Review: Georgie, All Along – Kate Clayborn

Review: Georgie, All Along – Kate ClaybornGeorgie, All Along
by Kate Clayborn
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Genres: Romance
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The acclaimed author of Love Lettering weaves a wise and witty new novel that echoes with timely questions about love, career, reconciling with the past, and finding your path while knowing your true worth.

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .

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5 stars icon contemporary icon m/f romance icon

This book contains two of my most favorite things, pit bulls and giant metal animals, so of course I love it. And sure, part of that is me being silly, but it’s also a (highly inadequate) explanation of what I love most about Kate Clayborn’s: how real the characters feel. I want to go over and hang out on the dock with Georgie and Levi while Hank snoozes under a giant metal rooster, and it almost feels like I could. The author treats them like real people, too! There’s just so much heart and understanding in how the characters and their pasts are handled. And on top of that, she takes the “returning to your small hometown” and “grumpy/sunshine” tropes and turns them into something completely different – and better.

After her celebrity client abruptly decides to retire, Georgie hesitates to take another PA job. Now that she’s no longer taking care of her client’s every whim, she’s forced to face the fact that she doesn’t know what she wants to do next with her life. So Georgie decides to do the next best thing – help out her BFF who’s just moved back to their hometown and who’s about to have a baby. The discovery of old middle school journey about all the fun things they’d do together in high school leads Georgie to take on a challenge. If she completes a bunch of those long unfulfilled dreams, will she be able to get back in touch with the Georgie who had plans for her future?

“I put you both in an awkward situation, didn’t I?”
He doesn’t know the half of it. I’ve seen his daughter in a state of undress, and my dog’s worn a pair of her underpants.”

While Georgie’s parents are out of town, they tell her to stay at their house. Unfortunately, they’ve also told one of their friends, Levi, to stay there while his house is having some necessary repairs done. Now Georgie, Levi and one farting pit bull (Hank) are stuck together sharing the same house. And while Levi seems gruff and unfriendly on the surface, Georgie soon realizes he’s actually quite kind, if a bit unused to making friends. And it’s hard to deny they’re both attracted to each other. But with both of their pasts invading their present, do they have any hope for a future?

While Georgie is spending all her time trying to relive her past in order to find her future, Levi’s stuck living in the past. He knows his reputation around town is well-deserve. He sees no reason to fight it, preferring to just keep his head down. His life consists of his work building docks and his dog, Hank. He started helping out building docks and when the owner retired, bought the company. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never thought a lot about docks before, but Levi’s love for them and being on the water in general was shown so well that it was never uninteresting. While Georgie’s parents were loving and accepting of her unconditionally, Levi’s family, especially his father, expected something different – leading to his eventual estrangement from his family, including his younger brother and sister. And contrary to most romance novels, he hasn’t attempted to make his own found family – well, except for Hank that is. He is the grumpy hero through and through.

“First of all, the last thing I need is some sort of romance when I’m supposed to be focusing on myself and figuring out what I want. Second of all, in a Hallmark movie, no one ever has a hot affair. They open up a bakery and then get married six months later, and to me that sounds like the worst.”

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on. Naturally this is the romance so there’s Georgie’s relationship with Levi. But there’s also her relationships with Bel, with her parents, heck, with her whole dang hometown. Not to mention Georgie trying to figure out how past-Georgie because present-Georgie and how she can figure out future-Georgie. Levi’s also navigating a similar mix of relationships, too, most notably with his family. Both Georgie and Levi have to a lot to learn from each of those relationships and how they’re handled. The revelations, such as they are, don’t necessarily come from perfect moments, but rather stem from arguments or a simple conversation.

“That’s always how it is with Levi: what I want, but better.”

There’s a particular moment with Bel and Georgie where Bel is sharing some of her feelings. It’s literally two paragraphs – and short ones at that – but it absolutely wrecked me. While what Bel’s feeling is at best tangentially related to Georgie’s own story, it absolutely shows the whole dynamic between those two, their love for each other, and their history. Then there’s another single line where Levi is talking about some of his actions in the past, and he suddenly connects it to a sort of, well, isn’t that a problem most people face? I think that’s the magic, where these words or feelings are both deeply personal to a character but somehow still resonate with the reader’s own past experiences.

Overall, I already know this will be on my top-ten list of 2023. Is it my favorite Kate Clayborn? I’m not sure, as Love Lettering and Love at First are both astounding, but it’s right there in the running. Overall, highly recommended if you’re the sort of person who hates making five year plans and loves sweet, funny romances.

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