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If I Loved You Less

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Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if.

Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.

One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.

However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.

222 pages, ebook

First published September 20, 2018

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About the author

Tamsen Parker

42 books374 followers
Tamsen Parker is a stay-at-home mom by day, erotic romance writer by naptime. She lives with her family outside of Boston, where she tweets too much, sleeps too little and is always in the middle of a book. Aside from good food, sweet rieslings and gin cocktails, she has a fondness for monograms and subway maps. She should really start drinking coffee.

You can sign up for her newsletter here to find out about her latest release, sales, or other goings on: http://bit.ly/1Bry07O

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 65 reviews
Profile Image for Joc.
761 reviews174 followers
October 5, 2018
Set in Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian island, Kauai, this is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. Jane Austen set out with the intention of writing a character that only she would like. Parker has kept to the story closely enough that Theo really isn’t particularly likeable. I hadn’t realised that this was based on Emma until I was a third of the way into it (I’ve long forgotten the storyline and had to look it up too), getting irritated and had a look at the blurb and reviews on Goodreads.

Theo fancies herself as a bit of a matchmaker and decides to set up her friend, Laurel, with a manager at the nearby resort. Her former nanny, Kini, who is 14 years older her tries to dissuade her from setting up the match but Theo is headstrong and arrogant. The manager, Brock, turns out to be an arse so Theo starts looking around for someone else to set Laurel up with.

There are a couple of things I did enjoy in this story, like the setting. I enjoyed reading about the characters as islanders and not as visiting tourists. I enjoyed reading about the different types of food but there came a point where I found it distracting to have to look up half the Hawaiian terminology. Perhaps it could have been woven into the story better so that the context told the reader what it was or a translation slipped into the dialogue. (I only knew what Poi was from watching ‘Barbie in a Mermaid’s Tale’ countless times, lol.)

I liked Theo as a character in the beginning but as the story wore on, she became more and more shallow and less likeable. The dialogue wasn’t consistent. One moment it would be contemporary with words like ‘jeez’ and ‘fuck’ and next thing, the characters would be using quite stilted and dated English.

If I had known this was Jane Austen fan-fiction I wouldn’t have read it. The romance took too long to get to and while I quite liked Kini as a character, there wasn’t enough of her presence.
2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,787 reviews500 followers
September 4, 2018
If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker is a super sweet, PG rated romance!

As a fan of Tamsen Parker, I'm always down for whatever book she throws our way! She tends to switch up her genres, her writing style, her narratives and her character types. This time around THE BOOK ISN'T FOCUSED ON SEX. That's mind blowing all on it's own, that Tamsen took a big step out of her "comfort zone" (per say) and jumped into a more dramatic and contemporary world. While that jump could have ended up poorly (let's be honest, she could have sunken the ship), I think it worked out wonderfully! So, if you want to peek inside my brain and see what I thought of this Emma retelling, continue on...


This book is a rarity for Tamsen - why? Because this one lacks sex scenes! (There is a sentence that says the main lady has a wonderful time with herself, but it's only a sentence). That being said, this book was still a fantastic read by this always wonderful author!

I did really like that Tamsen took a step back from the uber sexy novels. While this book felt fluffy and more on the contemporary side, it also showcased a more dramatic side of Tamsen we don't see as often with the overly sexual books. In this book, the focus is all on the retelling of Emma in a Hawaiian environment.

I haven't read Emma (I plan to, but I just haven't been able to yet), but I read many summaries on various sites to try to get a better understanding of what this book was about. To me, this book seemed to be an excellent "reboot" of Jane Austen's extremely famous story. The general plot of this story is Emma retold from our main character's point of view. This time around, Theo (our lead) lives in Hawaii, teachers surfing and is madly in love with the baker.

In my humble opinion, I think Tamsen did this story justice! When I read this book, I felt like the story respected the source material and changed just enough to make this book stand on it's own. At the beginning I felt that the book moved a little slowly, but as the chapters went on the pace picked up and I became more enchanted by the tale woven within Tamsen's words. Some of the characters I felt could have been left out, but I'm under the impression these characters are based on character's from Emma. If anything, that's the worst part for me - I would have loved to see way more of Theo and Kini than some of the side characters (Tamsen just made them oh so lovable and relatable! I felt like I would know these characters outside the book, in the real world!).

The romance in this book is not max-ed out or hyped up. This felt like a slow burn novel, where we finally get our sigh of relief at the end. Having Theo be the match maker for the town gave us little glimpses of hope and excitement for romances to bloom, but as with any Jane Austen novel - things don't always work out the way we want. I think that worked fantastically within this novel - it didn't feel like the romance was forced or that there was too much romance. It's just a pinch and a sprinkle throughout!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! If you're looking to get into Tamsen's books but are a little hesitant on the sexy ones, then pick this book up! I feel like it's the perfect book to be introduced to Tamsen's writing, and then move on to her hotter books (I could recommend a few...).

Five out of five stars!

I received a free copy of this book from the author Tamsen Parker in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alexis.
510 reviews565 followers
September 19, 2018
Based on Jane Austen's "Emma", this is the story of Theo, the manager of Sullivan’s Surf Emporium and Kini who owns Queen's Sweet Shop.

The first and only time I read Emma was when my English teacher decided that since I was a native English speaker I should skip the easier to read books the rest of the class was reading and dive right into the world of Jane Austen. He felt it was his duty to convince 16 year old me that the book was better than the movie Clueless. Ha! (I still fantasize about Cher Horowitz running him over with her jeep.)

The reason I just wrote all of that is because I'm trying to put off writing all the reasons I didn't like this book. The most glaring issue I had was with Theo, whose POV the story is told from. I simply couldn't stand her behavior. She's an immature, selfish, callous, melding, egotistical brat who blurts out insensitive remarks without thinking.

The worst part is in her own eyes she's a matchmaker extraordinaire who thinks she knows what's best for her friends. This brings me to my second issue with the book. It's 2018, if I were to tell any of my friends who to date and who not to, I'm pretty sure they'd tell me to go fuc... 🤐 to get lost. The behavior of several characters who were originally written in 1815 no longer have a place in 2018.

My last issue with Theo was her behavior in regards to a male character, or as she calls him her "backup plan".

The final thing you need to know before reading this book is that unless you're Hawaiian or familiar with the language, you will be using google a lot. There are a truck ton of Hawaiian words without a single translation in sight and every so often I would have to stop reading to look up what the hell a 'keiki' or a 'malihini' was.

This book just wasn't my cup of tea it seems. Perhaps it's more suited for die hard romance fans who like a 90% slow burn.

ARC provided by Tamsen Parker through Lorelie Brown's newsletter
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,722 reviews6,664 followers
September 21, 2018
If I Loved You Less is a retelling of Jane Austen's Emma. It incorporates elements related to LGBTQ romance, family, friends, matchmaking (of course), surfing, and food. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley's roles are filled by Theo and Kini, and all the other character roles are easy to spot thanks to Tamsen Parker's dedication to the original. All main events and character traits are captured perfectly, and the more modern additions are tastefully done. Parker's retelling is set in Hanalei, a small town on the north shore of Kauai in Hawaii, and it is overflowing with culture which was one of my favorite things about this book. The food, the people, the lingo, the beach... I felt immersed.

Just like with Mr. Knightley and Emma, Kini is Theo's favorite person, her moral compass, and her safest place. And just like their predecessors, Kini and Theo's age difference is significant. Kini is fourteen years older than Theo with gray in her hair, but all this is mentioned as an afterthought because the quality of their relationship rises above. Additionally, sexual fluidity is showcased here which I appreciated; these characters were not placed in any one box, and I loved the possibilities that created... although being the retelling that this is, we all know how the story ends. It was sweet and familiar and romantic with clean content, and it was a reading experience I enjoyed. Check it out!

Thank you to the following for gifting me an advance reader's copy (ARC) of If I Loved You Less. This generosity did not impact my honesty when rating/reviewing.
Tamsen Parker
Genres: LGBTQ Romance, Retelling
Pub Date: September 20, 2018
Profile Image for Natasha.
495 reviews377 followers
September 4, 2018
Review on my blogTwitterInstagram

Rep: queer main character, Hawaiian love interest, f/f romance 

I received an arc in exchange for a free and honest review

So, despite Pride and Prejudice being one of my favourite books, as well as my fondness for Jane Austen's Persuasion, I have never been able to finish Emma. I saw Clueless a long time ago and did enjoy that, but didn't know about it's relation to Emma (though to be honest, Clueless is to Emma as 10 Things I Hate About You is to The Taming of the Shrew). And I did attempt to watch Emma Approved since fifteen year old me wanted more after The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, but stopped watching that too. Emma is a book I've tried reading three times, at three very different times in my life, and I still have never been able to finish it. I don't find it particularly bad, but for whatever reason the plot has never been something that worked for me. But I thought this retelling would be something I'd like, I mean, it has sapphics. I'm always here for sapphic retellings (and I loved a f/f retelling of Pride and Prejudice called The Story of Lizzie and Darcy). But unfortunately, even with sapphics, the story of Emma still didn't work for me.

I do know sone basics about Emma, so changes include; changing Emma's name to Theo(dosia), Mr Knightly's cis female counterparts name being Kini (who might be Native Hawaiian but the text makes little effort to make that clear to my memory, other than her speaking Hawaiian), and Harriet Smith is a Korean-American girl named Laurel. Other than that, I can't talk much about changes since I'm not so familiar with this story, so this review won't be talking about changes made or anything. 

So, the book itself and my thoughts on it. I've read four other things from Tamsen Parker, books 1, 2, and 4 of the Snow and Ice Games series and her short story Looking for a Complication. Her f/f stuff has been my favourite of the selection, and I do think she's a good romance writer. I think on it's own, If I Loved You Less is good and strong. It didn't real like it was adapting something else. Which is what you want from retellings. But at the same time, I feel like Tamsen Parker was very restricted from it. It's hard to know how much to put on the retelling factor since I don't know the full story, but Theo and Kini ending up together felt very out of nowhere. Theo never really showed romantic feelings for Kini until it happened, and I don't get why they had feelings for each other. Staying true to the original source, Theo and Kini have a fourteen year age gap. But I'd assume that would create more of a sister relationship, as they are actually sisters in law. Though obviously they don't see each other that way. And the relationship took it's time to come, to the point I honestly didn't care by the time they were together.

As far as characters went, they were really kind of forgettable. I liked that Kini was a baker but I feel like I barely knew her. I also don't really have much to say about Theo, I know a lot of people don't like Emma, and while I didn't dislike Theo, I did find her pushy at times. And I get that that's the point, but it can get unbearable to read about after a while. She didn't really understand boundaries, 

I liked Hawaii as a setting but like a set, if Kini was meant to be Hawaiian I feel like it should've gone more into the Indigenous culture that comes with it. It felt shallow I guess. I don't need books to teach me things, but it felt like the Hawaiian part of Kini was treated as something insignificant. 

The side characters weren't too memorable. Laurel was flat, some dude named Brock (whoever tf he's meant to be based on idk) was boring and forgettable. And that's what this book was. I don't mind books being forgettable if I enjoyed them in the moment and, like, cared. But this was just bland. Which is disappointing since I loved the concept of sapphic retellings. 

I'd say that I'd only recommend this if you're a fan of Emma, which I obviously am not.  
Profile Image for Gaby LezReviewBooks.
718 reviews333 followers
October 6, 2018
Theo Sullivan is a surfing instructor based in a small island in Hawaii. In her free time she enjoys being the village busybody and matchmaker and eating all things sweet at her friend Kini ʻŌpūnui’s bakery. As Theo is a lesbian, she normally enjoys no-string relationships with visiting tourists but she’d never imagined that the love of her life could be closer than she thought.

This novel is a retelling of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen. The author mainly writes about m/f and m/m couples with the exception of a couple of f/f books. In the acknowledgements, the author admits that this book was difficult to write and, to be honest, it shows.

Even though this book features two main women characters falling in love with each other, I wouldn’t consider it lesfic because most of the attention is focused on heterosexual relationships. Additionally, Theo affirms that she’s a lesbian (or queer as she prefers to call herself) but her attraction to women isn’t completely believable. I couldn’t feel the mains’ chemistry beyond the level of friendship and their romantic involvement is rushed and unconvincing. It doesn’t help that there no intimate scenes either and I’m not sure that they would have worked with that low level of chemistry.

The book is written in third person from the point of view of Theo. To say that Theo is not an easy to like character is an understatement. Most of the time, she comes across as self-centred, opinionated, superficial, immature and manipulative. Kini is the complete opposite and you can only wonder what she sees in the younger woman. There is an age gap between the mains of around 14 years, both characters are believable in their ages and they somehow balance each other. Kudos to the author to tackle an interracial romance in the beautiful setting of Hawaii. However, there are too many out of context Hawaiian words, specially when food is mentioned, which somehow interrupt the reading flow. Additionally, some of the secondary characters are a bit stereotyped and sometimes act strangely for the XXI century. I’m not sure that interpolating Jane Austen’s idiosyncrasy to a modern day lesbian romance worked in this case.

Overall, an unconvincing romance that probably won’t appeal to lesfic fans. 2.5 stars.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

See all my reviews at www.lezreviewbooks.com
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,039 reviews804 followers
January 11, 2019
ARC kindly provided by Tamsen Parker

Rep: lesbian mcs, Hawaiian side characters

The problem I seem to have with Austen retellings is that I almost go into them with too high expectations, and I'm invariably disappointed. Because, let's be real, nothing can really reach the same levels as Austen herself - I should probably save myself the disappointment and stop thinking they might.

That being said, I think this book also suffered a little because Emma happens to be my least favourite Austen and the one I found most boring when I read it (yes, I still liked it, but if I'm ranking the novels, it's definitely sixth out of six). So, maybe I shouldn't have been that surprised when I didn't like this as much as I might have. However, I think I might still have rated this two stars instead of only one if I hadn't got so annoyed by some aspects of it.

But let me back up a moment, and talk about some things I liked about this book. It's set in Hawaii and the cast is more racially diverse than the original (not hard to do, obviously, but it's still something worth noting). I liked that Tamsen Parker decided to shake things up a bit like that. Also, the writing was mostly good - there were a couple of lines where I was just like what, but on the whole, it was very readable. Unfortunately, that's all offset by a whole part in the middle dealing with Theo's sexuality that annoyed me so much I had to rate this one star.

To start with, Theo is only attracted to women. She mentions this a few times, she rejects Brock and tells him she's only attracted to women, calls him out when he says maybe she's just not yet met the right man. And yet. She refuses to use the word lesbian. Because she isn't "fundamentally opposed to the idea of being with a man". But she's obviously not attracted to men in the text, so all I'm getting here is that she doesn't want to call herself a lesbian on the off chance that one day she'll meet a man she's attracted to. And then later on, there's this line: "the squishier label of queer had always felt more comfortable than the more rigid identity of lesbian". Like once you choose a label for your sexuality, that's it. There's no changing. I know the whole "sexuality is fluid" thing is a bit iffy, but. Sexuality can be fluid. Her labelling herself as lesbian now, because she's only attracted to women, doesn't mean she's completely incapable of realising later on that maybe she is attracted to other genders too.

And it really does feel in the narrative that this is just playing into a kind of "you're not a lesbian, you just haven't met the right man" idea. It would be, not fine, but better, if, when she thinks she's attracted to Austin, the author takes the chance to bring up comphet, and how maybe this attraction is just to do with the fact that she thinks she ought to be attracted to him, and that their fathers used to push it when they were younger (which is briefly mentioned but not framed in terms of comphet). Because it's obvious she isn't really attracted to him. It's clearly comphet. And it would have been really nice to at least attempt a discussion of that in this, when you have this example just sat there waiting for you. It would have made the whole labelling issue I had feel a lot less like "you just haven't met the right man". And, ultimately, I might have liked the book quite a bit more if that had been the direction taken.

But in the end, what I'm left with is yet another Austen retelling that leaves me feeling disappointed.
Profile Image for Beau North.
Author 13 books98 followers
September 14, 2018
Emma is a tough nut to crack. Up until the last few years, I've always sort of brushed Emma and Mansfield Park off as dull and unwieldy, but it's taken some real reflection for me to recognize them both as being brilliant in their own way, and both deserving their place among the Austen Canon. Emma isn't really so different from the other Austen heroines, believing she knows best, considering herself to be an exemplary judge of character, insulated by her family and community (this is where Fanny Price and Anne Elliot differ, those two have minimal emotional support from friends and family, but I digress). In Emma's case, her greatest asset (the close-knit community of Highbury) is also one of her biggest disadvantages. Her view of the world is very limited, and while she's an intelligent, essentially kind person, she doesn't truly understand the way the world works.

That's one of the things I feel translates exceptionally well in this thoroughly modern retelling. Even in the age of Instagram and Facebook, Theo has chosen the insulation of her hometown of Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi. Mr. Woodhouse is faithfully translated into the worrying health nut Mr. Sullivan, having lost his wife to her love of big wave surfing. Seeing what grief has done to her father has given Theo...maybe not the healthiest outlook on love and marriage. Like Emma (who through nothing more the the circumstance of her birth, has already achieved the comfortable position most women at the time strove for) Theo has no plans for relationships or to marry. Like Emma, she hasn't quite figured out who she wants to be. Though she's completely sure that she is queer and prefers women, she's well aware that sexuality is fluid, that it's *possible* she could be bisexual, which I found to be an interesting detail. Some people don't fit neatly into the LGBTQIA+ box. I just want to tip my hat to the author for keeping with Austen's theme of self-discovery while not making it a coming-out story.

While this book doesn't have any sex or even anything truly explicit, the crackling tension between Theo and Kini is there from the start. I found it a clever twist that our Knightley character the local purveyor of baked goods. After one upsetting episode, Theo makes her way to the bakery in search of comfort food, but reading between the lines and knowing what we know, it isn't the donuts that comfort her, but the warm, accepting presence of Kini that Theo is truly craving.

The right notes are all hit, and like all Austen stories, it's not luck or strategy that brings our heroine to love, but the bruising journey of learning from our mistakes, of coming to understand who we are, facing the good AND the bad within and striving to be better. To be kind, and to admit that maybe we don't have it all figured out yet. I'm beyond pleased to see queer and culturally diverse representation in an Austen retelling. I know there is a good deal of m/m takes on Austen out there, but preferring f/f fiction I jumped at the chance to read this one, and it was well worth the time.
Profile Image for Kristin.
965 reviews94 followers
September 8, 2018
I would like to thank the author for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This queer version of Emma sticks pretty closely to the original storyline. I love that it's set on one of the smaller island of Hawai, it includes lots of detail especially about food!
Profile Image for Tara.
774 reviews308 followers
December 8, 2018
As always, Tamsen Parker delivers engaging, often adorable dialogue, and a story that I was able to immediately sink into. Because it follows Theo so closely and all of her antics in and around Hanalei Bay, it’s more chicklit than romance. The romance that’s there is lovely and thoroughly enjoyable, it just doesn’t happen to take up a lot of the pages in this book.

If I Loved You Less is a pretty faithful retelling of Emma, however, so if you’re a fan of that story, then you’ll love this one. And if you don’t like Emma, you probably won’t like this one either.

Full review: https://www.thelesbianreview.com/if-i...
Profile Image for Manon the Malicious.
947 reviews52 followers
September 15, 2018
I was provided an ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review.

When I heard about this book, I really REALLY wanted to read it. I already loved it.
I mean an Emma retelling but queer! What's not to love?!

Sadly, I was disappointed. It felt more like a transposition than a retelling.
Since I know Emma pretty well, I knew the entire plot after reading the first couple pages. I quickly understood who was whom in the original story and then, it was all done.

I didn't find the characters all that endearing and I just wanted to fly through the book, to finish it...
Still, I laughed some and it was a short read but I wasn't rooting for the characters and the main romance felt a bit off-key to me...

So yeah, this was a bit of a let-down but I still think lots of people could enjoy this.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
May 18, 2019
I read this book in less than a day. This doesn't happen often to me anymore, but with all its flaws, I have to admit I found this addicting.

If I Loved You Less is a f/f new adult retelling of Emma set in Hanalei Bay, Hawaii. It follows Theo, a 25-year-old woman who is a "matchmaker" in her small town, but isn't interested in marriage herself.
I thought Theo was a really interesting character, and with that I mean that she annoyed me a lot - in a way no character ever had before.
Unlikable narrators are difficult to write, and Theo got on my nerves a lot, but I can't say I had ever read about a character like her. You see, Theo is a very well-meaning, extroverted person who happens to be bad at reading social cues and who has little understanding of boundaries. She is irritating and kind of clueless, especially at the beginning, but I ended up caring about her. I appreciated her character development, but what I liked the most was how, for once, this book broke the "introverted = socially awkward / extroverted = good at reading and understanding people" stereotype. People like Theo exist, but so far I had only seen them as annoying side characters you're meant to hate on.

I can't say I liked the side characters as much. All of them were a bit flat, even the love interest - I liked her and the way the romance developed, but I didn't feel that strongly about Kini and Theo as a couple. They were cute, and not much more. The other side characters, however, were one-dimensional and all ended up paired up together because... plot? (but we'll talk about that later). Brock is boring and a plot device, Austin isn't much better, Laurel felt like a walking stereotype - she never got more characterization than "nerdy East Asian sidekick with no spine", which was a shame - and the other characters were so forgettable I don't even remember their names.

I also didn't love the way the main character and the story were obsessed with romance. Trying to push people to date isn't great, this is acknowledged in the book, but all the major characters end up paired up anyway. I would have loved if someone was shown to be happy without needing a partner, especially since part of this book was about Theo being pushy about romance.

What I liked the most about this book were the setting - Hanalei Bay is a beautiful place and I could feel that - and the food descriptions. There were a lot of them, because Kini is a baker and Theo loves eating sweets. I don't know exactly what it is about food descriptions but they always make me like a book more. Just like atmosphere, they make the setting feel more real.

Also, this book is easy to read. If I Loved You Less is the kind of book you can fly through when you have to spend hours in a hospital waiting room, and it will make you forget you're there.
While this book is new adult, there are no explicit sex scenes, which helped (sex scenes are great! Just not what I'd read in a waiting room). If you have a lot of time during which you have nothing to do but you need something that is easy to read and will keep you distracted, I can say that this works.
Profile Image for Jess.
2,809 reviews5 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
May 9, 2019
I was way too conscious I was reading an Emma retelling and it was distracting.
Profile Image for Angie.
386 reviews13 followers
July 24, 2020
It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that Emma, not Pride and Prejudice, is the Jane Austen novel that works in modern adaptations. My love of all things Austen combined with the tepid reviews on If I Loved You Less kept me away from this book longer than it probably would have normally, which is a shame because I really, really liked it.

***This review is probably pretty spoilery. But only in that way I'd be spoiling a novel that was published more than 200 years ago. I'm not going to tag this with spoiler tags because I think Emma is pretty fair game and If I Loved You Less is fairly faithful to the events in Emma. If you don't want spoilers, do not read any further.***

Emma is a hard book to like. Of the character, Austen wrote that she had created "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." And Theo Sullivan, this adaptation's Emma, is every bit the spoiled, though well-meaning, pain in the ass as Jane Austen's Emma, only Theo world revolves around the community of Hannalei in Kauai, Hawaii. And I think Tamsen Parker does a really great job keeping close to Austen's Emma while also making this her own story.

I've always struggled with the Mr. Knightley/Emma pairing. And it's not the age-gap alone, which I can forgive, but the fact that Mr. Knightley--a teenager when Emma was born--knew her since her birth and had watched her grow up. In If I Loved You Less, the Mr. Knightley character becomes Kini, a woman who owns a local bakery and who has known Theo since she was born (when Kini was 14 years old). Turns out this detail is even odder when you adapt that for modern readers.

I really liked Kini, but my only issue with her is the continued references to her silver-infused black hair. She's 39, not 59. Even if she is going gray prematurely, I doubt that would be the defining feature of her hair. I just felt it was an odd choice--why emphasize how much older she is than Theo? Why make her seem older than their 14-year difference? Having said all that, I actually thought Parker did a great job leading the readers towards a romance with Kini and Theo, so even if I have reservations, I think it's handled as best as it could be. But this book isn't a romance in the traditional sense. The Theo/Kini romance doesn't occur until close to the end of the novel, so you're really reading about Theo and the way she interacts with and interferes in the lives of her neighbors and friends. And I really enjoyed watching it all happen right there on that Hannalei beach.
Profile Image for Eleanor.
1,367 reviews58 followers
September 16, 2018
This Emma is set in Hawaii. I immediately loved that. Not many stories are set there.

Theodosia Sullivan is the town’s matchmaker. Self proclaimed, mind you. She’s cute as hell for a 25 year old woman who’s, from what as a reader I first got, is essencially a tomboy. She runs her father’s surf shop, is a surfing instructor for tourists and all around loved by everyone in Hanalei Bay.

What Theo doesn’t take into consideration is, that many of her “matches” are just – natural matches. And so filled with ambition that she is, few are the people to argue with her.

Her favorite people apart from her father is Kini, the local baker, 14 years her senior, and on occasion, a guiding figure in her life.

When Theo meets a newcomer and decides to match her up with the town’s most ambitious surfer, things start to crumble and the plot turns into sort of a comedy of errors.

IILYL is sweet, it’s enjoyable, amusing and very much PG. It’s very rare for Tamsen Parker as all of her repertoire is centered around the BDSM world. A no sex book is unique and a lot of fun.

I loved it.
Profile Image for Jess.
947 reviews60 followers
September 23, 2018
This book was provided for free by the author and Love Bytes in exchange for an honest review.

This review was first posted to Love Bytes: LGBTQ Book Reviews. It has been slightly edited here for content.

I enjoy Jane Austen’s Emma, but I must be honest—I love the movie Clueless even better. I think it’s one of the best Austen adaptations of all time, and the blending of a matchmaking comedy of manners with 90’s teen drama was an absolutely genius choice. This book is a perfect mix of the two. It’s a classic story with a gorgeous setting and modern characters who still look for love in all the wrong places.

What we know of Emma as a character is so embroiled in polite society and social climbing, so setting the book within the slower, breezy rhythms of Hawaii is a really interesting idea. We see the obvious differences in motivation and reason as Theo works her matchmaking magic while surfing, sneaking baked goods, and being generally the chillest human being of all time. Theo is an excellent incarnation of the flawed character we love. She’s just as spoiled, bored, and selfish as the original—and I love that the Knightley character, a no-nonsense baker named Kini, has no problem telling Theo like it is.

I had some reservations about the actual romance for the first few chapters. When I read Emma for the first time in high school, there was a natural modern revulsion towards the age difference—Emma is 20, Knightley is 37. Now, it doesn’t seem that odd, but it is quite a leap no matter how you look at it. Kini is 14 years older than Theo, and the age difference is glaring, especially since Kini is painted as more of a mother figure at the beginning. But soon, we see the slow blossoming of romantic feelings between two unique women—one carefree, one cautious. One full of youthful optimism, one a down-to-earth skeptic. It must also be noted that Kini may be critical of Theo, but she never talks down to her or sees her as anything but an equal. They aren’t an obvious match, but one that simmers wonderfully over the entire book.

This is my first book by Tamsen Parker. I’m incredibly impressed by her use of language and her writing style. She doesn’t try to emulate Austen in obvious ways, but the influences are certainly there, and they’re done very smartly. Parker is adept at writing characters with real flaws and personality traits, making Theo feel more like our annoying BFF than a dramatic romantic heroine. This isn’t an easy type of story to take on, but Parker totally nails it.

This book doesn’t reinvent Emma. The story arcs are all predictable if you know the source material, making the subplots involving Laurel, Brock, and Austin a little slow at times. But it tells the tale in a unique way that kept me invested until the end, and the romance between Theo and Kini isn’t one I’ll forget about anytime soon.
Profile Image for Margaret.
222 reviews22 followers
September 4, 2019
This f/f retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma is set in present-day Hawaii, following a young woman named Theo who is determined to set up everyone around her in perfect relationships. Her meddling goes too far, though, with her new friend Laurel, and Theo is forced to acknowledge the fact that she doesn’t know her own feelings at all.

*Deep sigh* Emma is one of my favorite Austen novels, and even though I appreciate the fact that this author made it more diverse and modern…well, this ain’t it. My first problem is the fact that Theo, the “Emma” character, feels extremely immature. I know that immaturity is an essential part of that character, but this felt too far – she reads like a fifteen year old rather than a twenty-five year old. I could tell that a lot, probably too much, was influenced by Clueless. Plus, her manipulation of people around her, which is mostly innocent and well-meant in the original text – becomes more malicious and self-serving in this version. Emma is already a difficult character to like, and this retelling makes her downright unbearable.

Besides that, the writing was clunky and unpolished. Often it felt like huge chunks of dialogue were copied from the original text, updated into modern language, and left there without any consideration of flow or character voice. The only good thing was that this book was short, so it didn’t take long to get through!

Content warnings: sexual assault
Profile Image for Cat.
715 reviews7 followers
June 25, 2019
Faithful but fresh retelling of Emma

Things you should know about this book:
1. From what I recall of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie (whatever, I remember it more vividly than the book), this it's a startlingly faithful adaptation of Emma in character traits and plot beats. I guess I'm used to the P&P adaptations where a contemporary setting requires more changes
2. Despite the above, the Hawaiian setting and the diversity of race and sexuality make this an absorbing and sparkling new experience
3. You will get so hungry, even if you're lazy like me and don't look up all the delicious-sounding food that permeates every single chapter, practically every page
4. There is no sex on the page, which I did not expect given that I thought of Tamsen Parker as an author of erotic romance. This, I think, is one of her only books that is not in that category. Just FYI for setting expectations for this read and for others by her!
5. This book is delightful and I'd encourage any fan of Austen or diverse romance to check it out!
Profile Image for Williesun.
427 reviews31 followers
November 3, 2019
This Emma retelling ticked all my boxes, mostly the big queer one though and I really wished I loved it more but I didn't. It is a quite faithful modern queer retelling of Emma and that's fine but what bothered me is that you can't transport everything into the modern era imo.

Kini and Theo have a 14 year age difference and while that didn't bother me in the 1800s, it bothers me in the 2000s. And it would have been different imo had Kini not been around since Theo's birth, practically. She has watched Theo grow up and has been in love with her forever (?) which just doesn't sit right with me.

The other parts of the story were fine, I loved the setting of both the surf shop and Hawaii and the other characters felt true enough to their originals but also their own characters. Not the worst retelling I have ever read but it also didn't make me ecstatic.
Profile Image for Jackie.
Author 8 books148 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 7, 2018
I'm usually a huge Parker fan. But this Hawaiian-set retelling of EMMA didn't work for me. In part because there are a lot of things about EMMA that just don't translate well to our times. And in part because Parker's novel was too short to give enough space to all Austen's characters and plotlines. I got about a third of the way in, and didn't have the desire to keep going :-(
Profile Image for Alex.
609 reviews66 followers
October 7, 2018
“I know this isn’t fun to hear, and it sure as hell isn’t fun for me to say, but I’ll say it because no one else will. Even if your father or Charlotte aren’t willing to tell you the truth when you fuck up, I will. And I hope it’s clear that I’m doing this because I’m your friend, and I want for you to be more worthy of that than you are right now.”

review to come.
Profile Image for Kirk.
453 reviews37 followers
October 16, 2022
As a couple of other reviewers have pointed out, this is a version of Emma that follows the original fairly closely and has an "interesting" use of curse words. The ending/epilogue were very well done indeed. Apparently the author was looking to use as many curse words as possible. .50 deduction.
Profile Image for Amy.
841 reviews91 followers
August 22, 2019
Ok this was a pretty good book, and a good Emma adaptation. It felt a but rushed in the end but overall I enjoyed the hell out of this. Thank god for my Nook because I read this SO quickly last night it is amazing.
Profile Image for Estance Veyrac.
853 reviews15 followers
October 22, 2018
A good adaptation of Emma, that made me very hungry.
So much food in the book!
I liked that Theo labelled herself as queer, that was interesting & nuanced, which I appreciate.
Profile Image for Eli.
106 reviews2 followers
September 22, 2018
If I Loved You Less review


I want to start off by saying that I’ve never read the original Emma. Everything I know about the story comes from watching the movie Clueless and the plot of the original. However, I love f/f retellings and I was really excited to read this.

This is a really nice story with an age gap (14 years) between the two love interests as well as a slow burn as the main character didn’t realize she was in love with the other until very late in the book. While the main character, Theo, wasn’t my favorite character, she did have her moments where I loved her. She’s selfish, but loves her father more than anything and takes his feelings into consideration with everything she does. She’s bright and can be a little naïve when it comes to who has a crush on her and doesn’t read their social cues unless they’re openly flirting with her. She can be very mean and speaks without thinking, but at the end of the story she tries to amend for her rudeness. There was also the fact that she believed she was the island’s matchmaker and tried to set up her friend with various men, but she would have been better finding love on her own before everything backfired.

I also really liked how Theo used the word ‘queer’ to define her sexuality than ‘lesbian’ as well as her reason to use the word.

Kini, the love interest, was a lovely character overall. I loved the mention of all the food in the story and I would love to try all of it someday. Kini embodied the ‘tough love’ that Theo needed to become a better person and the rapport they had is something I can relate to when it comes with my friends. Kini never tried to put up with Theo’s shit and the younger woman really needed that.

The story is set in a small town in Hawaii that gets tourists often. There are quite a few Hawaiian words use, but the context of the sentence gives the reader an idea of what they mean. Theo works in her father’s surf shop and Kini owns a bakery in town that she inherited from her parents. The two weren’t obviously flirting with each other, but the thoughts that Theo had about her and going to find her when she was sad was nice to read about. And some of the thoughts were funny when she tried to imagine Kini with anyone else, especially in the beginning.

I received this arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kimberly (kimberly_reads).
250 reviews21 followers
September 1, 2018
I’d like to thank Suzanne Krohn (on behalf of the author, Tamsen Parker) for sending an e-arc for this book my way in exchange for a honest review.

I would give this book 3.5/5 stars because it was a cute queer story that towards the end I couldn’t hardly put down because I was so invested in what was going to happen next.

It did take me a little while to get into the groove of this book (which was entirely a personal thing; this may not happen with everyone!) and I enjoyed how determined the main character is to show those around her that she knows what she’s doing but at the same time is open to learning how to become a better person.

Overall, this was a cute story and I really had a good reading experience with it!
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