Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I’m a challenge, and he’s only after one thing. I’d be a fool to think otherwise.”
I’ve heard a lot about Lyndsey Gallagher in the book community but I’ve never read any of her work until now! This book was a pure delight and really gave me high hopes for the rest of her books. Characters are brilliantly created and the story is so heart warming, so saddening and so brilliantly constructed that it’s pretty much impossible not to like it! Really happy to be sharing my review for this book on release day!
When it comes to love, sassy psychotherapist Abby Queenan has a hard time accepting her own advice. Jilted at the alter by her childhood sweetheart, she prefers to invest in other people’s happy ever afters than strive for her own. When the radio station she works for announces a once in a lifetime competition, she searches for a swoon-worthy famous male guest to feature on her show and up her ratings.
Irish rugby legend, Callum Connolly is the classic example of male perfection. He’s not looking for ‘the one’, merely ‘the next one’. That is until his teammates bet he can’t keep the same woman long enough to attend his best friend’s wedding.
The two strike an unlikely, but alluring deal. Can Abby finally learn to take her own advice? Or will Callum nail his most elusive touchdown yet?
My first experience of a Lyndsey Gallagher book, and the start was truly excellent – even one chapter in sold this story for me and I loved how much we get to know Abby and Karen, the friends everyone wants to read about in a romcom! They feel like such real people and always seem to say such relatable things, and it’s impossible not to become attached to them. The opening to the book is nothing short of perfect as the pair visit a fortune teller, keen (or not) to find out their fates through a pretty expensive reading, and even this detail alone was enough to capture my interest and make me curious about what was to come next. We learn some small details about Abby’s past, almost teasing us with what was to come for this character later down the line. Would she ever find someone new after the disaster that was Sean Fitzpatrick? Time would only tell, but she was far from confident. A lovely, honest and addictive opening that made me eager to read on!
I enjoyed how the perspective changes in the story as we learn more about another of our main characters, Callum. We can instantly see the kind of guy he is – insanely kind-hearted but absolutely desperate to get in someone’s bed. I thought these traits made him pretty quirky, and yet another hilarious character to learn more about. These two characters meet, and, as expected, this encounter was as embarrassing as it was hilarious. Abby pretends to find him unattractive and clingy, while inside, she’s trying not to explode with just how much he’s had an effect on her. I enjoyed the route the author was taking here and I knew the journey to come wouldn’t let us down! The conversational tone mixed with the humour and our guesses at how Abby may change her mind about this guy makes it impossible to stop reading, and I felt the author had really nailed it. We’re forced to think about Abby’s fortune telling and wonder how much truth was in what she was told – would she really find someone for her, and would there be some bad news that could send her crashing down?
“His effortless ability to embark on the next conquest stings. And that’s precisely the reason I don’t get involved with men. They tend to hurt me.”
I had to admire Callum for his efforts in trying to win Abby over, but things take a much different turn when he places a bet with his mates – his challenge is to keep a girl of their choosing for three months and then bring her as a plus one to a wedding. With what we’d learnt about Callum so far, there was no way he’d be able to do it… but what if he found the right person? The book is a bit predictable at this point, but then again, I find all romcoms are like this in a way, but this didn’t take the enjoyment out of the book for me. I still loved the characters’ actions and conversations, and the humour is so consistent all the way through. I also really enjoyed the opportunity Abby could potentially grab at work. Could this be the time in her life where everything would fall into place? The book is easy to lose yourself in, and time just disappeared as I read. Could Abby find it within herself to give Callum a chance? I was torn between wanting her to give it a go and wanting to protect her from being hurt by someone looking for the “next one” rather than “the one”.
Abby and Callum manage to strike up a deal that suits them both which I thought would be very interesting to explore. Even though I found Callum a funny guy, I didn’t particularly like his character at this point in the book. He seemed too full of himself and I even felt like he needed at least one stable relationship to keep him on the straight and narrow. If Abby could go through with their deal, maybe he would eventually calm down and think there was much more to life than sleeping around. I did like where the story was going from here, and I thought that the idea of two people pretending to be a couple in front of their mates would make enjoyable reading! Things were bound to go wrong at times and I was sure there was going to be some awkward moments, but even after their 3 months was up, would their feelings for each other develop in a way that gave them both hope? That there could be the tiniest chance they could be right for one another under their tough exterior? The beginning of the book was intriguing and I was looking forward to seeing how things developed!
I liked the pacing of the book – it wasn’t too fast or too slow for a romcom, it seemed to just play out as it should which I appreciated. It soon becomes clear that Abby is enjoying Callum’s company more and more as time went on. She puts on an act for his mates, making it seem as though she’s some sex-deprived maniac, when inside, she’s trying her best to put those feeling for Callum at bay. Would it really hurt if she did have a bit of fun with this guy? The fact she had to tread carefully because of her career was worrying, but I knew she wouldn’t do anything stupid… I felt like the story was solid here, and after my recent uncertain thoughts about Callum, he did grow on me a little bit. That kind-hearted side of him showed its face again, the side I would personally like to see more of later down the line. We’re just as in the dark as Callum when it comes to Abby’s past, and even though we don’t know the details, it’s clear she’s been hurt before. Callum feels the need to protect her – was he going all soppy on us?!
The more I read, the more I appreciated the detail in the author’s words and just how cleverly written the book is, especially as we see Abby and Callum share a very forced but very real first kiss. The more their relationship developed, the more I seemed to gel with the story. Even though the pair were pretty much forced into that kiss, the development of their relationship doesn’t feel forced at all, but actually plays out in quite a nice way. We can easily feel all their feelings; their nerves, their desires, and even their fears about sharing themselves with another person. I thought there was a lot of depth in the book here which the author is obviously very skilled in creating, and quite frankly, I just wanted to see more of it! We read so much more about Abby and Callum’s thoughts at this point which really helps me build up more of a liking for Callum. Both of these characters seem to be letting their guard down, and I knew the second part of the book would be just as juicy!
“I feel oddly protective of her, after seeing a different side to her last night. What happened to her? Someone must have really done a number on her.”
Well, if you’re looking for a romcom with a few steamy scenes, you’ll most certainly not be disappointed with this book! I often think these scenes can be cringey in a book, but the author has perfectly constructed these to ensure you don’t feel a bit weird after reading. The author’s vocabulary shows exactly just how much Abby and Callum need each other, and at times, it was quite beautiful to read. When Callum speaks live on air on Abby’s radio show, we can sense the sexual tension between the two, but when Sean calls into the show, this all comes crashing down, replaced with horror and disgust. How dare Abby’s toxic ex rear his ugly head and try to get involved in her life again in the most shameful way? I found myself getting angry towards Sean and just hoped he would leave Abby alone. Emotions are running high and I honestly didn’t know if this incident would be enough to push Abby away from Callum for good. A really good direction for the story, one with so many possibilities that I couldn’t wait to explore.
The fact Abby’s ex has made himself known doesn’t sit well with Callum. We hear about Callum’s friend who agrees to do some digging to find out more info about who he is, what he’s been doing all these years and just why he’s suddenly found an interest now he knows Abby and Callum are getting closer. I have to admit, I was dying to know more about Sean Fitzpatrick, even though I already despised him (and I secretly wanted Callum to find him and punch him in the face after what he did). I really felt sorry for Abby, especially after having all her awful past reignited after trying to forget about it for so long. I liked just how Callum was there for her throughout all this, and he’d really redeemed himself from the beginning of the book. I was looking forward to the ending of the book and I had a few things on my mind. 1. Would Abby and Callum manage to stick to their views on dating, and 2. How would Sean play a part in their lives here? Things were certainly heating up and I was looking forward to the finale!
The story takes a different, much softer turn when we learn more about Callum’s family, and my heart went out to him when we learnt about his mother and how his father now sees the world. It was heartbreaking, but the author had done such a brilliant job of changing the tone of the book – it seemed effortless and so very effective! The detail we’re presented with here helps us get more involved with the characters and make them feel more human which I was very impressed with. If anything, being let into Callum’s more personal life and getting closer to his family makes Abby fall for him so much more, and I loved how she was really letting him in after being so afraid. Despite all the positives in the book here, I was still thinking about Sean in the back of my mind. I suspected that he’s sent Abby the mystery rose bouquet so I just knew he’d try and worm his way back in. Urgh!! Would seeing him again make her old feelings for him return, or has Callum well and truly secured a comfortable place in her heart? Only time would tell!
Abby and Callum face the ultimate test in their relationship, and how they deal with this challenge could make or break them as a couple. We feel so much tension in the book here, and even though the pair hadn’t been together long, I had faith in them that they could sort out anything life threw their way. Sean seemed to be trying his best to win Abby back, and even though Abby has moved on from this part of her life, his presence brings back so many memories that she really doesn’t want to think about right now. Could Abby be strong enough to keep her relationship with Callum? As well as organising her romantic life, Abby also finds out more about Karen and exactly why she’s been so withdrawn lately. I loved how each character in the book plays a big part in the overall story, and each piece of information we learn makes everything stand out so much more! What we learn at this part of the story also links back to Abby and Karen’s fortune telling experience at the beginning of the book. I was glad we revisited this!
“Abby doesn’t realise it, but she has the potential to hurt me. Not in a physical sense, like on the pitch. That pain’s insignificant in comparison to losing someone you love.”
I didn’t expect to feel a little heartbroken so close to the book’s ending, but reading more about Callum’s father’s dementia was so powerful and saddening that it was impossible not to get a bit teary. The author has expressed these scenes in a way that really tugs at your heart and makes you appreciate the things you do have, teaching you not to take anything for granted. I felt so sad for Callum and his family, but I’m glad he had people around him for support. Abby also forces herself to go through a difficult event to make herself stronger, something which strongly reminds herself of the wedding day that never was. I felt like we saw a new side to Abby here and we learn more about her past, including why she unintentionally pushed her family away. With Sean making yet another unwanted appearance in front of Abby’s family and friends, would Callum be able to keep his cool? Would he ever tell Abby what he found out about Sean’s reason for leaving her? I was looking forward to seeing how the author ended the book, and just whether they could both have that happily ever after they wanted.
The ending of the book didn’t play out like I expected it to at all, and we’re still left questioning the strength of Abby and Callum’s relationship, not to mention the stress of Callum’s life hanging in the balance. The author doesn’t take the predictable route here, but instead, ends the book with some pretty serious scenes that make us wonder whether that prediction at the start of the book would end up being much closer to home than losing a neighbour. As well as these scenes, we also see some really beautiful scenes which ends the story nicely and gives us that warm fuzzy feeling we all love in a book of this nature! I really liked this story and as my first book by this author, I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of her work, and look forward to the next two books in this series!
This is the perfect read if you need something light or if you’re in desperate need of a book couple you can root for 100%! Even though I wasn’t sure what to make of Callum at the start, he redeemed himself brilliantly, and everything from his and Abby’s journey together to their own personal lives was explored so deeply and written really well. It has the right balance of emotion and raunchiness that lovers of romcom will love, with the pace you’d expect to make you fully invested. A great little read and I look forward to seeing what comes next for this author!
A huge thank you to the author, Lyndsey Gallagher, and the lovely Vik for my copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase your own copy of Love & Other Mushy Stuff over on Amazon, available on Kindle and paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!