A review by Nalini Haynes
No Hard Feelings is a rom-com featuring lots of common tropes but, in an absolute win, left me wanting to hug the author instead of throwing the book across the room. Full disclosure: I loathe the tropes in stories like You’ve Got Mail. But it depends on how these tropes are handled.
Penny is in a long-term relationship – situationship? – with Max. He’s a bit of a dick. No commitment and wants to fuck around, leaving Penny feeling like absolute shit.
Even worse, Penny’s friends are totally over this guy. They’ve had a gutful of listening to her alternately recite details of delicious nights and weeping over his dickishness.
After some friendly pressure, Penny makes an appointment with a therapist to talk through her issues. However, Penny only shows up intermittently because she’s not committed. And, on one occasion, throws a real tanty* before walking out. However, these irregular visits give her insight into herself while she decides whether she’s worthy of protection and happiness.
*tanty = tantrum. Sometimes I just can’t help being Australian.
While the therapy isn’t a big part of the story, it helps Penny find her own truth as I believe therapy should. And although her realizations may be triggered by the therapy, they’re usually not in actual therapy sessions. As someone who trained as a counsellor, I really enjoyed this representation.
Meanwhile, Leo, Penny’s housemate, treats other women the way Max treats her. In a weird juxtaposition, despite this Penny loves Leo as a friend. She sees him behave like a “fuckboy” and knows she doesn’t want to be one of the conga line of women dancing in and out of his bedroom.
Oh, and there are job issues. Personality clashes, ethical dilemmas and clock-watching. The job issues are something to which many people can relate.
Although Novak incorporates many tropes that I’ve eviscerated romance novelists from using, her handling of these tropes is masterful. No Hard Feelings is all about Penny and her journey toward healing and wholeness. Even so, this novel doesn’t promise a rose petal-strewn “happy ever after”.
I have one teeny criticism with which many readers may disagree: the epilogue over-emphasizes the “no guarantees”. However, some readers may need that. Especially if mourning what they thought was their guaranteed “happy ending”. If you skip the epilogue, this novel fulfills genre expectations with a satisfying ending that I enjoyed despite myself. If you read the epilogue, there’s a tad more reality woven in although Novak stays true to her satisfying ending.
When trying to link this review to a similar book, I checked my website’s algorithm. The algorithm recommends The Husbands by Chandler Baker. While No Hard Feelings is more romantic and The Husbands is more Stepford Wives, I do think a lot of feminist readers will enjoy both.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Imprint: HarperCollins AU (HarperCollins)
Format: paperback, 320 pages
Category: Fiction, romance, comedy, contemporary women