Just Friends by Holly McCulloch – Can friends ever be anything else?

Just Friends by Holly McCulloch

Bea is fed up with her life. A wedding brings it home to her that everyone else has someone to love. Her job is unfulfilling, even her hobby is just moving along. She has a good male friend, Peter, but he is such a perfect friend that she cannot bear to risk losing him, especially as her record of dating is disasterous. This contemporary story of love, work and more is funny, endearing and engaging, as one young woman admits that life is not awful and tragic, just going nowhere in particular. Bea is the sort of accident prone heroine that anyone can relate to, even if they are no longer in her age group. Her relationships with colleagues at work, friends and her mother are so well described, especially in dialogue that is full of life and humour. The characters are well written, including the long term friends Mia and of course Peter, while Bea’s attempts to improve her dating chances are warmly funny. This is a good read for dark days, when gossip and humour are needed, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

After an eighteen month build up it is Mia’s wedding day, and though Bea is determined to enjoy it, careless comments by men at the reception just make her angry. As it is New Year’s Eve, there is the obligatory fuss at midnight, but despite everything she does not want a full on kiss from Peter, desperate as she is to hold on to him as a friend rather than risk their relationship in yet another failed attempt at romance. Bowing to pressure from friends she attempts online dating, with funny but disastrous results. The regular Games Night with friends means that she keeps in contact with others, especially Peter, but she despairs of any deeper relationships. Her mother (and over friendly dog Hugo) are a diversion, but a troublesome one in many ways. Her second occupation, making cards for sale at a couple of shops, overtakes her flat on occasion,  but she wonders if she will ever really put the effort into it to achieve real success. Can words of advice from Mia ever push her into doing something about Peter, who is so firmly in the friend zone that he can never be anything more?

A book like this is often dependent on the consistency of the voice recounting events, reactions, and down to earth questions. The author has kept the narrative lively, realistic and often very funny, especially the medical appointment episode. This is not a book of huge drama, but Bea’s heartfelt account has a ring of genuine feeling, especially in the little things, such as her mother’s reaction to misguided packet opening, and Mia’s first thoughts on receiving big news. It is a well paced and engaging book, full of characters that are consistent. The fear of losing a friend in a romantic entanglement is based on an experience which has had a genuine impact on Bea, and she is a sympathetic, if accident prone, character and narrator. A funny, engaging read which is well paced and enjoyable, this is a good read full of contemporary humour and life.