Title: Kiss Her Once for Me
Author: Alison Cochrun
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 366 Pages
Category: Holiday Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: This book is everything wonderful, a lot of heartwarming and a little bit of heart-wrenching, with some added spice and everything nice a romance novel should have. I loved Ellie and Jack to bits, loved them at their strongest and their most vulnerable, loved them all the way to their happily ever after.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: One year ago, recent Portland transplant Ellie Oliver had her dream job in animation and a Christmas Eve meet-cute with a woman at a bookstore that led her to fall in love over the course of a single night. But after a betrayal the next morning and the loss of her job soon after, she finds herself adrift, alone, and desperate for money.
Finding work at a local coffee shop, she’s just getting through the days—until Andrew, the shop’s landlord, proposes a shocking, drunken plan: a marriage of convenience that will give him his recent inheritance and alleviate Ellie’s financial woes and isolation. They make a plan to spend the holidays together at his family cabin to keep up the ruse. But when Andrew introduces his new fiancée to his sister, Ellie is shocked to discover it’s Jack—the mysterious woman she fell for over the course of one magical Christmas Eve the year before. Now, Ellie must choose between the safety of a fake relationship and the risk of something real.
Review: If you read Alison Cochrun’s brilliant debut novel, The Charm Offensive, you’ll understand when I say she has witty, charming, heartwarming, and romantic down-pat. She also writes compassionately about perfectly imperfect people. In Kiss Her Once for Me, Cochrun delves into Ellie Oliver’s insecurities, the redundant decisions that means making the same choices and mistakes over and over again, with the same results—to the detriment of her own happiness and wellbeing. It’s not the definition of insanity; it’s the definition of learned behavior, of never knowing anything like security and safety, of never having parents who are always there for her, loving her unconditionally. The sabotage of the voice in her head that says she’s a failure despite every plan to be perfect, the lack of confidence that makes her give up and failure becomes a self-fulfilling thing. The compulsion not to try because disappointment is inevitable, anyway.
Alison Cochrun is an absolute master of the meet-cute, although Ellie is a bit of a disaster in the moment, and for good reason. Her mother—I use the term loosely—is a narcissistic bitch who only calls Ellie when she needs money, which Ellie doesn’t have, and to lay the blame of everything wrong in her life at Ellie’s feet. To say that Ellie isn’t in the holiday spirit when she and Jack meet is putting it mildly. But then, Jack is a force of nature herself, and their snow day together ends in an unexpected night together. The perfect storm of need and want and emotion. But with the light of day comes heartbreak.
Jack puts on a carefree face, she’s the free spirit of the family, unencumbered by solid roots, the family underachiever, a quitter, sure to fail at everything she tries, but Jack has a dream of her own, one she’s determined to see come to fruition, one she shares with Ellie on a magical Christmas Eve snow day. Before the voice in Ellie’s head tells her to run, and they never see each other again. At least, not for a while.
Kiss Her Once for Me puts a lovely twist on the fake relationship trope when Andrew Kim-Prescott, gorgeous capitalist and heir to the family dynasty, comes into Roastlandia, where Ellie is a barista, and asks her out for a drink. One thing leads to another, as these things sometimes do, and Ellie wakes up in the morning having agreed to fake-marry Andrew for reasons, which includes a pot-sweetener for Ellie. She grapples with her conscience, but then there are the burdens facing her. The real kicker is she has to spend Christmas week at the Kim-Prescott family cabin, which does nothing but kick Ellie’s anxiety into high(er) gear.
Imagine the sheer panic when she discovers the woman she fell in love with on one perfect snow day the year before is Jack . . . Jack Kim-Prescott . . . her fake fiancé’s sister.
A bit of chaos ensues, as one might expect, and Ellie gives a shot at calling off her and Andrew’s fake engagement, but there are extenuating circumstances to complicate things even further. Ellie is in love with Jack, Jack is in love with Ellie –> Andrew is in love with Jack’s best friend Dylan, Dylan is in love with Andrew. You get the picture—lots of lust and tension. And, of course, when everything comes crashing down around Ellie, it comes crashing down epically. Thank goodness her best friend Meredith is always there to pick up the pieces and lay down some solid truths. And also her other best friend Ellie didn’t even know she had, Ari, who is a complete delight.
The most surprising development, at least for me, is that I ended up liking Andrew. Don’t get me wrong, he’s far (miles) from perfect—and he drives a Tesla—but when it comes time to give Ellie a subtle push in the right direction, he’s there shoving with both hands. Figuratively speaking. The point is he comes to care for Ellie as a friend, and who doesn’t need more of those?
This book is everything wonderful, a lot of heartwarming and a little bit of heart-wrenching, with some added spice and everything nice a romance novel should have. I loved Ellie and Jack to bits, loved them at their strongest and their most vulnerable, loved them all the way to their happily ever after.
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