The Lily Cafe is thrilled to participate in the book blog tour for The Friendship List by Susan Mallery, available today!.
Title: The Friendship List
Author: Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin – Romance
Publication date: August 4, 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Summary: Ellen and Unity have been best friends all their lives. Now, as grown women, Ellen is close to sending her 17 year old son off to college and Unity is still grappling with the death of her husband 3 years before. When Ellen overhears her son talking about not going away to college because he’s worried about her, she takes it as a sign she needs to get her life in order and show him she’ll be fine. At the same time, Unity’s geriatric friends are convinced her life has stalled and she needs a swift kick to get going. Together, the two women draw up their own lists of things to do in order to breathe life back into their lives. They just don’t expect the directions the lists take them in.
I adore books with long-standing female friendships, so this was right up my alley. As soon as I was invited to take part in the blog tour, I knew I had to do it. I could see myself in both women just by reading the description, so passing on this book wasn’t an option. I’m so glad I did because, while it wasn’t perfect, it was a ton of fun, super easy to read, and a wonderful distraction.
The Characters: Two Best Friends
The cast of characters in this book is quite diverse, from high school students preparing to apply to college to the geriatrics Unity works with in the local senior community. I adored all of them and thought they were all brilliantly done. The young ones felt young and naive and the old ones felt both spry and like they had definitely been around the block more than once.
My favorites were, of course, Ellen and Unity. Lifelong friends, they know each other inside and out. But knowing someone that long also comes with knowing each other too well. I loved how they both supported each other, danced around serious topics, and forced each other to face the truth. I wish more of the book had put them together, but Ellen spent most of it on the road with a bunch of high school students, which was, honestly, a lot of fun. Mostly, though, I loved just how messed up both of them were and how their histories contributed to it, from Ellen’s teenage pregnancy to Unity’s early widowhood. I loved that it always seemed like one or both were about to unravel at the seams and that they were making mistakes left and right, but owning them.
In contrast, the love interests, Keith and Thaddeus, are remarkably put-together and know what they want. I loved seeing them be the ones pushing for something, making demands of Ellen and Unity. They were absolutely brilliant love interests and well-matched to each lady. I must say I think I adored Keith a little bit more, but he was really just that much more fun. I loved the sections told from his perspective; they really tickled me. In contrast, Thaddeus was much more proper, but still a man. I really enjoyed how cautious Unity made him and really kept pulling for him the whole book.
Around this quartet were a handful of other fun characters. Like Ellen’s son Coop who sees things as him and his mom against the world. He really melted my heart and is probably what every boy mom hopes her son will be as he grows up. It was so clear to see his love for and embarrassment of his mother, and fun to see him switch from overprotective son to normal teenager. I also loved Dagmar, Unity’s geriatric friend, who was just full of so much color and life it was impossible for me to not look forward to seeing more of her. She understood things so well and really cared about Unity. She was so much fun, and I hope to be like her when I’m her age.
The Setting: West Coast
The Friendship List takes place in Washington and up and down the West Coast. Being an LA native myself, I really enjoyed this book as it took me to places both familiar and foreign. It also made me long for the beach and Disneyland.
Since Ellen is on the road doing a college tour with some high school athletes, their coach, and the coach’s daughter for most of the book, there’s a lot of travel between the small Washington town they live in and San Diego. I got a general feel of Southern California, more so than Northern California and Oregon, so it felt familiar and had me wishing for more. Overall, it wasn’t really overwhelming, more interesting with just enough to offer a vague sense of setting.
I did love the small town near Seattle that the characters lived in. I didn’t get a real idea of what it looks like, but I liked the feeling of the small town that wasn’t too small. There was a nice general sense of community, especially in the senior community Unity spends much of her time in. I liked that it felt small enough to feel cozy, but big enough that it could contain the walking messes called Ellen and Unity.
The Plot: Getting Life Back on Track
This was a fun, yet serious story about two messed up women in their early thirties trying to get their lives back on track because the people around them are worried and think they need to. The Friendship List moves at a great pace, introducing the characters and their problems early on and then guiding them along their journeys to a new chapter in their lives. Some of it did feel a bit slow, but, overall, it felt like it moved organically and at a smooth pace.
This book starts off as fun and games as neither woman seemed terribly serious about their respective lists, but then they started accomplishing things and it started to snowball into the big things they had hoped to avoid. I loved reading along as they slowly spread their wings and fell into their journeys. I did want to shake at least one of them at least once, but it was fun to read about them dancing around each other and their emotions. As much as it was fun, it was also quite serious as they dealt with the dark, heavy things that had been clouding their lives, and I thought the balance was really nice.
Harlequin epitomizes romance, so I was expecting romance to play a heavy part in the book. I did not expect the guys’ perspectives to come in so heavy. I felt like I heard from them just as much as from the women, which was interesting and fun as the few romances I have read usually lean more towards the women’s perspectives. I was a little confused at first when the guys dropped into the story, but quickly figured out they must be the love interests, and for which woman. It was fun to hear so much from them, but my favorite part was that it was the guys who were so self-assured and the women who were so messed up and had to do the relationship fixing. It was a nice reversal.
If I have one complaint about The Friendship List it would be the end. I felt a few things had completely fallen by the wayside even though they’d played an important role in getting the story started. It was a little disappointing to realize something felt left out, but I’d also become so involved in the characters’ lives that I didn’t notice until I’d started writing this review.
Overall: A Fun, Easy Read
Overall, The Friendship List was a fun book. It was easy to read and had some really great moments. I adored the characters and enjoyed the setting, but my favorite part had to be the role reversals. It felt almost timid, but then the women slowly became emboldened and it just made sense that they had to fix things. This was a fun, easy read with some seriousness thrown in.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups will do nicely
About Susan Mallery
SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.
Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.
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Thank you to Justine Sha and Harlequin for a free e-copy for review as well as the opportunity to participate in this book blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.