The One Who's Not the One
The One Who’s Not the One is a simple book with a simple premise; light as air, it falls into a comfortable pocket between women’s fiction and contemporary romance. It’s fairly funny and pretty cute, but it doesn’t distinguish itself enough to be worth more than a quick beach read.
London native Cat is in a rut. Since being dumped by her long-term boyfriend five years earlier, her life since has been boring and ordinary. Her stand-up comedy career has stalled and generally been traded in for life as a workaday office drone, and her roommates are two practical strangers who steal her food and engage in loud sex with their boyfriends at all hours of the night. Even worse, Cat hasn’t had sex for two long, desert-dry years and her latest hope for a bumper crop of boinking – her handsome supervisor, Nick – is set to soon leave her behind for a job in New York City. She dreams of love, a beautiful, posh home and a job she cares about, but everything stands out of reach, waving at her from a distance. At this point the only good thing in Cat’s life is her loyal, with-it, pregnant best friend, Kelly and her family.
Enter a blast from the past, the devastatingly handsome Harvey, a man to whom Cat’s always been attracted, and a man with whom she has easygoing and free-flowing chemistry. He was the one who got away, the guy she always wondered about – the one who might mean more to her than a quick, fun fling. But there’s one problem with Cat’s repressed dream of hooking up with Harvey – he’s her ex’s brother and thus permanently off the table.
Caught between the promise of Nick and her lust for Harvey, Cat has no idea what to do. As winter sets in and she tries to figure out where to go next in her life, she and Harvey draw closer together – and Cat ultimately has to make a choice between risking her heart on live with Harvey or a fresh start in America.
The One Who’s Not the One works perfectly as a chick-lit-ish study of pure hunger. Cat is starving – for a good time, recognition, sex, love, a better life and sometimes, as her roommates sneak her beers and her leftovers, food. All of her wanting accumulates into action but Cat resists that action so hard you’ll want to shake her.
And it’s a book that vibrates with a pleasant sense of liveliness. I liked Kelly and Cat’s friendship a lot – it felt realistic, gossipy, loving and bright. Some of the book’s best passages feature their frantic, funny texting; another highlight is provided by the passages where Cat babysits Kelly’s son, Arnold, who is written as a properly inquisitive kid.
The book isn’t complete fluff though. Cat has to struggle with her relationship with her father, who moved to Australia to find a job and left Cat and her mother behind in the UK. That, too, is handled beautifully.
But ultimately it’s the romance with Harvey that feels a little underwritten. Their attraction is lust-based, and doesn’t really graduate beyond being good sex and decent banter – nice building blocks for a romance, but missing a creamy, gooey center of enriching sameness and mutual worship. And after all of Cat’s dithery fear about how Harvey’s family’s possible feelings about their not-quite relationship – which takes up the entire middle stretch of the book – that plot point fizzles into a single scene that has no full repercussion on the narrative.
While the book has things going for it, the not-quite-percolating romance keeps The One Who’s Not the One from being more than a mildly enjoyable afternoon’s thrill.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier