I always get such a kick out of picking a book on nothing more than a whim, especially when it’s from an author who is entirely new to me, but I get positively giddy when I realise not even past the halfway mark that I’ve stumbled upon something truly special. In this playful, romantic romp, Lucy Score reveals a rare gift for writing with an intoxicating combination of wit, humour, and heartfelt emotion, delivering a charming tale of a woman’s quest to find meaning and purpose in her life, all perfectly underscored by a toe-curling romance that leaves you smiling ear to ear. It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s impeccably written, and it’s simply one of the best books I’ve read all year.
“Every job I’ve had. Every relationship I’ve had has ended. Badly. I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me so many times that it makes more sense to stay on the floor than stand back up.”
Finding herself homeless, broke, and cheated on at thirty-eight years of age is not something Marley Cicero ever imagined her life would come to, but after two decades of running away from a place that left her with nothing but regrets and bad memories, she has no other option but to return to the small town of Culpepper, Pennsylvania—the hometown she couldn’t escape from fast enough—and to a job that would take her back to the halls of the high school she fought hard to forget. But she never expected to find both her former nemesis and her greatest high school crush still walking those halls, too.
“Life. Job. Relationship. I never thought I’d be in this situation this close to forty. I’m supposed to know what I’m doing by now.”
“You feel like you’re failing?”
“Yeah. Over and over and over again. Jobs. Relationships. Personal accomplishments. It’s like I missed the day in school when they told us how to be an adult.”
As a temporary teacher and newest girls soccer coach, Marley knows she is out of her depth from the moment she starts relying on the internet for any coaching- and teaching-related tips, but as she begins understanding her students’ group dynamic, she quickly realises that her own past has taught her all she’d ever need to know about dealing with a group of teenage girls and their antics. But when Jake Weston—her former high school crush and now super-hot cross-country coach—starts helping her and getting her out of any trouble that she gets herself into, the school’s rumour mill begins to churn. Before they know it, they are entering into a phony relationship that benefits them both—Marley gets to keep her job and her nemesis off her back, and Jake gets a very hands-on lesson on how to be in a monogamous, long-term relationship.
“Good! See? It’s a mutually beneficial fake relationship. I keep Amie Jo off your back and help you not suck as an employee here, and you can get me into relationship shape.”
And as most fictional fake relationships go, Marley and Jake begin developing real feelings for one another faster than they can acknowledge them, but while Jake also starts hoping for more, Marley keeps clinging onto an imaginary ideal of what her life should be and the type of person she wishes to become, even if it means self-sabotaging all that she’s achieved already.
I wanted … a sense of importance to what I was doing. I wanted to matter. To be irreplaceable. I wanted a husband or sexy life partner type to share a glass of crazy expensive wine or liquor and chortle over something super smart in front of the fire.
Marley is a heroine who is both utterly relatable and ridiculous all at once. So much of her behaviour is sparked by her deepest insecurities, yet she never shies away from the things that scare her the most. We watch her rise from a self-critical individual with an inferiority complex to someone who finally understands that a failure or setback in life doesn’t necessary mean that things aren’t perfect just the way they are, and her personal journey is one that inspires. Lucy Score nails the balance between schmaltzy, heartwarming moments with Marley’s students and delectably sexy moments of connection between Marley and Jake, leading to a tender conclusion that leaves you howling for more of this author’s sparkly brand of romance. This is one of those compulsively readable stories you are telling all your friends about even before you’ve reached the end.
I never thought I’d be standing here in the middle of most of my hometown feeling good about myself.