Review: If Not For You by Debbie Macomber

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Published: 21 March 2017

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Category: Romance/Fiction/Women’s Fiction

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not and her parents worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn t exactly Sam s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she s come to love.

Rating: 2 Stars

I’m a fan of most of Debbie Macomber’s books, especially her Blossom Street series because of the central knitting theme it has. However, while I was reading this book, it really hit me how incredibly formulaic some of her character’s love stories were. It wasn’t just a genre or trope, either, but specifically for her novels: the two polar opposites who are extremely judgmental of each other for many very many, if any, concrete reasons, one of which is from a well off background, the other from a rougher or working class background, but who will obviously end up together in the end.

The main characters in this book, Sam and Beth, were harder to connect to than previous Macomber couples. Their attraction, after being set up on a blind date that neither wanted and being thrown together, quite literally, by an accident on the way home, seemed to happen really quickly with next to no foundation. I’ve seen instalove in young adult novels, but this really took it to another level.

Beth annoyed me at some points because on the one hand she kept “telling” the reader that she knew what her mother was like, the typical overbearing mother who thinks she knows what is good for her daughter no matter what the daughter says, but on the other hand she ignored classic warning signs like when Ellie, her mother, said “she was afraid this would happen” and upon being pressed for meaning says “never mind.” That should have been a huge red flag because, not long after, a mother provided road block pops up. This was one of those moments like when you’re watching a horror movie and shouting at the stupid person checking out the noise in the dark backyard, knowing only doom awaits.

Beth’s aunt, Sunshine, was a cool character at first. She lived in Portland, the new town that Beth had moved to and was giving her as much support as she could while allowing her to be her own person. However, when Beth started meddling in her past and that became Sunshine’s main story, I started to dislike where it was going. The painful memory of her past, an intense love with a man named Peter, was something that I wouldn’t have minded being reconciled, but not to the extent that it went. Peter begs Sunshine to give up a once in a lifetime art trip to Italy because he doesn’t have the funds to go, she goes anyway, and while she’s gone he cheats on her with her sister.

When Sunshine comes back, Peter and Sunshine’s sister say they’re in love. That was bad enough, but to have the author write a story where Sunshine forgave him because she loved him so much and accepted him back as her love interest felt wrong for two reasons: 1) No. He cheated once and you can’t trust him, especially since it was with someone so near to you. 2) The reconciliation/new relationship with the cheater is quite contradictory to almost all of Macomber’s other books where the women leave cheating husbands/boyfriends who “swear they’ll never do it again”. This twist felt like a betrayal.

When the story began to end, Beth also came back with something that annoyed me and that was taking Sam to a piano recital. At the recital they saw Lucinda play, Lucinda being the daughter that Sam has never met and has no parental rights to due some thorny issues thirteen years ago. Beth should have known how painful this would be, but it never once occurred to her and that made her seem incredibly selfish to me, which is how Sam starts out when he gets mad at her for bringing him there. Of course by the end of the book he forgives her, so she never really suffers for her actions and I doubt she’ll really learn, so what was the point? The whole Lucinda story felt cruel because there was no resolution,  one way or the other, by the end and Beth dredging it up when she knew Sam wouldn’t want that felt horrid.

Overall the book lacked a lot of content. Most of it went by with nothing really happening and that, while at times relaxing and interesting if the story is character driven, was not the case here. If Not For You is one of the most disappointing Macomber books I’ve read yet.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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