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on 21 November 2012
I've just finished reading this book and felt compelled to write a review. This is one of the best books I've ever read. The characters are fabulous and so life like I felt part of the story. I laughed out loud numerous times while reading the book and also felt my heart swell with sadness at the missed opportunities that Rachel and Ben let pass them by. I did not want this book to end but was desperate to know what the ending would be; it was so well written it had me wondering right up until the end. I am going to miss this story so much but know that I'll read it again - Brilliant!!!
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on 27 January 2014
You Had Me At Hello is the story of Rachel and Ben. Rachel and Ben became friends at Uni together when they realise they were on the same course. Their friendship is one of the ones that feel like it will last for ever. Until one night, when close becomes too close and the friendship they have falls apart before their eyes in a muddle if misunderstanding. Years later, all grown up and freshly single Rachel runs into Ben and all the memories come flooding back, but one major thing stands between them being friends again and that is Ben’s wife.

I had a few books at the top of my TBR to read before the end of January and when I asked my twitter followers which one they thought I should read next I was bombarded with tweets about how great a read this was. And they weren’t wrong.

Rachel is very easy to get to know and like. Her wonderful relationship with her great group of friends contrasts perfectly with her rocky relationship status and the turbulent reconnection with Ben. Her friends are a close knit group, each with their own personality but each one props up a part of Rachel’s personality to make her stand out. Her friends will also have you laughing out loud throughout most of the book. I think nearly every second page had me laughing.

Ben seems like the perfect book boyfriend, and real life boyfriend. He’s smart and funny and completely gorgeous. His instant connection at Uni with Rachel is easy to mistake for something more than it is even though I was reading it wishing that they would be more than friends. Adult Ben is just like the younger Ben only grown up. Still handsome and funny, but now has the power of hindsight – that wonderful thing – and a wife. His grown up life is leaps and bounds ahead of Rachel and she compares them quite often.

Their present day story runs in parallel with their past history throughout the book with Rachel narrating. Most of the story is focused on Rachel and her current life though so having her narrate the whole story really helps you to empathise with her completely and really get to like her!

Mhairi has debuted with this fantastic story that is the epitome of everything that chick-lit is and much more. Perfect for fans of Paige Toon, Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.
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on 11 November 2012
From first line to last I was totally hooked. In a genre often stymied by identikit plots, unrealistic dialogue and twee cupcake making heroines, everything about Mhairi McFarlane's debut is a breath of fresh air. The central premise is engaging, intriguing and always rings true, and in Rachel Woodford she has created one of the best leading ladies in recent memory: sharp, witty, sometimes flawed, but always totally lovable and believable. Add to this a brilliant supporting cast of friends and colleagues, all with their own stories to tell and this is one of the most satisfying reads around - a terrific ensemble piece as well as a thrilling central romance, it has a depth of plot, character and storytelling rare for the genre. Mhairi's wonderful turn of phrase, acute ear for dialogue and ribald sense of humour will guarantee you at least five embarrassing public snort lols per page, and I can make no higher recommendation than that. A total joy.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a sweet boy meets girl tale with plenty of touches of humour and a few raunchy bits. When 18 year old Rachel goes to uni leaving her boyfriend Rhys behind she meets Ben, a best friend with no benefits. Years later life seems to have moved on, until Rachel finds out that Ben is back in Manchester. The book sees their worlds collide and the tale goes back and forth between their 18 year old selves and their older and wiser selves at thrity something; for anyone who likes a light read this is sure to please.

I enjoyed this book which had convincing characters and saw me laughing out load at times, cringing at others and really hoping everything would come good for the main character Rachel at the end. This is a confident first novel that is worth the read and I will definitely be looking out for more from this author - it certainly made a 6 hour ferry journey on rough seas pass more quickly than it might have so thumbs up from me!
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VINE VOICEon 21 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There is no doubt that Mhairi McFarlane is a talented writer. She comes out with some great quips and the parts about the main character's (Rachel) job as a criminal court reporter are intriguing and keep you turning the page. However, most of the story is about Rachel and her obsession with Ben, who she used to know at university. The title makes it obvious that he `was the one that got away'. They reconnect after ten years, and thus the story is all about will they, won't they. It's interspersed with past (uni days) and present (ten years on), also written in the past and present tenses, which I found a tad irritating.

As I said, I think the novel could have been a lot shorter. There are way too many metaphors and similes, as if the author tried to throw everything at the story that she had learnt in creative writing class. It's a good read for the beach, but not one that you'll be thinking about long after you've turned the final page.
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I am in no way an expert on adult novels, I only read a few a year (if that) and have my favourites. I'd heard about You Had Me At Hello from various different people and decided to give it a go. The cover didn't make me particularly enthused, but I'm so glad I tried it anyway because I loved it!

One of the elements that really stood out for me was the setting: Manchester! I don't live far from there and visit regularly, so knowing all the places being talked about was great and gave the story a familiarity I don't usually find. I also loved the humour and sarcasm present throughout McFarlane's writing. I laughed out loud SO many times, thanks to main character Rachel's sarcastic comments and thoughts. The dialogue was quick and realistic and I could easily imagine real people talking that way.

As always I don't want to spoil any of the plot in this review, so I'll tread carefully. Basically, Rachel and Ben knew each other at university and bump into each other again ten years later. Do old feelings still exist? Can they still be friends? McFarlane explores every facet of their relationship and the conclusion is both poignant and surprising. I was happy with the outcome, though, and I can see why the book has been likened to similar time-spanning novels such as One Day.

You Had Me At Hello also features a well-rounded, brilliantly likeable cast of secondary characters in the form of Rachel and Ben's friends and colleagues. Even the questionable men are likeable in their idiotic ways, and don't even get me started on Rachel's trio of best friends - Caroline, Mindy and Ivor. They were so supportive and down to earth, and had maintained their friendship since university!

Rachel's profession as a newspaper journalist played a big part in her story, and I found it to be an interesting addition that added a lot to the overall narrative of the novel. It gave her more depth and realism, which is always welcome! I did think the beginning was a bit rushed at first, and the break-up between Rachel and Rhys seemed unbelievable. It was only as the narrative revisited the past later in the book that it made more sense and seemed like something that might actually happen after such a long time together. I was glad it was addressed as it bugged me right from the beginning.

You Had Me At Hello is definitely going on my list of favourite adult books, and I will now be recommending it to everyone I know who reads this genre (unsuspecting customers at work had better watch out!). I'm so looking forward to reading more by Mhairi McFarlane, though I'm going to have to exercise some patience as her next novel isn't out until December 2013. Yikes. Wish me book luck!
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on 19 December 2012
When Rachel and Ben met at university they struck up a unique easy-going friendship that no-one would believe that they were not a couple despite Rachel having a boyfriend Rhys and Ben dating plenty of pretty girls from college. Although their close friendship did cause issues with their relationships nothing would tear them apart.

But fast forward to the present day where we find out that something must have happened as they are no longer in contact with each other. Rachel is still living in Manchester working as a court reporter where she's still in regular contact with some of her university friends.

During a night in with her friends, Rachel is stunned when one of her friends tells her that they'd bumped into Ben and that he's now back living in town. So Rachel sets about trying to 'accidentally' bump into Ben herself to try and reconnect with him. But when she does she finds that the dynamics have now changed as Ben is now the one in a relationship, married to wife Olivia, whereas Rachel is newly single after finally splitting up with her fiance Rhys

This is very much a story told in two parts, the past and the present day. We see Rachel recounting memories from their university days leading up to the event that shattered their close friendship, as well as present day encounters as they attempt to rebuild their friendship.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book though was that it's wasn't all just about the 'Rachel and Ben' story, there was interesting parts about her job as a court reporter and the dramas that ensued as a result.

It's an extremely well-written story with a lot of humour throughout that had me hooked almost from the start, I probably would have read this book in a day if I hadn't had to go to sleep as I had to work the next day! It's hard to believe that this is Mhairi's debut book so I cannot wait to read her next offering.
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on 19 December 2012
I thought the synopsis for this book sounded fun but I hadn't realised what an absolute treat I was in for. Within the first twenty pages I'd laughed out loud at least twice and found myself completely nostalgic for my university days. You Had Me At Hello is a laugh out loud almost painfully realistic rom-com exploring the often fine line between love and friendship and examining what can happen when the one that got away comes back and I loved it!

This is the story of Rachel and Ben and splits its time equally between the present, where Rachel now in her early thirties is living and working in Manchester and flashbacks to Ben and Rachel's university days. The flash backs were my favourite parts of the story. I thought Mhairi captured the carefree student life perfectly with all its hope and romance and I found myself rushing through the pages to find the next instalment of how Ben and Rachel met and became the best of friends. In the present we find that Ben is now married. Rachel's love life is complicated to say the least and I was dying to know what had happened between the two to lead them to lose touch for ten years when there is clearly some unfinished business.

I'm sure this is a book that will really strike a nerve; who hasn't wondered about `the one that got away'?! But there's a lot more going on in the plot than just Ben and Rachel's story. I enjoyed the side story involving Rachel's career and I loved the fact that all of the characters were flawed and very human with Rachel's friend Mindy being one of my favourite characters as the story progressed. The book looks at relationships of all kinds; friendship, working relationships, marriage and family and although there were some predictable relationship issues, it was refreshing to read a book featuring thirty-something single women that didn't go out of its way to dis parenthood yet didn't focus on it either.

As a romance, You Had Me At Hello ticked all the boxes for me and I pretty much fell for Ben right from the start. The chemistry beween him and Rachel is very well written and Mhairi cleverly kept me guessing right to the end of the book as to what happened between Ben and Rachel at uni and how their relationship would turn out in the present. I must admit that I was a bit dubious about a book where a married man reconnects with an old flame but Mhairi gave Ben so much integrity and made him so nice that my concerns soon went out of the window!

You Had me At Hello had me from the first page and has made a late entry onto my favourite books of the year list.
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on 16 December 2012
Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about what would happen if that old flame from uni returned sending your world spinning all over again? If the answer's yes, then You Had Me At Hello answers some of the questions and explores the inevitable complications that arise when one of the protagonists involved isn't free to follow their heart. Seductively straddling two parallel timelines, McFarlane's debut novel follows the present day travails of Rachel and Ben while regularly dipping back into the past to show how the two met and first fell in love. It's a deceptively simple device that lends the central romance genuine poignancy and draws the reader ever closer to the two would-be lovers, giving them a warmth and vitality that keeps you rooting for them even when an eventual reunion seems impossible.

There's a refreshing adult edge to the dialogue, which often fizzes with enough citric spritz to fuel a screwball comedy. An attractive cast of friends cajole, sympathize with and complicate Rachel's stumbling pursuit of rekindled romance, adding a rich and humorous backdrop made all the more appealing by the story being grounded in the trendy and distinctly contemporary Northern Quarter of Manchester.

This admirably assured novel marks Mhairi McFarlane as an exciting talent to look out for in the future. Witty, engaging and romantic, You Had Me At Hello will keep you enthralled until the final reveal, by which time you will have grown so close to Rachel and Ben that you'll hope against all expectations that true love will find a way, no matter what adversaries are sent to thwart it. If we didn't know already, McFarlane successfully proves the truism you never know what a good thing you've got until it's gone.

Review by Jamie Simpson on behalf of
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on 6 December 2012
This book is not going to be a classic, it is not Wuthering Heights. However, it is a funny, witty and enjoyable novel. As a women in my 30's, it invoked nostalgia about my university days, the feelings stirred by a requited attraction and the formation of true lasting friendships. It transported me back to a time of fun and happiness, a time when I didn't have to think about homeworks, dinners and Cbeebies!! Don't get me wrong I love being a mum but every mother likes a bit of escapism, hence why 50 shades of Grey was such a hit!! When I read a book I want to forget what is going on around me, I want to be absorbed in it and I found this book did exactly that. It made me laugh out loud on several occasions which is rare in a book and it made me cry because I am a hopeless romantic at heart.
I like to read a lot of different genres of Literature and sure this is not a truly great love story in the way The Time Travellers Wife or Attonement are. It is not a novel that will affect you and stay with you but it is an enjoyable and well written piece of work.
It is a light read, it took me two days to read and I have 2 young children and a full-time job!!
I love discovering a piece of literature that you know will stand the tests of time and you know will probably be deemed a classic in years to come but sometimes I just love a story like this that is easy to read and enjoyable, makes you laugh, makes you cry and makes you feel young again.
I have some friends who are not avid readers but I know they will enjoy this book.
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