Faith has lost hope in relationships. Sure, others might succeed, but after a bad break-up years ago, she hasn’t really put herself out there. Instead, she’s immersed herself in her business and her small town, so when a chance at love comes knocking, she’s not exactly prepared or sure what to do.
Zane’s got his own past to contend with, but he can’t get his mind off the girl at the coffee shop. Taking advantage of a few chances to see her, their casual friendship soon turns into a tentative relationship, made a little stronger as they get to know each other better. He can tell she’s been hurt in the past, too, but he’s willing to give things a shot. And then her ex shows up.
Matt’s the consummate womanizer, something Zane’s seen plenty evidence of during the time they’ve worked together. At first, he’s a little worried that Matt might take an interest in Faith, but that would be preferable to what’s really going on. The shock on Faith’s face when he introduces them lets him know something is up, and when he finds out that Matt is none other than Faith’s ex, he expects nothing but trouble.
It took me a while to really get into the story, and I’m not really sure why. I love a slow build, but I think this one kept me hanging a bit too long. Or maybe it’s just that nothing super-exciting was going on for a good while into the book. That’s not to say it’s a bad read; it just didn’t hook me as quickly as I’d hoped it would.
I also felt a little bit of a disconnect with Faith. I liked her character well enough, but aside from her shop and her reluctance when it came to relationships, I don’t feel like I got to know her very well. Normally, by the time I’m halfway into a book, I have a complete picture of not only the main character, but also her home, her car, her friends — down to the color of the sofa, the magnets on the fridge, and where her TV sits. Those bits of description, while seemingly insignificant, let me “see” the story in my mind. But with this book, the picture was abstract and vague, and with all the time spent before even a first kiss took place, I would have expected some of these details to take shape.
Oh, and I guess I should point out that Americans should be prepared to stumble over a few Brit’isms, which I guess is to be expected when reading a story set there. While I’ve read tons and tons and tons of British lit, most of it is from centuries ago, so I’m not all that familiar with the current manner of speaking. There were certain turns of phrase that sent me to the internet for explanation, as well as some phrasing that just seemed odd. That’s nothing against the book or the author; it’s really more a reflection of my own ignorance.
If You Only Knew is a slow build, taking time to fully create the characters and letting them get to know each other before things get crazy between the sheets or anywhere else. Kind of a nice change from the usual fare, and it gave the relationship a lot more credibility.
Faith is fairly typical for a woman who’s been hurt in the past and isn’t sure where she stands in a developing relationship. However, the way her insecurities are expressed isn’t overdone; it’s just real. She’s not down on herself or scared to death of what might happen, but she’s cautious — as she should be — and constantly trying to read what’s going on. Assuming you’re over the age of twelve, she’ll make perfect sense to you.
Zane is the ultimate nice guy, but not in that sort-of-good-looking guy-next-door way. He’s tall and rugged and outdoorsy, but respectful and considerate and incredibly sweet. That’s not to say he’s perfect; he screws up, overreacts, gets jealous, and does all those other things guys tend to do, but at the end of the day, he’s just a good guy, and even though he’s not exactly forthcoming about his wreck of a relationship past, you can’t help but love him.
What I like most about the story, though, is that it’s not part of the drama competition. Yes, there are arguments and misunderstandings and all the usual fare in relationships, but it doesn’t resort to melodrama and out-of-place bedroom scenes and needless angst to make a point. If You Only Knew is about a new relationship, about falling in love, and about the scrapes couples go through in finding their happily ever after. If you like your romantic reading escapes with a nice touch of realism, give it a go.