And the Next Thing You Know by Chase Taylor Hackett was a difficult novel for me to review for a couple of reasons. However, I must be fair in saying that none of those reasons actually had to do with this author’s writing style or his ability to tell a fascinating story. If I were to reduce this review to simple nuts and bolts and remove any emotional overtones, I would tell you that this was a very funny, poignant, and romantic book. I definitely felt that the style of using different points of view to head up each chapter was refreshing and quite easy to follow. It actually allowed me to get a bird’s eye view of the inner thinking of all of the main characters in this novel. It also allows readers to feel more in step with the emotional chaos that can often come from learning how to love someone you thought was your worst enemy. While there were occasionally a few repetitive paragraphs, seeing the same scenario from the other person’s point of view never weighed down the action or the pace of the story. Rather, it allowed me to understand more fully how each moment in the journey impacted both of the main characters.
Now, realizing that this was the second installment in a new series by this author, I did feel this book could be read as a standalone. In fact, given that the first book, Where Do I Start, painted Jeffrey in a pretty poor light, I’m rather glad I didn’t read it before reading this one. Make no mistake about it, we are immediately reminded in this novel that Jeffrey is not a good guy. He is pompous, narcissistic, rather cutthroat when it comes to business, and all in all, a pretty flawed person. But it’s not only his assumptions and prejudices that mark this relationship as an almost dead end from the beginning.
Jeffrey’s best friend, Rebecca, has a little brother and he is a hot mess. The only thing small about Theo is his stature; it’s certainly not his personality or his temper. If his fiery red hair isn’t a dead giveaway, then the sarcasm that drips endlessly and easily from his tongue should be. Flat on his luck and sleeping on his sister’s sofa, Theo begins a temp job at the same law firm his sister works for as an associate. If that isn’t hateful enough for Theo, who is a starving songwriter trying to catch a break on Broadway, working in such close proximity to Jeffrey makes the job almost unbearable.
Not only is his professional life in limbo, but Theo’s boyfriend, Madison, is off producing an off off off-Broadway musical. After a trip to see Madison goes south, Theo makes his way back home to Rebecca‘s apartment only to find that she has given his spot on the couch to the smarmy Jeffrey whose apartment is being renovated. What happens from this point on in the story can only best be described as the development of one of the funniest and almost painful romantic comedies. We watch, at times in horror and at times with the biggest smile on our faces, as Jeffrey and Theo tangle yet again and again and fall head over heels in love.
I mentioned “in horror “because there were times when Theo was absolutely brutal in his treatment of Jeffrey. This is one of the elements of the story that made it hard to review. Again, this may all have been mitigated by how Jeffrey acted in the first novel in this series, so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, particularly if you read the first book. However, even if Jeffrey was a complete ass in the first book and deserved to be treated as such, there were times when Theo’s behavior made me cringe. In fact, I will go as far to say that I had to put the book down a few times during the first half because I really didn’t like Theo at all. Theo was mean. I know that sounds silly, but it really is true. And the real problem here was that I didn’t feel there was any real basis for how very nasty Theo was to Jeffrey.
It’s as if the author decided that Jeffrey should be raked over the coals for his behavior and yet there were many hints in the story that Jeffrey was abused as a child and even as an adult by his father. Not only was he verbally abused, being called stupid among other things, but there were a few references to the fact that his father hit him. Given that information, Jeffrey became a character who should have gained our sympathy and who appeared to have reasons for turning out to be the jackass he was at the beginning of the novel. When you stack this up against Theo, who wholeheartedly went after every flaw Jeffrey had, it became really easy to dislike Theo. Yes, you could put it down to his being younger and to his being rather self-centered, but it still made it difficult for me to like and appreciate the character.
See? This was a tough book for me—primarily because I truly think Chase Taylor Hackett is a gifted writer. I honestly think I may have been a bit oversensitive when it came to how Jeffrey was treated. And to be truthful, there is the fact that what I might not like, others might find incredibly humorous because Theo did make me laugh. When his antics weren’t deliberately mean spirited, the way he thought and moved through his life with brutal honesty and “take no prisoners “attitude was really refreshing. Plus, when these two guys finally let themselves admit they were falling for each other, this story just became pure romance gold.
So, what’s the take away here? Despite my misgivings, And the Next Thing You Know by Chase Taylor Hackett is refreshingly funny, cleverly crafted, fast-paced, and romantic. If you enjoy the enemies to lovers trope then this novel is definitely one I recommend. I truly think this story is going to impact its audience in a variety of ways, but the real takeaway here is there is no doubt that this author has some excellent writing chops and I will definitely be reading his work again.