The Fixer Upper
by Lauren Forsythe
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Pub Date 02 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2022
PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Ever since she can remember, Aly has been fixing everything around her: her parents’ marriage, her colleagues’ work problems, and her friends’ love lives are just a few examples. After a chance meeting with an ex who has gone from living in his parents’ basement to being a married project manager in three years, she realizes she’s been fixing her boyfriends, too....
So, Aly decides to put her talents to good use and, alongside two work friends, sets up the Fixer Upper, an exclusive, underground service for women who are tired of unpaid emotional labor. Using little tricks and tips, Aly and her friends get the men to do the work themselves—to get out of the job they hate, sign up for that growth seminar, do more parenting. Before long, a high-profile Instagram star hires them to fix up her app developer boyfriend. There’s just one catch—he’s also Aly’s childhood best friend and first love. As Aly tackles her biggest “fixer upper” yet, she’ll have to come to terms with their complicated history and figure out how much to change someone she’d always thought was perfect as he is....
Available on NetGalley
After reading a lot of thrillers and fantasy, The Fixer Upper was a nice break in the mold. It was everything a romance novel should be: uplifting, hopeful, and, well, romantic. The main character, Alyssa, is stuck in a rut; work has been less than satisfying, despite giving her all into her job, and her love life is nonexistent. In the very first scene of the book, she has dinner alone in a restaurant, trying to act like she is happy and has it all together, when a chance meeting throws off the carefully constructed balance of her world. I think starting off the story in this way makes her more relatable; I’ve had times when I wasn’t fully happy but was doing everything I could to pretend to be happy, hoping to “fake it till I make it”.
In Alyssa’s case, this chance meeting makes her evaluate her love life skills and she decides to start Fixer Upper with her two friends from work. These two are her ride or die, even if she doesn’t feel like they are; again, this is something I strongly relate to. Through a series of coincidences, Alyssa accepts an assignment to “fix” Dylan, her first love. From the beginning, I shipped these two; I loved their dynamics and how they took each other through the ringer. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories (friends-to-lovers? second chance romances?) and this one hit right in my heart strings. When the climax came, I was sobbing like *I* was the one who had just had my heart broken. And the way it ended was pure perfection.
The Fixer Upper should be considered non-spicy romance, as there were no sex scenes at all. (I’m pretty equal opportunity romance, but I know some people expect spice from romance novels and this is not that.) It was much more character focused, specifically on Alyssa and Dylan working through their internal and external struggles. I appreciated how the characters and misunderstanding felt real. I know some might characterize the foundation of the misunderstanding as just miscommunication, but they were teenagers who didn’t know how to express their feelings and they took that with them into adulthood (which I could easily see myself doing).
Overall, this novel was romance perfection. It was a solid story, with characters I was rooting for, a romance I cried over, and an ending that left me hopeful. If you’re into (non-spicy) romance, this is a fantastic book for you!
Aly has always dated guys who've shown a lot of potential, guys who she's done a lot of emotional labor for-- guys who've gone on to have successful lives built on foundations she set for them, while her own life has stagnated. So when her two work friends convince her that she should use her ability to help men live up to their potential for good, she reluctantly agrees. And thus, The Fixer Upper is started, a service that helps nudge men in the direction their partners need, whether it's being a more present father or understanding why the mother of their children might want to get married.
And then they're approached by their biggest client yet, an heiress-turned-influencer who wants to help her normal boyfriend succeed at his job-- and propose to her, so they can star in a reality tv show. But when the boyfriend shows up, he turns out to be Aly's childhood best friend and first love. And he pretends not to know her.
What follows is a delicate balance of career coaching, relationship nudging, and the ever-growing inkling that maybe what Aly is doing isn't the right thing, after all.
The Fixer Upper is like if the movie Failure To Launch were sweet and uplifting instead of incredibly problematic. It could have so easily gone the way of that movie and put down the people The Fixer Upper was trying to help, but instead, Lauren Forsythe approached this book with care, often having Aly and co come to realize that the situations were more complex than they'd anticipated. There was a lot of talk between the crew about the morals of what they were doing, there were lines drawn from the beginning (no finding out if men were cheating), and there was a shift in the company, at the end, that perfectly merged all the various aspects of the book to create what promised to be an absolutely wonderful company.
All that, with great, well-rounded characters, prose that drew me in, and plots I couldn't help but want to read about. I cannot wait to read more by Lauren Forsythe.
Fixer Upper is the book we all need to read this summer!
Forsythe’s modern day love story follows Aly, a thirty- thee year old woman, who has put her career, family, and others happiness before her own. In a twist of fate, Aly discovers that she has the gift of “fixing” men by helping them achieve their full potential. Things are looking up until Aly is reunited with her childhood best friend and first love, Dylan. The two manage to reconnect and mend the hurts they endured from each other as teenagers.
If you are looking for a relatable romance, Forsythe delivers! She captures how easy it is for miscommunications, fears, and insecurities to get in the way of true happiness.
In addition, Aly’s journey to finding her self-worth in life and business was refreshing. Women too often are passed over for the promotion in a male dominated field because they are too valuable to lose, “emotional”, or simply not apart of the “boys club”.
Finally, if you love romance but prefer to leave out the spice, this is the book for you!!! It is wholesome without being corny.
Special thanks to NetGalley.com and Penguin Group Putnam for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest feedback.
This was such a sweet read I couldn't have asked for more. I love a good second chance romance and this one nailed it.
I felt like each character was perfect and made the story incredible. I found myself relating to Aly in some sense. Wanting to make sure everyone else is doing well, but sometimes forget about myself. I think this is a beautiful tale that teaches us that imperfection is inevitable, but it isn't something we should always avoid or try to eradicate. Ultimately, imperfection and adversity are apart of who we are, but they don't define who we are or how we should live our lives.
Five things I loved about The Fixer Upper:
1. From the very beginning, this book felt like a 90s/00s rom-com, to the point that I would lie awake at night trying to cast it. (Coincidentally, who IS the British version of Kate Hudson?) It was comfortable without being totally predictable. A HEA was practically guaranteed, but the path wasn’t obvious or boring.
2. The cast of supporting characters was wonderful. The business partners turned best friends, the parents with a messy history, the social media star girlfriend, the horrible boss, Helena Bonham Barker… each fit their respective role perfectly. I hope Tola gets her own story, because her fearlessness and drive were pretty mesmerizing.
3. The girl power! I thought to portrayal of women in the workforce was amazing, particularly how they have to wade so carefully through any interaction that may be seen as emotional. There is a whole women supporting women undercurrent that didn’t feel forced or gimmicky, and that’s not always easy to pull off!
4. Dylan. I don’t think words can express how much I adored this love interest. He was messy and earnest and fantastic. Together, Dylan and Aly were perfectly idiotic marshmallows and I just freaking love them.
5. Aly is a hell of a heroine. There is a fine line to walk where an assertive character is charming vs. overbearing, made even more complicated when that character is a woman. Aly had a plan— multiple plans, in fact!— and stuck to procedure as much as possible… until she couldn’t. When things went wrong was truly where Aly’s vulnerability came through, and I thought it was done incredibly well. Aly in control and Aly out of control were both equally lovable characters.
I am incredibly stingy with 5-star ratings, but The Fixer Upper earned that particular accolade and then some. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved everything. I cannot wait for this book to be released, so I can hold an actual copy in my hands. Until then, thank you so much to NetGalley and Putnam Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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