Going into the holiday season, I really craved something easy to read. Whilst I love my pretentious ‘literature’ fiction, reading them all the time gets a bit much for the brain. It’s like dining on high-end cuisine when occasionally you just need to satisfy a quick chocolate bar craving.  The chocolate bar in this scenario is the guiltiest of reading pleasures for me – the romance novel, the more formulaic and more ‘happily ever after’ the better. It is usually quick, mindless, and I am done feeling happy for everyone involved.

Unfortunately Lane’s FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE failed to keep me engaged, because a lot happens, and most of it is just distracting from the main business of two people falling in love and ending up together.

The premise of the book is classic rom-com silly – Jenny is a 50 year old divorcee who is signed up for a dating app by her daughters and best friend without her consent or knowledge.  She attends bad dates at the same local pub, with Nick the hunky barman looking on, they of course banter and start to fall in love.

My first complaint with the book is that I felt very little chemistry between Nick and Jenny’s initial interactions with each other – these take place as quips from Nick as Jenny navigates her bad dates.  With multiple dates and about 100 pages of this, it starts to drag.  When they finally do interact it’s fine, but then we’re sidetracked by all sorts of random subplots which I can’t reveal without spoiling the book, but all feel superfluous from the romance.

There are good aspects to this book.  Lane’s portrayal of a rural Australian town and its dynamics feel authentic, and once again without revealing anything too much, there are some dynamics between Jenny and Nick that are refreshingly different from the usual romance formula. With over 20 books under Lane’s belt in this exact genre and style, I do suspect she has a better book in her library than this one.