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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

I was delighted to receive an advance copy of this contemporary women’s novel for review (if you prefer the word ‘chicklit’, it fits into this genre). The blurb intrigued me:

When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout “Jessie!” across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends—and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie’s past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown.

I enjoy contemporary romances, of course, but I was also keen to read this book for the other elements it explores: friendship and identity and forgiveness.

What a warm, poignant, funny, engaging novel. I found it a refreshing change from the ‘fluffy’ women’s novels that abound; this one fits all the norms of the genre yet is much deeper and moving. I wondered whether I would find the plot – that a Jenny stumbles into pretending to be someone else – believable, and was pleased to find that I did. Poor Jenny; she is a character who invites empathy, lost as she is in her own identity and in a loneliness that she has always known.

The characters in the book are well developed and likeable; I especially liked Jessie’s friends Myra and Robbie, who leap off the page they are so vivid. The love interest, Gilbert, is just what you want for Jenny, the true Jenny – a man who trains guide dogs for a living, hikes in the great outdoors and is unafraid to stand up for his beliefs.

The plot kept me turning the pages, and without wanting to give much away, there are some moments when Jenny is really courageous that I was most affected by: as the plot unfolded I found myself rooting for Jenny more and more. This is a romance, but what I love about the book is that the core is Jenny’s development, rather than the development of the relationship, and the notion that you can only achieve that happy-ever-after once you’re being true to yourself.

Overall, a hearty recommendation for this book. If you feel like a little ‘me time’ or need a book to lift your mood, this is one to read.

Why Can’t I Be You is available to pre-order from Amazon.

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