So here’s a confession: Although I bought Josie Silver‘s The Two Lives of Lydia Bird earlier this year – and I’m still excited to read it – for some reason I never felt that interested in getting her first book, One Day in December. I don’t have any great explanation for that, other than my mistaken assumption that it would be too holiday-focused for me to enjoy. (Another confession: I’m not a fan of Hallmark movies and Christmas love stories. Sorry not sorry.)
But this month, when making my Book of the Month choices for December, I needed to select one of the “member fave” books in order to get my box. Of those five options, only One Day in December appealed to me, so I chose it. I’d heard great things about it from other BOTM members, and after all, I already have Josie Silver’s other book, so it made sense.
Then in a wild plot twist, I decided I needed to read it right away, while it was still December and the mood felt right. So in a matter of days, One Day in December leap-frogged from Meh, not interested to Need to read right now! And after this whirlwind arc that was my reading journey, I can affirm that it was all worth it. I loved this book.
One Day in December starts in December 2008. Laurie is on the top of a double-decker bus in London when she sees a man at a bus stop. They lock eyes and it’s love at first sight… but then the bus drives away, separating the two strangers again. For nearly a year, Laurie searches London for her mysterious bus boy, but she doesn’t find him until it’s too late: He’s now dating her best friend, Sarah. While Laurie and Jack have an impossible-to-ignore connection, they keep it under wraps, never revealing a thing to Sarah.
For the next eight years, we follow Laurie, Jack, and Sarah through life’s ups and downs, through changing relationships and marriages and deaths. Will Laurie and Jack ever have a chance to pursue a relationship with each other? Or is it too late for them? This sweeping, decade-spanning novel is equal parts romance and drama, offering a truly slow-burn love story that highlights many kinds of relationships and the varied turning points within them.
In the past couple of years, I’ve found myself reading – and loving – a lot of romances. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic and I love to see those HEAs – happily ever afters! But one of my concerns in getting One Day in December was that it would be too Hallmark-y; I don’t like things to be overly cheesy and obvious, or too holiday-centric. I also worried about it being a drama-riddled love triangle – not a trope I generally enjoy. Luckily, I can report that this book does not fall into either of those traps.
While I don’t exactly believe in love at first site — that’s just attraction, y’all — it didn’t detract from the story in One Day in December. Sure, Laurie and Jack have an instant connection at that bus stop, but the author doesn’t turn it into some unrealistic perfect love. Once they do finally meet, they still need the time to get to know each other – as friends. It’s the friendship they develop over the following years that forms the foundation they’ll need for a romantic relationship… if that ever happens.
I appreciate that Josie Silver didn’t turn this into an ugly love triangle. Laurie and Sarah remain best friends, and though Laurie is keeping some secrets, for the most part they remain good to each other. I’m glad Jack didn’t turn into an insurmountable wedge between them. While drama may lurk in the future, this novel thankfully goes in a different route. Instead of a predictable story of ex-friends fighting over a man, we get something more unique and nuanced.
For most of the book, we don’t get to see Laurie and Jack together. This gives us room to explore different types of relationships – ones that we maybe don’t actually want to work out – and for me that is one of the greatest strengths of One Day in December. We get to see couples as they first fall in love, start dating, and eventually get married. We see how their love can seem perfect, but how maybe they don’t fit in with each other’s families or friends. Likewise, we also get to see how relationships can fall apart over the course of months or years. Instead of cliched cheating, we see what happens when people simply aren’t on the same page about major life decisions, or when personal issues make relationships with others impossible.
Although I spent the whole book wanting Laurie and Jack to finally be together, I admit that the other romantic relationships here were nicely done. Even though I didn’t want those to work out, it still left me in tears when those relationships fell apart. This is largely because they’re not dating and marrying villains; all the characters are likable in their own ways. They’re not bad and they’re not bad to each other (in general). But that doesn’t mean they’re right for each other.
Beyond romantic couples, I also love how we get a close look at lifelong friendships. Laurie and Sarah are BFF goals, even as their lives move apart. They’re not perfect, and they go through an overdue rough patch, but I love that their friendship is able to endure. Though less of a focal point, I also enjoyed seeing Laurie’s relationship with her parents and brother. Events with her dad got me in the feels, reminding me of my own dad’s death several years ago.
One Day in December is set up as snapshots throughout the years. Spanning nearly a decade, it’s impossible to fit everything in, but Josie Silver did a magnificent job of showing us important events along the way. This birthday party one year; wedding dress shopping another year; glimpses of disappointment when a couple is trying to get pregnant. Through these peeks into their lives, whether days, weeks, or months apart, we see how our characters grow professionally and in their relationships with others. Seeing Laurie’s New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of each year also does a wonderful job of seeing where she’s at each January.
Of all the romances I’ve read or watched, One Day in December may be the slowest burn I’ve encountered yet. We really have to be patient as Laurie and Jack ebb and flow closer and farther from each other.
I do wish that the ending didn’t feel so rushed. The last two years of the book went by really fast — like those chapters should have been longer — and when we finally get to the HEA we’ve been waiting for, it’s so short! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful scene and I love how it comes together. But I felt like I needed one more chapter to enjoy it. At least a little epilogue! But I guess a book is doing something right when you want more time with the characters.
In the end, One Day in December brought up a lot of feelings in me. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and I loved the book more than I expected to.
If you’re looking for a romance with depth, one that has a lot of room for characters to grow and change over time, One Day in December is the book for you. Despite its name, you don’t have to confine it to December, so don’t let the time of year deter you. It’s a lovely story that will stay with you, and I imagine it would be great to revisit in years to come.
I’m excited to read Josie Silver’s second novel, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. She also has a third book coming out in 2021, and you know I’ll be adding that to my list as soon as it’s out!
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