Title: You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
Author: Sarra Manning
Genre: Adult Romance “Chick-lit”
Synopsis: Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules and the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve’s heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her. So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she’s an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience. What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?
First book of the year and I’m already slamming a 5 star, I’m already feeling better!
So, here we have the often maligned, the regularly bad-mouthed and the generally dismissed: the adult romance novel. I myself side-eye much of the rubbish that gets printed because a lot of it is just sloppy work however every once in a while I’m recommended something that when the mood strikes it can be a perfect harmony. To begin with I shall warn you that this is a 560 romance tome, I kid you not and I read it in 4 1/2 days. I will be completely spoil-free because I think if this remotely sounds interesting to you, you should read it with realistic expectations.
Our main character will be annoying for many people but for me she was an adequate representation of someone with SERIOUS and I mean medically serious self-esteem issues. We are introduced to Londonite, Neve when she has lost over 150 lbs by hard work, exercise and eating right, however – she’s still mind-trapped in a fat girl’s body. She’s not rail thin but she’s probably a good size 16 and her body shows the scars of someone who was morbidly obese. Neve is also crazy book-smart, books were her escape and she’s got a graduate degree from Oxford. Oxford is where she met William, her dream man. However William has been teaching in California for the past 3 years and during those 3 years Neve transformed herself into the girl she believes William will love. There’s only a teensy problem, our girl has zero expertise in the relationship department. She’s technically still a virgin.
Enter Max. A classic hot Lothario, boss of her posh and skinny sister, editor of some fashion magazine and the man who drunkenly stumbles home with Neve the first night she meets him. What I loved about both of them is that 560 pages allowed Manning to really flesh out the characters and I’m not just talking about Neve and Max but also Neve’s family and their circle of friends. It felt real and tangible and truly well done. The plot was well paced and sure, I would’ve edited somethings out to get under 500 pages but by then I was so in love with the entire plot that I actually wanted more.
Without doubt, casual readers might be very unkind towards Neve because her mental health issues are not sugar-coated, they are not cured overnight and still in the end, Neve realizes she needs help, this struggle she has with her body is not over. To counter Neve, Max has solid issues of his own, unable to commit to relationships and lacking any family of his own. There’s issues of bullying (where you get BOTH sides of the story) and eating disorders that will lead most people to become frustrated with Neve and her endless amount of criticism of her own self. She’s also very critical of other women however, this is addressed by the end of the book and she realizes that even if a girl is pretty and thin doesn’t mean she’s horrible. Again – it all ties back to self-esteem issues.
Overall, I absolutely loved going through Neve and Max’s journey and I loved all the self-realization that Neve went through, I loved her constant struggle to accept herself and to see how the worst person she was constantly treating was her own self.
I’ve already downloaded 2 more Manning books – if the next goes well she will be a good contender for favorite contemporary romance writer.