I Owe You One
Fixie Farr has been fixing things her whole life – like crooked pictures on walls, vases out of place, and the like. It’s a borderline compulsion that lands her in all sorts of mischief and about which her family has no understanding or compassion. She’s been harboring a crush on a dude for an age, and when he blows back into her life she is thrilled. But what about the handsome stranger she met in the coffee shop? The one whose laptop she saved and he responded by writing “I owe you one” on a coffee sleeve? I Owe You One is a delight and Kinsella at her peak Kinsella-ness. Fans of her Shopaholic series will find a lot to like here.
Sophie Kinsella is one of those authors, I have found, who either really works for people, or to whom they are turned off. Her turns of phrases, how she constructs conflict, her heroines – they are all of a certain type from which she rarely deviates. I’ll be honest, the times she has are less successful for me, so when I realized this was hitting all the usual beats, I was pleased. I knew Fixie would be infuriatingly endearing, I knew that she’d grow, I knew that she’d make terrible choices, only to be rescued by her own chutzpah and some reliable folks around her, for this is the way of Kinsella.
Fixie is the second generation of ownership of her family housewares store in Acton, England. Her father died nine years previously, and her mother has been running things ever since. Her brother, Jack, and her sister, Nicole, are obsentibly involved, but not really, and Fixie’s blind loyalty to the credo “family first” is one of the first things we learn about her. That, her fixing, and she’s in love with her brother’s best mate, Ryan.
(I’m going to get into some slight spoilers here, so click away if you are averse to that sort of thing.)
The drama all kicks off at their mother’s birthday party. Ryan has returned home from Holywood, Fixie is all a flutter about it, her siblings are useless in terms of pragmatic help at the party, and their mother has a heart attack from all the stress she’s under. As is often the case in a family business, Things Need To Change as the status quo is slowly killing Mum. Her sister whisks her away to Spain for R&R and leaves the kids in charge of the store.
This section of the book – where Fixie tries to rewrite the relationships she has with her siblings, where her siblings absolutely did my nut in, where she has to learn hard truths about herself – were my favorite bits. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to crawl inside the book, drag her to therapy and smack her brother over the head on at least five occasions, but this was the best part of the story.
The romance bit is in two overlapping tracks. The first, Ryan, the long-time crush, and then Sebastian, the handsome stranger. Allow me to begin by addressing Ryan, who is a certified garbage human. Narcissistic and a pathological liar, I hated him from the jump and knew he was going to wreck havoc in our Fixie’s life. I was not wrong. However, her fascination/obsession with him also made sense, for we are told that he was one of the only people in her life to appear to value her. Her family alternates between taking her for granted and being annoyed with her, but for a few glorious weeks after her father’s funeral, Ryan told her she was beautiful and desirable. It’s not shocking that nine years on her torch would still burn brightly. He is, however, categorically THE WORST.
Seb was more rounded out male protagonist than Kinsella often gives us, and I was happy to get to know him. By the time we end the book, with Ryan kicked to the proverbial and literal curb, Seb and Fixie have built enough of a foundation that I expected to turn the page and see a wedding epilogue.
Humans are capable of change, and accepting hard truths about themselves, and that’s a huge piece of this book. It’s not perfect by any stretch, and there are readers for whom the quirks will be too much, but I just simply gobbled it up with a big spoon.