Neve and William have an intellectual connection and, while he's been in America the past few years, Neve has been working hard to ensure they have a physical connection when he gets back. She has lost a lot of weight and is no longer obese, but she's still doesn't feel ready for William's not-too-distant return. Aside from shifting the last few pounds, she needs more relationship experience - ANY would be handy - so she comes up with the idea of a "pancake relationship", a first relationship that you can chuck away like you throw away the first mangled pancake in a batch. Her sister's hot but sleazy boss Max is the perfect candidate for her first pancake, and he agrees to try the relationship because he's never really been in one himself, and it's ideal for him coz Neve doesn't care if he sleeps with other people coz she certainly doesn't want to sleep with him.
With this hijinksy set up, I was expecting You Don't Have to Say You Love Me to be a lot of fun. And it certainly was. Charming, funny and completely entertaining. But what I wasn't expecting was just how touching it would be - and how much I would relate to it. Neve is a complete mess, and boy did I see my own messy self in her. She is intelligent and attractive, but so incredibly insecure it's painful to read about at times - all the more painful because it was like hearing my own thoughts repeated back to me. From the way she froze when a guy tried to cuddle her across her tummy, to the way she held up her fingers to indicate she was just a LITTLE bit drunk when she was actually very drunk, it was bizarre just how much I felt like Neve WAS me sometimes. Some readers may find all her insecurities annoying, but they felt completely authentic and relatable to me. She also experiences a lot of character growth over the course of her book, and her journey towards accepting and even loving herself is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once.
The funniest moments, as well as a number of incredibly moving ones, come when Neve interacts with Max. They are complete opposites in so many ways, and it makes for some hilarious and really fun scenes. Even more fun is the amazing chemistry they have, which gets harder and harder for them to resist. Max is a bit of a douche at times, but of course he has a big heart underneath. He is blokey and messy but he's also sexy and charming and respectful and lovely and a little bit broken himself. It's hard not to fall in love with him by the end.
The secondary characters are really great, and I especially loved Neve's family relationships. The way they hurt each other but love each other so much was realistic and really got under my skin. On a lighter level, Neve's work friendships and the office politics she deals with made for an entertaining subplot. Her career ambitions and growing belief in herself, even when others don't, is an awesome part of her character arc.
The story, characters and writing are all fantastic, but I also really appreciated the exploration of what makes a good relationship, and how your dreams and expectations don't always match reality - which can actually be a very good thing. The contrast between someone who you think is right, but who isn't at all, with someone you think is all wrong, but who is actually totally right, was really well done. The whole book was just so realistic in the most entertaining way.
I listened to the audiobook edition of this, read by Julie Maisey, and she did a wonderful job. Neve's voice was perfect and although I was a little unsure of Max's at first, I got used to it and really liked it in the end. The pacing and expression is spot on and all in all it was very compelling to listen to. This is one of those books where you begin to resent the rest of your life for getting in the way of it. When I finished You Don't Have To Say You Love Me I had a big, goofy grin on my face - and it doesn't get much better than that.
I think I watched the Winter's Tale trailer too many times around the time I started reading this, because I pictured Jessica Brown Findlay as Neve and Colin Farrell as Max. Also Tom Hiddleston as William, because Hiddles.
Published: 2011, Whole Story Audiobooks
Get it: Audible