Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Penguin UK
First Published: 25 April 2023
“No, in every universe, it’s you for me. Even if it’s not me for you.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank so much to the team over at Penguin Books and NetGalley for sending a copy my way!
Two exes. One pact.
Could this holiday change everything?
Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple – they go together like bread and butter, gin and tonic, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
Every year, they take a holiday from their lives to drink far too much wine with their favourite people in the world.
Except this year, they are lying through their teeth, because Harriet and Wyn broke up six months ago. And they still haven’t told anyone.
But the cottage is for sale so this is the last time they’ll all be here together. They can’t bear to break their best friends’ hearts so they’ll fake it for one more week.
But how can you pretend to be in love – and get away with it – in front of the people who know you best?
Happy Place is another fantastic read by Emily Henry! She has become an auto-buy author for me. Like I have come to expect from Henry, this was an unflinching look at the fears we have about growing up and, more importantly, growing apart from the people we love. The ideas are explored in both Harriet and Wyn’s relationship and through their college friendship group. I adored the found family in here it is one of the best I’ve read.
Harriet and Wyn were the perfect college sweethearts. They were meant to be, except when they don’t. They broke up six months ago and they still haven’t told their best friends. Harriet has planned to tell them during the group’s annual group getaway to Maine. However, the cottage is up for sale, two of their friends are getting married and Wyn has shown up unexpectedly. Not waiting to ruin the trip, the pair spend the week lying to their friends, all while trying to navigate their heartbreak of their breakup and the undeniable pull to be together.
The romance in here plays out in two timelines. First, the present, where Harriet and Wyn are lying about their breakup and pretending to be together, and the second is in the past, where we see their first get together and watch it slowly unravel. The angst in here was at an all-time high. You can see the chemistry between the two, but Harriet is still reeling from their breakup. She’s unsure of what happened and trying to figure out where it all went wrong. At first, the idea that they broke up because of miscommunication, or really a lack of communication, frustrated me. But learning why and what barriers they had to opening up – Harriet’s need to please everyone and seem unflappable and Wyn’s feeling of not being ‘good’ enough – make their breakup felt authentic and utterly human. We see it every day, relationships that break because people stop communicating.
Harriet is a driven surgical resident. She fears losing the people she loves and has a strong perfectionist streak. I found her oh-so-relatable. She’s used to not fighting for what she wants and ignoring her needs in hopes that it will make the other people in her life happy and more comfortable. It’s almost like she’s been programmed by her family to become small and not speak out or want anything to make everyone’s else life easier. However, it has the opposite effect as she comes across as apathetic and uncaring. Watching her learn to speak up and allowing herself to be vulnerable to Wyn, and her friends, was beautiful. The scene where she lost it and finally tells Wyn and her friends what she’s feeling and why she’s never spoken up before was stunningly done. You can feel how hard this is for her, but you also see how cathartic it is.
On the flip side to Harriet’s avoidance of confrontation and driven personality, is Wyn the laid-back charmer who rarely lets people in to see below his carefully constructed persona. We slowly learn that he’s been dealing with some mental health issues and, in the flashback scenes, we get glimpses of his lack of self-worth. It’s clear that he adores Harriet and lets her go, mostly because he thinks it’s what’s best for her. The way he keeps asking if she’s happy, and knowing why, it broke my heart!
I adore the found family aspect of this novel. Harriet and Wyn found this group of friends in college and they’ve stuck by each other’s side through all the highs and lows of their 20s. While Harriett is dealing with the loss of her relationship with Wyn, there is also this underlying fear of growing up and growing apart from this friendship group. This is what drives the pair to fake date for the weekend. The fear of losing the connection to the people we saw every day in school as we dive into adulthood and life takes us in all different directions is very real. The depiction of this had me tearing up at serval points. Henry managed to weave in a sparkle of hope that while yes, the relationship is different, it does not mean you have to lose these connections. They can adapt and change. Even if it does not look the same as in your late teens/early twenties, it’s still a meaningful relationship.
I adored Happy Place! Harriet is someone I strongly relate to. The way Emily Henry can explore the love, fear and joy of this friendship group and highlights the importance of communication is beautiful. I highly recommend this! Just be aware it is not straight-up romance. While Wyn and Harriet’s fake dating and second chance romance is a huge part of the plot, I would argue that watching Harriet reflect on what she wants out of life and navigating expectations that her family and herself have placed on her is the real focus of the story.