If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker is a delightful contemporary reinterpretation of the classic Emma by Jane Austen. (Side note: if it doesn’t make you want to book a vacation to Hawaii by the end, I don’t know what will.)
Theodosia “Theo” Sullivan loves her life helping her dad run their surf shop in Hanalei Bay. When she’s not busy giving surfing lessons or selling people rash guards and board wax, she’s busy with her new self-appointed role as the local matchmaker. After all, she clearly has a knack for it since she helped her former nanny find love with a local gallery owner.
When a sweet, naive mainlander arrives at the shop looking for a job, Theo has a new mission in life: helping Laurel find love. Steering her clear from the nice guy with no prospects who works at the local bakery is a no-brainer, especially when there are other, better choices in town for Laurel, no matter how sweet he might be.
While Theo’s best friend and owner of said bakery, Kini ‘Opunui, doesn’t approve of her methods, she loves Theo all the same, doling out sublime pastries and tough love at the same time. Theo’s tactics might work a little too well, however, when she realizes she may have driven Kini towards true love just as she discovers own her deep and abiding feelings for Kini.
Readers will either love or hate Theo’s meddling ways. Personally, I loved her because she goes through a tremendous amount of growth over the course of the story. While her intentions are good, her actions don’t always reflect that, so she sometimes behaves in ways that are disappointing. Kini is particularly great at taking Theo to task gently, yet firmly, and guiding her to be a better person.
If I Loved You Less is told entirely from Theo’s perspective, in the third person. That means that we don’t really get as much of Kini as we might like, especially since Theo spends a lot of time with Laurel as well as another new friend who comes along (okay, fine, I didn’t get as much of Kini as I would have liked because I LOVED her). What we get of Kini is fabulous though, and I want to hang out in her kitchen forever.
The Writing Style
As always, Tamsen Parker delivers engaging, often adorable dialogue, and a story that I was able to immediately sink into. Because it follows Theo so closely and all of her antics in and around Hanalei Bay, it’s more chicklit than romance. The romance that’s there is lovely and thoroughly enjoyable, it just doesn’t happen to take up a lot of the pages in this book.
If I Loved You Less is a pretty faithful retelling of Emma, however, so if you’re a fan of that story, then you’ll love this one. And if you don’t like Emma, you probably won’t like this one either.
I’m beginning to suspect that, like Christine Smith and Ann McMan, and Nicola Victoria Vincent and Jenny Frame, Jill Smith and Tamsen Parker are a perfect pairing. I adored Jill Smith’s narration for In Her Court, and I loved this one no less (see what I did there?). She brings the characters and the book’s overall tone to life in a way that makes me love it even more than the ebook did. And even though there are many characters in this story, I had no trouble following who was saying what because Smith differentiates them so well. I highly recommend getting the audio version if you’re at all inclined towards listening to books over reading them.
Theo’s character growth and the dialogue were hands down my favourite elements. Also, after reading and loving Parker’s scorching Fire on the Ice, it was kind of neat to see her write a book with zero sex in it.
None for me. Like I said above, though, if you don’t like the book Emma or meddlesome characters, this probably isn’t the book for you.
If you like chicklit or contemporary retellings of classic novels, this is a story you won’t want to miss. Yet again, Tamsen Parker delivered a fabulous f/f novel, and I can’t wait to see what she has for us next.
Excerpt from If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker
After doing her very good deeds for the day—convincing her father they needed a part-time helper so Laurel had some employment and then sweet-talking Jasmine at the café into giving Laurel another part-time job—Theo stopped back by Queen’s, where Kini was wiping off the long glass cases displaying her wares. After a full day, the cases were half-empty. And when Kini glanced over her shoulder and saw Theo coming in, they got emptier still.
Without even asking, she walked around the counter and put a piece of haupia shortbread on a plate and poured a small cup of milk, placing them in front of Theo as she settled herself across the table where Theo had plopped. In return, Theo bussed Kini’s soft cheek.
“My dad would kill you if he knew how often you give me sweets.” Theo’s conspiratorial smile was met by Kini’s own. It was funny that so often Kini thought—and made it abundantly clear that she thought—Theo’s dad was too lax with her, too permissive. Spoiled, she’d call Theo and make that purse-lipped expression while she shook her head slightly. But when it came to baked goods, Kini was far more liberal than Theo’s father.
“You have a cookie or a malasada here a couple of times a week. After all the surf lessons you teach, the way you go out on your board most every morning, and all the running around town you do getting into everyone’s business, I think you can handle a sweet or two. But don’t tell your dad, okay? I value the respect he has for me and wouldn’t want it undone by the fact that I ply you with sugar, butter, and gluten occasionally.”
Theo nodded, happily crunching on her shortbread. She didn’t only come here for the baked goods, but Kini knew that. Kini knew everything. It was just one of those things that was true. Like the sun came up in the east and the ocean was salty, Kini knew everything.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781727643428
- Publisher: Indie author
- Audiobook Publisher: Tamsen Parker
- Narrator: Jill Smith
Tamsen Parker Online
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