When journalist Allie's latest assignment takes her back to her home town of Whispering Bay, she's looking forward to seeing her family again and maybe writing an article that will eclipse the one she wrote about Perky the resurrected Duck. Getting this next one right will require an actual ghost haunting the building that once housed the local seniors' home, but it will also secure her full-time position at Florida! Magazine, netting her goal number 3 on her life's to-do list. But family isn't perfect, the meddling townsfolk are making things difficult, and the man who broke her heart twelve years ago is back in town. And in her way.
The Verdict: I love stories that reunite first loves, probably because the history is already established and therefore more believable when things move a little fast, and That Thing You Do was exactly what I was looking for.
Twelve years ago, Allie and Tom were pretty serious. In the end of their senior year, he was the big man on campus, and she was the best friend that could never live up to his perfect girlfriend. But when said perfect girlfriend broke up with Tom, his friendship with Allie grew into something more, and in true first love fashion, Allie thought it would last forever. But their perfect relationship abruptly came to an end, leaving Allie heartbroken and Tom starting a new life without her. Now a freelance writer for a respected magazine, Allie's chasing her latest story assignment, hoping this will be the one to set her career aflight, and she has no intention of revisiting the Great Humiliation she experienced with Tom all those years ago. Even if he is divorced and back in town again. Of course, that wouldn't make for much of a story, so Tom is the man responsible for the pending demolition of the very building rumored to house the ghost that Allie is chasing for her story. The only way she's going to get access — or get the demolition delayed — is by making nice with the man who broke her heart.
The key to a second chance romance is that the first chance was ruined somehow, and while each author tries to put a different spin on it, it generally boils down to one thing — a giant misunderstanding, severe lack of maturity, or malicious manipulation. That Thing You Do bucks the general trend, though, and serves up a plot twist that is actually believable. While Tom and Allie were certainly in things for the long run, they hadn't been together terribly long when his ex-girlfriend discovered she was pregnant — just far enough along to make it Tom's. And since she's a (gasp!) truly decent human being, this isn't some evil plan she's enacted. Allie's devastated, of course, when Tom breaks things off with her by announcing his plans for marriage to this other girl, but he's trying to do the right thing for his sudden family, and as awful as the whole mess is, I really couldn't blame him. Now, though, Tom is divorced, co-parenting with his ex-wife who is still just a genuinely good person, and when Allie crosses his path again, he can't fight his attraction to her.
I thought the story would be sweet, but it was also incredibly funny. Allie is easy to like and relate to, and her observations of the people and situations around her are thoroughly entertaining.
Her last thought before hitting the floor was that ghosts weren't supposed to make physical contact. They needed Whoopi Goldberg for that.
I also loved that the secondary and background characters were not just filler. They were people with their own problems, making their own mistakes, and living their lives around Allie but not centered around her. As much as her story might have piqued the small town's interest, Allie wasn't the only thing happening, and it made for a much livelier version of events than would have taken place if she and Tom had simply existed in some little bubble. From the drunken Bunko ladies to the insane ghost hunter to the lonely widower, Whispering Bay was filled with interesting characters and slices of real life that so many fiction stories simply forget about. That Thing You Do is the first book I've read by Maria Geraci, but I can tell you it certainly won't be the last. After falling into a kind of funk with romances that all sort of blend together, the Whispering Bay series is an awesome and refreshing change.