Review: Dater’s Handbook – Cara Lockwood
by Cara Lockwood
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Cassandra Barber has a history of picking bad boyfriends…and she’s ready to change all that. She turns to Dater’s Handbook, the bestselling self-help book by relationship expert Dr. Susie, to improve her ailing love life. Surely, Dr. Susie’s advice will help her choose between her two new suitors: the laid-back, fun-loving Robert, and the sophisticated, dependable George.
The two men take her on very different kinds of dates, often with hilarious results. Cass juggles the opinions of her mother and her sister as well as Dr. Susie’s rules and checklists. But is she forgetting how to listen to her own heart?
This funny, feel-good novel contains an exclusive Hallmark recipe for Lemon Elderflower Mini Bundt Cakes.
Trigger warnings: View Spoiler »discussion of main character’s father who died in a car accident, character goes into anaphylactic shock « Hide Spoiler
I will be completely honest – while I haven’t seen the Hallmark movie this is based on, I picked this up because Megan Markle’s on the cover and it was released the same week as her famous wedding. After reading the book, I think I’ll definitely check out this movie the next time I’m in the mood for a rom-com!
“Cass, my husband is consistent and predictable and average in every way. He brings home a steady paycheck; he always asks about my day. He doesn’t look around constantly for the next thing when you’re sitting right in front of him. Now, that is commitment.”
She’d gotten me. She had. Because right then, in that moment, I realized that’s exactly what I wanted: a real partner, someone to share my life with, not someone like Peter who flirted with every pretty girl to walk into his bar. Standing here in front of Dr. Susie, I knew, for the first time in my adult life, I was ready to get serious about finding The One.
And it started with The Dater’s Handbook.”
This novel is told from the first-person POV of Cass, the thirty-something owner of a successful marketing items business (think umbrellas with logos). While she’s been lucky in business, mostly due to her hard work and good sense, she hasn’t applied that same level of work to her love life. Peter, her “let’s not put a label on it” not-boyfriend of two years can’t even remember she’s deathly allergic to honey. Her mom and her married-with-one-kid-and-another-on-the-way older sister Nadia want her to change her dating ways. While her mom reminds her to follow her heart, Nadia wants her to try a TV personality’s bestselling new book. Dr. Susie says women should be looking for someone “reliable, dependable and responsible” – and the first time Cass hears that, it reminds her more of her dog Duke than someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with. But after repeatedly being bashed over the head by reminders of Dr. Susie and her Dater’s Handbook, Cass realizes that she has a habit of dating noncommittal guys – guys who don’t seem to care if they’re in a relationship or not, and she resolves to start ignoring her instincts and instead start following Dr. Susie’s rules. Luckily enough, she’s got two new prospects in her life to experiment on! One is Robert, a dog-loving guy who makes her laugh and takes on her dates to mini-golf and a picnic that’s ruined by rain. The other is George, a long-time client of hers, who’s serious, polite, and respectful, and who takes her to fancy French restaurants and art gallery openings. They couldn’t possibly be more different, and while Dr. Susie’s rules approve of one of them, it’s the other that she feels a spark with. How will Cass balance dating both guys, and what will win out in the end – the handbook, or her heart?
Yes, it’s cheesy and predictable (the one guy’s habits remind her of her dead father, which is simultaneously weird and sweet, so it’s pretty obvious who she’s going to end up with), but that’s one of the draws of these books. It’s sweetly funny – one of the running gags is that Cass has an inner sweets monster, which caused the meet-cute with Robert when she stole a bit of his cake at a wedding. This sets a pattern of her stealing food off of him, and him tongue-in-cheek defending it. Her dates with Robert are playful and adventurous, and their banter is equally cute and flirty. The biggest angst in the book is Cass’s worry that she’s doing something wrong by dating two guys at once. It’s also closed-door to the max – by the halfway point of the book, the most Cass has done with either potential boyfriend is hold hands, and kissing is the farthest they go. My usual issue with low-angst closed door books is that I don’t get a good sense of the couple’s chemistry, but that was not a problem with this book. Their chemistry – and this book – is as sweet as the chocolate cake Cass is so fond of, and sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for. Which, by the way, if I have to complain about anything, Hallmark includes a dessert recipe at the end of their books, and I think they made a serious mistake by including a recipe for Lemon Elderflower Mini Bundt Cakes instead of chocolate cake!
Overall, if you’re looking for a closed-door rom-com with lots of yummy desserts, playful dates, and a discussion of what women should look for in a partner, you’ll like this book!