The Fixer Upper – Lauren Forsythe

The Fixer Upper drops tomorrow, a cute romance set in London that features best friends, second chances, and some great moments interspersed with some truly weird #secondwavefeminist moments that I could have done without.

“Maybe you’re wondering where you’d be if you’d spent all that time and energy on yourself instead.”

Maybe I’m wondering why the hell I kept dating projects instead of people. And what that says about me.

Aly is a millennial in her 30s who has never truly been in love. Well, once to her high school former best friend. But since then, she has had a string of romances that weren’t all that romantic. When her coworkers point out that she made ever single man she’s ever dated’s life better, they start a new company where they fix up men for women they know and take on the emotional labor that the women don’t have time for in their busy lives. This plan all comes tumbling down when she is hired by a social media influencer to “fix up” her soon to be fiancé, Dylan. Aly’s former best friend. Aly doesn’t want to do it, until she needs to do it. Miscommunication and second chances abound after this.

Honestly the book works at its best when it surprises, but in the end still somehow pulls a few of its best punches. I really thought Forsythe had something with the discussion of women taking on more emotional labor in a relationship. It was interesting to see them start up the company and discuss what men needed to do to grow. Which usually came down to “open communication and a community that accepted their growth when they most needed it.” And I thought it had something there. Especially when it came to growing pains in a world that wasn’t like the one of our parents as millennials raising children and creating their own lives. I also very much enjoyed the discussion of Aly as a people pleaser who took on projects over actually dating someone she liked. That can also be the case for a lot of women. But then it pulled back, almost scared to delve deeper into why women complain about unequal emotional labor and support. The book ended up delving into more of “women just need to support women.” Which is very true, but ignores a lot of the more necessary conversations around relationships and actual issues in gender roles or class roles for a “ra ra” support mentality (or, as said above #secondwavefeminism). I don’t need my romantic comedy to be all about subverting tropes or delving into these things. But when that’s a main focus of the novel only to be thrown away at the first signs of “we have to be careful and fix some of the squeaky wheels” it just didn’t always make sense.

That is shown most through the treatment of the social influencer. A lot of this book screamed of millennials who just don’t get Gen Z or who want to say they support people in their choices while giving them the side eye for how they go about doing it. I get that there has to be some kind of critique of the other love interest, but a lot of times it almost felt like it was a comment on all social media influencer. Which, they are easy cannon fodder. But it is interesting that it felt more a critique of a group of people than individually discussing this one person. Which didn’t work for me whenever Aly was saying “oh, I support her because I support women!” Do you??

I did enjoy the romance here. It is a man who has a girlfriend, so there is no steam here. But there is something I very much appreciated for a friends to something more in a novel. I really appreciated that when certain things came to the surface, it didn’t change everything all at once. There was still a moment of building back a friendship that hadn’t been around for fifteen years. There was appreciation for how they seemed to change. That mixed in with wonderful lines like “[t]hat’s what happens when you love someone fore over a decade, it lives in your bones, like an echo.” That was beautiful and pure art in what it means to pine for something you once had. I loved that and the realistic stakes. That said, it felt a bit rushed at the ending and a bit convoluted. It has been only a month. And there was a lot of “having your cake and eating it, too.” She has Daddy issues, but that’s not the point. She is a fixer, but she can’t rely on any friends. She wants to help people, but can’t help herself. A lot of the stereotypes were commented on and then just reinforced.

Overall, I will say that those are the parts that worked most and least for me. I think overall this book is not my personal brand of romance, but I would honestly recommend to women who enjoy a bit more of the frothier romance novels. I still enjoyed this, there were moments that definitely worked. And it was one of the few friends romances that I appreciated. Definitely read if you like a lighter romance with a bit more snark and almost a throwback to the early 2000s brand of romantic comedies!!

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