Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing the latest from Alexis Hall, 10 Things That Never Happened. This one was a holiday romance set in the same world as Boyfriend Material that follows a different couple. It will be out on shelves tomorrow, October 17, 2023!
Fake amnesia. Real feelings? Real problems.
Sam Becker loves―or, okay, likes―his job. Sure, managing a bed and bath retailer isn’t exactly glamorous, but it’s good work and he gets on well with the band of misfits who keep the store running. He could see himself being content here for the long haul. Too bad, then, that the owner is an infuriating git.
Jonathan Forest should never have hired Sam. It was a sentimental decision, and Jonathan didn’t get where he is by following his heart. Determined to set things right, Jonathan orders Sam down to London for a difficult talk…only for a panicking Sam to trip, bump his head, and maybe accidentally imply he doesn’t remember anything?
Faking amnesia seemed like a good idea when Sam was afraid he was getting sacked, but now he has to deal with the reality of Jonathan’s guilt―as well as the unsettling fact that his surly boss might have a softer side to him. There’s an unexpected freedom in getting a second shot at a first impression…but as Sam and Jonathan grow closer, can Sam really bring himself to tell the truth, or will their future be built entirely on one impulsive lie?
***Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing a copy of 10 Things That Never Happened via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
Alexis Hall is one of my favorite romance writers, and I was stoked to get my hands on this book. My expectations are always high when it comes to his books because I love the wit and charm that all his work exudes. 10 Things That Never Happened definitely contained those qualities, as well as an abundance of humor, so many immersive Britishisms, and plenty of memorable characters.
The plot of 10 Things That Never Happened was both fun and ridiculous, requiring quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. The fake amnesia element was hilarious at first and set up some of the book’s best moments, but it also became a drag on the story. It lasted too long, and I kept wanting the relationship to move forward. It never could, though, with this giant secret hanging over it. The resolution of the amnesia plot didn’t come until the last two chapters of the book, which made the ending feel rushed and left no time to really explore Jonathan’s reaction to being lied to for so long. He moved past it way too quickly, in my opinion.
The main characters of 10 Things That Never Happened had an engaging grumpy/sunshine dynamic, which worked well despite both of them being a bit self-absorbed in their own way. Jonathan was a workaholic who only seemed to care about the bottom line, and Sam wore his soft heart on his sleeve and was hell bent on saving his work team from being fired. Both men were incredibly lonely, and their forced proximity after Sam’s accident led to an amusing slow burn romance and the building of an extremely tenuous connection that had many ups and downs.
My biggest problem with 10 Things That Never Happened was its narrator. The story is told exclusively from Sam’s POV, but he lies and keeps secrets from both Jonathan and the reader for the entire book. It made connecting to him a bit difficult. Jonathan, on the other hand, experienced a great deal of growth throughout the story. He was so quiet, though. Getting inside his head to learn more about how he fell for Sam along the way would’ve been really helpful in building a stronger connection to both men. I think this issue also stems back to how long the amnesia wore on, but a dual POV might have made it less of an issue for me.
The side characters were the real stars of 10 Things That Never Happened. The employees of Sam’s store reminded me of the crew in the show Superstore, and they had a hilariously lovable dynamic. I wish there had been even more of them in the story. Jonathan’s family was also one of my favorite things about the book. They squabbled and were too loud all the time, but you could feel the love of this family ooze out of the page. Some of the scenes with them made me really emotional, and all of their holiday preparations made me miss the large family gatherings of my childhood.
I’d be remiss to end this review without mentioning THE BEST THING about 10 Things That Never Happened, Sam’s cat Gollum. I love a good animal companion, and Gollum’s attitude left me smiling every time he crossed the page. I also found it hilarious that Gollum melted Jonathan’s heart so quickly. They were two grumps who fell in love at first sight. lol. They were the real OTP of this book. Sam just happened to be part of the package deal.
There are just a few other odds and ends that stood out to me as important. The story provided compelling commentary about working-class struggles, which was engaging but not overhanded. I enjoy good story-based commentary on timely issues, and this story did that well. The dialogue also utilized different spelling of words to denote various accents. If that isn’t something you enjoy, this book might not be a good fit for you. I didn’t find it distracting, and it did add to the personality of the characters. There’s also very little steam in this book since the relationship is super slow burn, but the tension between the two was good.
All in all, 10 Things That Never Happened was a fun outing by Hall despite my reservations about the plot and main characters. It made me laugh and cry, and I flew through it because I didn’t want to put it down. It definitely wasn’t my favorite book by Hall, though. That honor still goes to Boyfriend Material. Therefore, I rate this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.