to life here, just as in other books, and serves as a foundation for the characters' lives. McFarlane has a unique voice and dialect and humor I've really come to appreciate.

This isn't an entirely perfect book. I came to love Rachel and seeing her grieve for Ben as an adult really pulled on me, giving me my second dose of book anxiety. Somewhere in the second half, I wanted more development of how Rachel could reclaim her early passion for her job as a journalist, and I felt that didn't quite happen. The ending is a little rushed too. However, there is a novella on Rachel and Ben's life together, and I'm eager to get to it soon.

By the end of this lengthy, leisurely book, the entire cast of characters felt so real to me that I'm sad to see them go. McFarlane has easily become a favorite author of mine.

Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,710 reviews930 followers
December 23, 2019
I feel bad for saying this, but this is one of my least favorite books by McFarlane. I think the biggest problem I have is that the heroine (Rachel) is hoping for emotional cheating or something to happen with the hero (Ben) who we go into knowing is married. I just didn't like her and thought Ben read her very well at the end. She was and still is a mess. I think the Happily Ever After (HEA) we get was 100 percent not earned. I did like the secondary characters in this one, especially Rachel's best friend Caroline. Other than that, eh.

"You Had Me at Hello" follows crime journalist Rachel. Rachel is engaged to her long-time partner, but starts to have doubts and then breaks up with him. When Rachel hears from her friend Caroline that their university friend Ben is around again, Rachel purposely makes sure she bumps into him. We don't know what happened between them, but it quickly becomes apparent that Rachel is caring a "torch" for Ben. McFarlane follows Rachel and Ben in the present and then flashbacks to them back in university. Rachel wishes for Ben after all of these years, too bad he appears to be happily married though Rachel starts to wonder about that.

Yeah....there's no cheating romance fans, but for me I think it was much worse. Reading about how Rachel tries her best to manipulate Ben and others around her was a lot. There's a secondary story-line about a dishonest coworker of Rachel's and I maybe laughed out loud at that point. I wish that we had Rachel realizing what she was doing was out of bounds. I wish that McFarlane had ended the book with Rachel being on a journey of growth and meeting someone new. I think if the genders had been switched up and we had Ben doing this mess to Rachel we would have called him a stalker and all kinds of things. I think the closest character that got to the issues I had with things was Caroline.

The writing felt stilted in this one. I think it's because of the jumping back and forth. Also I did not get the great connection between Rachel and Ben. The flow was up and down too. I was just pleased to get to the end and annoyed at the whole book.
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,039 reviews142 followers
July 9, 2021
Funny how, when one part of your life falls away, the other bits that are left start looking rather feeble.

Rachel is planning her wedding with her fiancé, Rhys and they have been together for thirteen years. When they have an argument about a wedding DJ, Rachel suddenly realizes that she doesn't want to get married and she hasn't been happy with Rhys and they breakup. She moves out and is consoled by her friends, Caroline, Mindy and Ivor. Caroline mentions that she'd seen Rachel's old friend from university, Ben in the library and Rachel plans to bump into him accidently and bump into him she does. She's ecstatic to see Ben after ten long years since they both finished uni but she finds out that Ben is married now and he's a lawyer.

Rachel and Ben meet again as Rachel is a journalist and Ben's lawyer friend, Simon has a case that needs a journalist and Ben recommends Rachel. Ben and Ben's wife, Olivia are new in town and they need friends to hang out with and that's how Rachel meets Olivia. We get chapters in present as well as flashbacks in the past starting from when Ben and Rachel met at uni and how they were two amazing friends and they had such great chemistry but the only problem was that Rachel was already in a relationship with Rhys. So Rachel and Ben stayed friends and Ben dated pretty much every blonde girl in that time at the uni. But what if?

'We all get a bad attack of the what-ifs from time to time.'

This is my first read from Mhairi McFarlane. I had high expectations even though I haven't read anything from her. Partly because most of my Goodreads friends seem to love her books but this didn't work out for me as I had hoped. It started off really well and I knew that I was going to love this and it is going to be a five star read for me but as the book progressed, a star of my rating kept falling away.

First, Rachel's friend Mindy is of Indian ethnicity and she's kind of quirky and doesn't always think before speaking and all. That was fine. But the writer in Chapter 5 - 4th paragraph mentions this Mindy doesn't like to email when she can talk, because she loves to talk, and she's a phonetic speller. She used to put 'Vwalah!' in messages to myself and Caroline, which we assumed was a Hindu word, until under questioning it became clear she meant 'Voila.' Well, I want to state that the word should have been Hindi instead of Hindu. Hindu is the religion and Hindi is the language. I am not offended but I am definitely disappointed because the writer could have benefitted from a 30 seconds research. That's just lazy.

Second, Rachel was a complete B. I hate using this word but she was and she was an awful friend. The writer focuses so much on Rachel spending time with her friends but she was lying to them for years. What's the point of having that much detailed time spent with friends when you are such a bad and dishonest friend? And when Caroline reminds her again and again that Ben is married and tread carefully and all that, Rachel continues lying to her and continues ignoring Caroline's advise letting Caroline believe that it's all in her head only.

Third, she judges Olivia from the get go. Oh! she's so fancy. Oh! she's so beautiful. Oh! her house is straight out of a vogue catalogue. Oh! this. Oh! that. Ugh! it got boring fast and I didn't even like Olivia.

Fourth, which was what really put me off Rachel because she crosses a line about privacy and confidentiality. She goes to interview a female called Natalie at her house and when Natalie puts her phone down on the table and has to quickly go talk to her neighbor outside, Natalie's phone receives a text and Rachel actually looks at the text, notes down the contact number and deletes the text. It doesn't end there. Her reasoning is that other journalists also cross so many lines so it's all justified. Just because others do awful and horrid things doesn't mean that you should do the same and it definitely doesn't mean that it's all justified.

Fifth, which was another pet peeve of mine. When that text thing comes back to bite her, she lies about it to everyone. When Simon calls her out on this, she continues lying to him and then she starts crying. Are you kidding me? You cross a line, lie about it and when you are called out on this, instead of owning up to what you have done, you start to cry about it and what's even worse is that Ben actually stood up for her. She tells him the truth eventually but instead of encouraging her to speak the truth, he says that this should never come out. Wow!

Sixth, nobody knows why Rachel and Ben didn't stay in contact after the uni but we get to know the reason in the flashbacks. Anyway, my dislike comes back to Rachel being an awful friend and always lying because she lies about this too to her friends and pretty much everyone else even in the present day. Even after they continue to ask the reason or other such questions. Not only that but Ben also lies about this to his now wife. I mean, come on. A lying fest all around.

Seventh, Ivor coming out as gay but only as a joke. This is simply not done.

Eighth, when Rachel realized her true feelings for Ben, why did she have to stay with Rhys for ten years after that? I understand that she didn't know whether Ben was interested or not but why would you stay unhappy after knowing that you are unhappy?

Ninth, when Ben mentions that Olivia's left and she loads everything on Ben. That was really unfair. Also, why did she get to tell him what he should or shouldn't accept from his in-laws or his wife or whatever, when she stayed with Rhys for ten years even after realizing that she didn't love Rhys.

Tenth, emotional cheating.

Eleventh, writer manipulating the reader into thinking all the characters' behavior is justified. It isn't.

I didn't like even one single character in the book. I actually liked Ivor at the start but when he joked as being gay, I hated him too. It also dragged in the middle and it was unnecessarily long or maybe because I didn't care for any of the characters, it just felt that way. I don't know. I am so glad that Zoe did what she did to Rachel, I say Rachel deserved that and also when she called Rachel out on exactly the kind of reporter/person she was. Even though I didn't like Zoe, I liked this about her. I also want to say that the chapters in the past and present were a bit muddled. These weren't clearly defined. Couple of times, I was well into a chapter thinking it is of past when it turned out to be of present and vice versa. I think a clear - Now or Then would have been nice along with the number of chapters. I can see why so many people love this book and gush over it because it is about second chances, about the one that got away, about getting lost in nostalgia and remembering what it was like to be young and fun but it just wasn't for me.

Having said all this, I will be picking up books from this author in the future because I actually did enjoy the interactions in the court room even though they weren't there that much. I just hope that her other books are better.

1.5 stars
Profile Image for Yoda.
569 reviews110 followers
April 4, 2019
I needed to re-read it after Don't You Forget About MeDon't You Forget About Me I have abstinences now.

This book is so adorable I could die. I actually got butterflies in my stomach while reading this!
Aah I just love, love, love Ben and his friendship with Rachel.
Its a well written story with engaging characters, there is not one single character in this book that´s spendable.

I just wish I had more books by Mahiri McFarlane . I seriously cannot oversell this, no matter what expectations you have it will be better!
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,161 followers
January 7, 2014
You Had Me At Hello is the best type of romance. And by that, I obviously mean that it is effortlessly humorous, realistic to a flaw, and downright witty. McFarlane writes a love story that is only part true love, with a main course of friendship, side dish of embarrassment, and a drink of nostalgia. What makes this contemporary novel work as well as it does is precisely because it tries, but not too hard. Unlike a Sophie Kinsella which will often have you in peels of laughter or Sara Manning which usually has my stomach up in anxious knots (all while sighing simultaneously, might I add!), McFarlane is a much-needed mix of the two: the delightful urge to keep flipping the pages to know what happens right alongside the clever humor.

Although You Had Me At Hello starts off present-day with Rachel and Ben, our protagonist and love interest, in their early thirties, there are plenty of flashbacks to their time spent together in university. Unlike most novels, though, there is no pattern to these flashbacks. If anything, they are few and far between, spaced just far enough to have readers curious, once again, about Rachel and Ben's past but not too close to deviate from the current story at hand. And what a story it is!

Rachel, after dating Rhys for thirteen years, suddenly realizes that he isn't the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. While the two have been together since before Rachel went off to college, their honeymoon period ended a long time ago and, unfortunately for her, she's realizing just a little too late. And so, off comes the engagement ring and on to packing Rachel goes, heartbroken at ending such a comfortable relationship and nervous for her future. Once moved in to the new apartment she finally finds, however, Ben shows up. Or rather, Caroline - one of Rachel's close friends from her college days - sees him in the library and before she can quite talk herself out of it, Rachel finds herself in the library too, "accidentally" bumping into Ben.

After ten years, there are obvious differences in her ex best friend. Rachel and Ben used to be inseparable throughout college, constantly a source of support for one another until, suddenly, Ben disappeared and the two lost contact. Now, seeing each other after ten years is both a pleasant surprise and an unwelcome shock. Especially since Ben is happily married. But Rachel only wants to reinstate their lost friendship and though she is still in love with her best friend after all these years, not all loves are meant to be...or are they?

First and foremost, I should make one thing perfectly clear: this is not a cheating book. No sirree. You Had Me At Hello transitions perfectly from Rachel's present-day dilemmas back to her university days, back when she was dating Rhys and Ben was obviously in love with her. McFarlane times her reveal perfectly, keeping the true reasons for Ben's sudden departure and Rachel's tumultuous feelings hidden until almost unbearable. And yet, it never feels as if information is being purposefully withheld. Rachel's day-to-day life is incredibly honest, chronicling her life as a journalist to the struggles she faces at work, the discussions within her friend circle, and a frank representation of her own difficulties launching back into the dating world.

At 31, having just broken off her engagement to the man she has been dating for 13 years, Rachel isn't in the ideal situation. Moreover, her single friend, Mindy, is also in the same boat as Rachel is: early thirties with no sight of The One. McFarlane presents us with a variety of couples, from Caroline's marriage to Ben's and the honesty with which these relationships are depicted, not to mention the stigma of remaining a single woman past her prime childbearing years without a husband, two children, and the white picket fence, is appealing. Since it is so rare to see this topic approached in such an honest manner, with equal parts optimism, I found it to be a pleasant inclusion. You Had Me At Hello isn't all fun smiles and laughs, dry sarcasm and true wit; it's also the harsh reality of living life either with someone you know isn't The One or with no one at all.

Of course, because this is a contemporary romance there is plenty of swoon-worthy love story in this book too, but I truly loved the raw conversations and bonds established between Rachel's friend circle. If there's anything she does have it's a close group of tight-knit friends who have got her back and a fantastic job that keeps her on her toes. Another friendship Rachel discovers she still has is Ben's. It is impossible not to root for these two after reading about their university friendship, but despite the ten-year gap in conversation and initial awkwardness, Rachel and Ben discover that despite the odds - particularly Ben's wife! - they can still fall back into their easy and trust-worthy friendship. All of these relationship arcs are perfectly paced, being just slow enough to swoon over and melt into, but not too slow as to cause the mind to wander.

I've found that there is just something about giant contemporary novels that grab me. And maybe - just maybe - it's because in all those extra pages, there is more true honesty and raw feeling about life, its relationships, and its struggles than is possible for a shorter novel to encompass. With these larger volumes, not only do I find myself reflecting, thoughtful and contemplating the issue at hand, but I also find myself drawn into the story, characters, and romance in a much more intelligent manner. Needless to say, You Had Me At Hello is a delightful read, perfect for a cold wintery day, and one I do not hesitate to recommend. After all, it did have me at hello! ;)
Profile Image for Alex.
576 reviews74 followers
September 1, 2015
È impossibile non amare Ben e Rachel si dai primi capitoli.
Questo libro è stato una dolcissima sorpresa, uno di quelli che ricorderò sempre con il sorriso sulle labbra e con il cuore leggero.
La Mcfarlaine ha uno stile molto sobrio, che riesce a focalizzare esclusivamente l'attenzione del lettore sui due protagonisti. Avvalendosi di sagacia e umorismo ha saputo sottolineare i difetti e i pregi, senza rendere i personaggi delle caricature di se stessi, ma sottolineandone ogni caratteristica.
Ho adorato quindi Rachel per il suo carattere brillante ed estroverso, per la sua dolcezza e insicurezza, e le avrei dato volentieri una testata per tutte le volte che non ha saputo mostrarsi coraggiosa con Ben.
Ecco Ben, cioè Ben. Si Ben a fiumi. Grazie!
Un uomo creato e raccontato per stregare una lettrice: laureando in letteratura inglese, con un carattere buono, altruista, sensibile e terribilmente dolce. A be ok bello e sensuale oltre ogni dire...
Questi due sono l'incarnazione delle anime gemelle per antonomasia, sono fatti per stare insieme ed invece si ostinano ad essere solo amici, negandosi uno di quegli amori che si leggono raramente.
Bello, intenso, dolce e malinconico, questo è Dal primo istante. Un libro che racconta degli errori che si fanno in amore, del tempismo che spesso è fondamentale, e delle seconde possibilità che devono essere colte a volo con coraggio e... Ostinazione!
#Voglio un Ben tutto per me ❤️
Profile Image for TARA.
570 reviews
March 24, 2021
Oh god, what was I thinking not giving this five stars the first time? This book is very on the knifes edge—all what the hell is going to happen. While I still felt epic heartbreak, I was safe in the knowledge of the ending, so I could enjoy it more! This is such a special book to me.

Read 1
Mhairi is absolutely a top author for me, I loved this book, I devoured this book, her writing is impeccable. It was so completely well rounded, FULL of fleshed out characters that you will care for (deeply) or not care for (also deeply ha!).

The mess of it came full circle (thank god), mostly tasteful and I am left so damn happy! It was equally humorous and heartbreaking. Honestly I love second chance done right like this. Twice, the bared truths from our leads brought me to tears, I was a mess for these two.

I want to gush and gush and gush over Ben, but also Rachel was a heroine I'll remember for forever. She was probably painted in a negative light at times but we were in her head and yeah, she's human and it was still so delightful.

'Seems once was enough to infect me. From then on you've been lying dormant, like a virus. Or an incurable chronic condition that flares up from time to time.'
A long pause, where life transforms from black-and-white to colour. 'I'm eczema?'
Ben beams. 'Eczema of the heart. That's it. Psoriasis of the soul.''
Profile Image for Angigames.
1,229 reviews
July 13, 2017
Rachel e Ben. Ben e Rachel.
Compagni d’università, amici e complici in ogni attimo trascorso insieme, ma niente di più perché Rachel è fidanzata e Ben è troppo bello per accorgersi di una come lei.
Nella notte in cui la sottile differenza tra amicizia e quel qualcosa di più può finalmente cambiare, Rachel commette un errore, un errore grossolano, non ponderato e un po’ ingenuo che però la allontanerà inesorabilmente da Ben…
Dieci anni dopo Rachel è una giornalista in un giornale locale e ha messo fine alla relazione storica con il fidanzato a pochi mesi dal matrimonio. Rachel è sempre Rachel: divertente, con la battuta sempre pronta, dolce, forse un po’ ingenua, ma sempre decisa a seguire un’etica tutta sua. Quando scopre che Ben è tornato in città non può fare a meno di sperare di rivederlo, e quando questo accade, le sembra di essere di nuovo se stessa. Ma Ben è sposato ed è un avvocato affermato, è di nuovo lontano dalla sua portata…
Primo grande pregio del libro: la sua ilarità, sia Rachel sia Ben sono due personaggi davvero divertenti!
Non aspettatevi una storia strappalacrime, anzi se volete una lettura leggera, frizzante e simpatica questo è il libro che fa per voi.
Rachel è una 31enne che si divide tra lavoro, amici e possibile amore per la vita con una umanità infinita, molte volte barcolla, sbaglia e tentenna, ma dopo aver ammesso l’errore, trova la forza per ripartire e per tornare a fare battute. Non è la tipica civetta ne si permette di mettere il bastone tra le ruote nella relazione di Ben, è solo una ragazza che troppo tardi ha capito l’errore commesso, il suo più grande sogno è la magia di poter riavvolgere il tempo, ma la cosa è impossibile e, supportata da amici sensazionali, Rachel farà di tutto per trovare quella felicità che sa di meritare.
È stata una lettura veramente piacevole!
Profile Image for Kaila.
728 reviews13 followers
December 2, 2018
3.5/5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this one. It was definitely an enjoyable read, but not at all what I was expecting. It was fun and the characters were interesting, but the romance was not at all what I had hoped. To me, this is more of a general fiction or ‘woman’s fiction’ (although I hate that label) than I romance, which is not what I had expected. This is why I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, because I was expecting a more romance-focused story. To me, this read like a British rom com film. As a lover of rom coms, I did appreciate this but I did find myself wishing I was watching it on screen rather than reading it. A lot of the jokes kind of went over my head and I thought they were the kind of things I’d find funny in a movie. Objectively, I enjoyed the book but really not as much as I could have.

Something that I realise now that I’m writing this review (about 3 weeks after reading the book, I’m a procrastinator sue me) is that I’ve forgotten large portions of this book. This includes the names of all the characters and major events. This makes me believe that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I would have liked because it was quite forgettable to me. I think this reinforces my initial thought that this book wasn’t very unique so it doesn’t stand out in my mind. Many different aspects of the book remind me of other books and movies, rather than having an original and unique storyline. Although this made the book more forgettable, I’m a complete lover of romantic comedies so I also found these similarities somewhat entertaining. Because I could picture scenes vividly, as if watching a rom com, I found many of the interactions more humorous and interesting.

This book was very witty and humorous,, which is the major aspect that drew me to the story. Rachel was often down on luck and had very humorous commentary on what was happening to her. She remained mostly positive despite some unfortunate circumstances. I do admit that many of the jokes went over my head because I’m not sure I’m the target audience for the book. I didn’t understand much of the British lingo and I didn’t relate to the characters’ circumstances as they were about a decade older than me. I think this somewhat hindered my enjoyment of the book.

Something that I really didn’t like was the frustration that this book made me feel. At first, Rachel was in a long term relationship despite it being obvious to the reader that she loved Ben like she loved her. Later, Ben was married and Rachel was single, once again while the reader realised they would be much happier together. I just found this insanely frustrating, especially with the lack of climatic ending.

With the amount of sexual tension and frustration in this book, I was expecting some hot and steamy scenes at the end. If you’re like me and expecting romance like that, you’d be quite disappointed. One of the blurbs on this book said something along the lines of: this is the most romantic book I’ve read in a long time. Please don’t take this into account. I feel like this was more of just a story of a woman’s life with some romance in it, rather than an intensely romantic story. I was actually okay with this for the most part because I enjoyed the story in general. The interactions between characters was interesting and I enjoyed our main character’s journey. It’s just frustrating when I went into this book expecting more romance than I received.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,220 reviews1,651 followers
October 7, 2020
Welp, second time isn't the charm, but I did manage to finish You Had Me at Hello this time out of stubborn determination. I've read four other McFarlane novels since I DNFed the print version of this novel, and I've ended up really liking them all, but holy hell I really do loathe this one.

The problems become apparent very early on, but I tend to dislike the McFarlane's characters at the start, only for them to grow out of their bad situation and become a person I love deeply. Not this time. Just FYI, Rachel sucks just as much at the end as the beginning. At least that's my take. This is probably the most romantic of all the McFarlane I've read, in that the relationship between Ben and Rachel is at the center of the story, rather than Rachel's personal arc, which might be the problem actually. Unfortunately, I deeply do not ship this romance.

Here's the thing: Ben and Rachel's romance is a positive hotbed of infidelity. In the flashback chapters, Rachel and Ben kiss on a dare, even though she's in a relationship with Rhys. Later, she breaks up with Rhys and has sex with Ben the same night, and they both declare their love. Clearly emotional cheating was also going on here. However, despite this, they fail to communicate or trust one another at all, so Ben goes to travel around the world, and Rachel gets back together with Rhys even though she does not love him and she knows that.

In the current timeline, Rachel finally splits up with Rhys after 15 years together because she can't face the wedding. She meets up with Ben again, and she's just obsessively into him, but he's married. Note that he will stay married until the very end of this book, but that they will again become close and ultimately declare that they've been in love the whole time. So.

Cheating plots are bad enough, but what makes it even worse to me is the lengths that the author goes to to try to justify their behavior. Rhys turns out to have been cheating on Rachel back in the past, as though that gives her a pass for having been in love with someone else. Ben's wife is horrid to Rachel, and she turns out to have another love interest in Simon, the asshole that Rachel went on a date with. All of these people are terrible, and I guess they deserve each other, but I wish I hadn't watched.

Rachel's awful even outside of her cheating and pursuing a married man, though. She's a reporter who writes stories about what's going on at the courts (legal not sports). Simon gets her an interview with the wife of a man in a high profile case. When the woman is out of the room and gets a text, Rachel reads it and discovers the woman is having an affair. Though she does not use this for a story, she gabs with another reporter about it, who does post the story. Rachel does get some shit for it, but this was an AWFUL thing to do, and everything ends up being okay, and it mostly felt like boohoo poor Rachel everyone's so mean to her. Um, yeah, she deserved that.

There's also a moment where the sideship of two of Rachel's annoying friends pretend they haven't gotten together to trick the other friends, and the guy pretends he's coming out as gay. This rubs me the wrong way in a book without gay characters, like being gay is a joke. Not that they react poorly to the possibility of him liking men, but still I think it's gross in this context.

Truly, I liked nothing about this novel. I do think the comp to David Nicholls is on point, though, so if you like his books, then absolutely read this. If you thought his novels were wish fulfillment garbage about shitty people, then skip this McFarlane for your own sake.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 16 books334 followers
November 22, 2012
What happens when the one who got away comes back?

Rachel and Ben were best friends at university but with Rachel's steady long distance boyfriend and gorgeous Ben's endless conveyer belt of stunning girlfriends, they never quite made it past the platonic stage...

Ten years later, Rachel is still living in Manchester, still with her old boyfriend and still best friends with her university housemates. She hasn't seen Ben for years, until she hears he's returned to Manchester and contrives to bump into him. Immediately Rachel feels the old friendship - and the old feelings - slipping back. The problem is, she may be in the process of finishing things with her long-term boyfriend, but Ben - unfortunately - is extremely married...

I officially have an fan-crush on Mhairi McFarlane - normally it takes me at least three of an author's books to feel this way, so that shows you how much I loved this book!

I saw the book being advertised by its publisher on Twitter, on sale for Kindle at only 99p. What a bargain, thought I, clicking the link onto Amazon. 30 reviews, all at five stars. Hmmm, suspicious! I read the synopsis, dismay growing. A pair of "almost-more-than-friends" from university re-meeting and re-evaluating their relationship years later in the adult world? This sounds woefully similar to the novel I am 90% finished writing. I'd better buy it and check it out - after all, 99p isn't much of a gamble...

Happy to report that this story and my own are nothing like one another (so I won't get done for accidental plagiarism, phew!). It was the best 99p I've ever spent. At one point I went on the Kindle app on my phone and got Amazon to send it there, so I could continue reading in bed after my other half demanded the lights off. I absolutely devoured it and it's quite long - satisfactorily so - for a 'rom-com' - and that's exactly what this book is, emphasis on both the 'rom' and the 'com'. It's a modern romance where our protagonists have modern concerns and modern issues to overcome - but, importantly, it is a real 'laugh out loud' book, and I mean this quite literally (passengers on my work commute could certainly attest to this).

Mhairi's writing is fresh and sharp. Speaking as someone who's never been to Manchester, she sets a scene without having to be too heavy handed. Ben is gorgeous, Rachel is adorable in that familiar, dorky, clumsy sort of way. The 'supporting cast' are all wonderfully developed; I felt like I was losing actual friends when the story came to its end.

5 stars happily given. I defy anyone not to at least simply enjoy this read.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,245 reviews266 followers
September 24, 2019
.SQUEEE. Angry wasn't sure I'd like this, but I adored this friend/female centered romancey book.

Also, really felt my American showing reading this one. There was more than once I read a sentence and thought"what the fuck does that mean?" Which was so so part of the fun.

Btw, I LOVE the narrator's voice but didn't work out to listen as much as I would have liked, so mostly print for this one. 3.5, rounding up.
Profile Image for Amy McG.
13 reviews14 followers
November 21, 2012
This book is everything I wanted it to be, and more.

I'm a little reserved in my reading tastes, but this book was 99p on Amazon, and I was feeling a little homesick and just wanted a good cry. (Some context: I'm on a year abroad in Canada, and this is currently the longest I've ever spent outside of England)

What I wasn't expecting, however, was how much of a chord this book would strike. I was completely unaware it was set in Manchester, yet I couldn't have been happier that it was. There are a number of points in the book that seem like an in-joke, just for those of us lucky enough to have spent our Uni experience getting drunk at 42nd Street and watching our boyfriends slightly terrible band play live, but then you realise that all of these experiences are explained so well that everyone can enjoy them.

There are some treats, however, such as her description of central library "your IQ goes up a few points simply by entering the building", the rain which "manages to be both vertical and horizontal at the same time" and her description of the city at night "the blasts of music and the splashes of light cast from bars that are still open, shoals of brightly dressed clubbers, the beeping taxis and the greasy, savoury smell of meat and onions from the burger vans," all of which seem to simply read my mind, and all of which gave me such a rush of affection for the city that I thought myself crazy for ever wanting to leave it.

The characters are exactly what they needed to be, and the story, though treading fairly well worn ground, treads it with such spirit and warmth that I never wanted to leave the book, I just wanted to roll around in it forever and ever.

I loved it, and it gave me exactly what I needed, a little slice of home.
Profile Image for Hannah.
395 reviews56 followers
November 23, 2012
I LOVED this book. Simple. Mhairi McFarlane has such a witty, fresh and clever way with words, I didn't want this book to end. In fact, I feel quite bereft now this book is over, and feel as though I've lost something - it's very rare that I feel that way!

Firstly, thank you for setting it in Manchester!! I love the city and always thankful that I only live 20 minutes outside it. I love all the details the author adds that are very familiar to me but any other reader would also understand. I've also got so bored of the typical rom-com settings of London, New York, Devon etc, so overdone now. This detail was genius! There's also no (thank God) storyline about how a character made a boo-boo at work and had to escape to the coast and luckily for her she found the man of her dreams behind the bar of the local pub that he owns, and they start off hating each other but secretly love each other (blah blah blah).

Secondly, Rachel and Ben were the perfect characters. Nothing clichéd. Rachel has no annoying quirks that we're meant to find "adorable", she doesn't constantly do the thing you're screaming at her not to do (in fact, the author makes several references to such scenes and Rachel outwardly states she isn't going to do that), she doesn't lose things or fall flat on her face when she first meets Ben. It's wonderfully real.

Finally, I really liked the supporting characters, especially Rachel's friends - ah Mindy! - and laughed so many times at so many different parts of the book. The author's descriptions are often hilarious, or just seem to pin down exactly how you remember/imagine them. A must-read!

Profile Image for Helen.
Author 1 book5 followers
May 1, 2014
The fact that I normally read a book in a couple of days, but this one has taken me about 10 days to read says a lot about how interesting and gripping it was for me. It started off fairly funny and made me chuckle a couple of times but then it has just been a rather long and boring account of the copule getting together, which you can tell from the beginning (and the title) is going to happen. There were not really any other twists or climaxes to the book. I didn't really get on board with the main characters, the most interesting/funny being Mindy possibly.
December 19, 2017

$5.99 — 3-Book Bundle: You Had Me At Hello, It's Not You, It's Me, and Here's Looking at You (affiliate link)
You Had Me At Hello: Kindle Edition (on sale-affiliate link)

"The problem is, after all these years, I can't think of anyone I'd more like to slowly go off, see get senile and die than Ben."

Two former best friends reconnect after not seeing each other for ten years. She's newly single and he's....married. Quick-witted characters, an endearing heroine, and a love story with history come together to make a romantic comedy that I totally fell in love with. I'm two for two with Mhairi McFarlane's novels. YOU HAD ME AT HELLO was delightfully romantic with generous dose of laughs and heartfelt moments. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Ten years earlier at university, Rachel and Ben were best friends. Rachel had a boyfriend and Ben had, well, several ladies. But something broke up their friendship and they hadn't seen each other again until they bump into each other. Freshly single after ending her 13-year relationship (and new engagement), seeing Ben drums up all the not-so-best-friendy things she felt for him at university. The dashing and good looking Ben is very married and very unavailable. Timing sucks, right?
"Some people end up with their soul mates, like Mindy and Ivor. Some people end up with partners they can work at being happy with, like Caroline and Graeme. Some get second chances at getting it right, like Rhys and Claire. Some people get who they deserve, like Lucy and Matt....Other people, of which I might be one, end up on their own. And that's fine. I'll be all right."

The story is told through flashbacks to Ben and Rachel's time at university and the present time ten years later. I had such a blast reading this book. Rachel's character was so relatable to most women. She's hit 30, has a few extra pounds, and hopes no one calls her on it. Her career as a court reporter is going well, save for her male co-worker who dances around sexual harassment in the work place. She has a group of hilarious friends who would probably help her bury a body if she ever needed it.

One of the standing themes in this book is settling and comfort. Often times in life it's easy to fall back on things we're used to instead of taking that new job opportunity, putting yourself out there romantically, or making that extra connection. When Rachel and Ben see each other again, Rachel has just taken the leap of faith, turned over a new leaf, and started a new life. Meanwhile, Ben appears to have taken the safe route with his current wife. Over the course of the novel, we as a reader can glean that Ben's marriage isn't built on the same intensity of devotion he felt towards Rachel.

All of Ben and Rachel's hangouts in the present are either with Ben's wife present or brief work lunches, both respecting Ben's marital boundaries. But it's apparent that whatever feelings they had at university haven't completely evaporated.
"The whole world is one table by a window in a café-bar in Manchester and the person sitting opposite me. If joy could be seen by the Hubble, tonight scientists would record a peculiar iridescence on an island north of the equator."

There was a bit of slight book anxiety reading this book. I rooted for Ben and Rachel but felt conflicted over Ben's marriage. McFarlane didn't use a cheap tactic to make readers hate Olivia, like paint her as an evil villain or have her cheat on Ben with another character. She handled the situation gently. The dinner party scene gives great insight on the health of Olivia and Ben's marriage, even before Rachel got into the picture.

I love a good romantic comedy with a love story that has some history. This one fit the bill for me and was exactly what I was wanting. The writing was good, the characters were enjoyable, and my reading experience was really fun. There is a follow-up novella that I read right after this, After Hello (it's free).

* I purchased this book myself.

You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

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Profile Image for Megan Readinginthesunshine.
473 reviews185 followers
December 4, 2012
I will start by saying that I was very excited about reading this one! I love reading debut novels, I enjoy discovering new authors and the excitement of not knowing what you are going to get with the new author, as well as the opportunity to read their books, delve into their imagination, and escape into the world that they have created.

Rachel and Ben meet at university in Manchester and immediately strike up a brilliant friendship. As Rachel has a long-distance but steady relationship with her boyfriend Rhys, and Ben goes through a string of girls, they remain best of friends and thick as thieves.

Ten years later, Rachel is still living in Manchester, with a job as a court reporter, still meeting up with her university friends and has just broken up with Rhys, who up until then was her fiancé. After Rachel’s friend Caroline spots Ben in the library Rachel rushes there in an attempt to catch a glimpse of him. Ben is back. Ben, her best friend from university who she has not seen or spoken to in ten years. But it seems things have moved on – Ben is married and Rachel is now newly-single. As they bump into each other, the old easy friendship returns, but along with it return Rachel’s previously buried feelings that she would never allow herself to admit…

The prologue was nice, but the opening chapter was brilliant. Mhairi MacFarlane drops the reader right in the middle of the scene, and it is gripping. I must admit I was hooked from the first few pages and I was so keen to read on to discover what was happening, and I wanted to know where the story would take me.

The story changes between Rachel’s present-day life, and her life back at university with Ben. I particularly enjoyed this as I learnt so much more about the characters through their background story, and could see how their past experiences had made them how they are in the present day, and every time I delved into their past, I discovered a little bit more about them.

Mhairi’s writing style is excellent. This is not a slushy romance story, but instead we are given a real everyday story, with real everyday characters and a refreshing writing style, and it is fantastic! The writing is sharp, it has attitude, and the characters are so realistic that it feels like they jump from the pages into real life.

Rachel is very well-written as the main lead character. She is witty, she has a fabulous sense of humour and she is instantly likeable. I particularly liked that the story is told through her narrative, as Rachel’s personality really shines through this way, and as a reader, I really got behind her and connected with her. Ben came across very well as a handsome charming man to begin with, but as I began to read more of his background story, I fell in love with the guy he was at university, his ease and his humour, and I could see why girls were falling at his feet back then! The supporting cast were great additions to the story, I loved the contrasts of the characters, and the villains were so well-written I enjoyed their scenes almost as much as I liked the happy scenes. The sub-plots were also very interesting and made the story that much more enjoyable as there was another aspect to focus on too!

There is so much depth to this story, as a reader I really understood each character and their different personalities, and their differences are what made the story so entertaining. Mhairi has created the PERFECT mix of characters, so when they are all put together there are clashes, drama, friendship, flirting and buckets of laughter. And not just giggling laughter, but the embarrassing snorting-and-spluttering laughter when something is so funny that it just hits you uncontrollably.

You Had Me At Hello is addictive, it has a lot of spirit and it is hilarious! It is one of the most refreshing books that I have read in a while! If you are looking for a romance story with a difference – then this is for you! A fantastic novel.
Profile Image for *The Angry Reader*.
1,359 reviews294 followers
January 14, 2019
I mean - this SOB comes this close to 5 stars. What a fun read!

First off - I’ve been a complete bitch this week. No reason. Just feeling like a Krabby Patty. I got so mad at that freakin Ravenels book last night I wanted to burn it.

And I’ve declared this the year of the historical romance. But let’s be real - I have 26 of them piled in my living room. And more on kindle and Scribd. However, I’m not doing them any favors reading them back to back and slapdash. I like to work books from other genres in there to cleanse the palate.

I’d heard good things about this author. But I understand her to be Chick Lit rather than Romance. And god knows I’ve chosen to be snobby about Chick Lit. For no actual reason, mind you. I’m just a shithead. However, I deigned to read this and Voila. I had a rollicking good time.

My favorite thing about this book - I had no idea how it would end. Nor did I know how I wanted it to end. There was no clear hero. It wasn’t so much a love triangle as a “where do we go next?” And all of the options seemed both viable and terrible.

I liked the ending, but I’m not in love with it. I’m also a little put off by characters who get drunk and do dumb things. As a non-drinker it’s cringe-worthy for me.

Still. I bought 2 more books from this author. She’s going to go great between the Dukes and Marquesses and heaving bosoms of 2019.

Profile Image for Heather.
284 reviews13.9k followers
August 10, 2016
You Had Me At Hello accomplishes what the most inspiring and endearing Rom Com’s aspire to: relatability, charm and contemporary timelessness.

The book begins in present day. Rachel, our narrator, is an early 30 something staffer on the cusp of ending her 13 year long relationship with her fiancé Rhys. Thru Rachel, we are introduced to Ben, our prospective love interest and protagonist. Ben is Rachel’s long lost best friend from uni days with whom she hasn’t spoken for the past decade. When Rachel’s best friend Caroline mentions seeing Ben at a local library, Rachel sets out to the local to encourage a “chance” encounter. What follows is a story, told via a present day setting, and thru flashbacks, about what comes to pass when you encounter a lost love after 10 years and a mixed bag of life decisions.

Equal parts humorous, nostalgic, and romantic, You Had Me At Hello is the kind of treasure I love to find. The dialog was witty and delightfully frank. If you somehow manage to read this little gem without being charmed by these characters, there may be something wrong with you. A certain re-read if ever there was one.
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