Last summer, I read and loved Libby Hubscher‘s debut novel, Meet Me in Paradise. It was at once a story of romantic love and familial love, a novel that balanced laugh-out-loud hilarity and heart-wrenching drama. Libby Hubscher’s second novel, If You Ask Me, offers a similar blend of humor, drama, and romance. It’s out now and is absolutely a book you’ll want to read.
Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
If You Ask Me takes us to North Carolina, where Violet Covington writes an advice column called Dear Sweetie. She finds out that her column is up for syndication, so she leaves work early, excited to share the great news with her husband, Sam. Except instead of surprising him with her career news, she’s shocked to discover Sam in bed with another woman. This sets off a painful separation, and Violet processes the end of her 12-year marriage as well as can be expected: with anger, embarrassment, too much alcohol, and some vaguely illegal pyrotechnics. Throw in some overdue confrontations, unexpected drama with her column, and a possible rebound relationship with a firefighter named Dez, and Violet is in over her head for a few months as she untangles messes and works on self-love.
I’ve mostly seen If You Ask Me marketed as a romance. However, like Libby Hubscher’s previous book, I will warn anyone looking for a quick, cute romance that this might not be the right fit. While it does indeed offer a sweet love story, If You Ask Me is also infused with drama. It might be better described as contemporary fiction or women’s fiction (though both are rather vague terms that don’t do this book justice, either). The novel deals with themes of infidelity, infertility, and alcoholism, and Violet’s journey through grief and personal growth takes center stage. The romance is present – and instrumental to the story – though it is secondary.
Violet is a real and relatable character. She’s intelligent, ambitious, and determined. However, she also has her insecurities and allows people to walk all over her. Upon learning that her marriage is over, she (understandably) becomes a bit reckless and self-destructive. She hides her shame and misery with on-point makeup and too many drinks. Though she normally tucks away her true opinions and covers up her vulnerable side, she’s now expressing herself in direct and chaotic ways: some light arson, a little fender bender, and some public declarations that she actually meant to keep private.
As she spirals downward, Violet’s actions are equally inspiring (yass! get back at your evil mother-in-law!) and pitiful (no! please don’t embarrass yourself or hurt yourself!). By the halfway point, Violet has gotten herself into some big messes, burned some important bridges, and reached a point where it’s time for her get on a better path. The latter half of If You Ask Me shows her working on loving herself and taking care of herself.
On the one hand, I love the support group she has with her friends and her mother. Violet isn’t alone, and people like Kyra and her mom keep Violet grounded and supported, even as her life turns upside down. In both cases, Violet learns to not take them for granted and to place greater trust in them.
On the other hand, a new man in her life is gently guiding Violet forward, too. Dez is a perfect hero… maybe too perfect. From their first meeting, he’s consistently thoughtful, understanding, and generous. He listens to Violet and encourages her to be open and honest. He’s remarkably kind and supportive. Dez may feel a bit unrealistic or one-dimensional – surely no one is that perfect?! However, he says himself that he’s a man of multitudes. Whatever his bad sides are, we don’t see much of them here. If this book were more firmly in the romance category, there might have been room for dual POVs; this may have helped Dez feel more authentic and multifaceted. Alas, the format of If You Ask Me is more focused on Violet’s journey, so Dez is forced to be on his best behavior at all times. I can overlook it here; he is truly a wholesome hero.
In addition to the main story, I also love the inclusion of some Dear Sweetie questions and answers. They’re fun to read, to be sure, but they also provide extra insight into Violet’s state of mind at the time of her writing. They were a great addition to the novel. (Side note: In the 2019 YA historical fiction novel The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee, the main character also writes an advice column, in her case as Miss Sweetie. If you’re looking for more advice-filled novels, consider that one!)
One final, fun observation: If you read Meet Me in Paradise, you’ll likely smile at the little Easter egg included in If You Ask Me. At one point, Sam and Violet had vacationed in Saba. I wonder if they happened to see Marin or Lucas while they were there? It’s possible!
If You Ask Me starts off with some heartwrenching scenes, but after Violet works through some of her hurt and anger, it grows into a tender story of self-worth, self-care, and self-love. It also offers a beautiful romance with a kindhearted firefighter, a winding career path, and plenty of laughs along the way. This novel features some of everything and is an affecting story that’s sure to touch your heart.
You can buy If You Ask Me here.
Please note that the above link is an Amazon affiliate link and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher|
|Genre||Contemporary Fiction; Romance|
|Setting||North Carolina, USA|
|Number of Pages||368|
|Format I Read||eBook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||March 8, 2022|
When an advice columnist’s picture-perfect life implodes, she opts to go rogue in this hilarious, heartwarming romance from the author of Meet Me in Paradise.
Violet Covington pens Dear Sweetie, the most popular advice column in the state of North Carolina. She has an answer for how to politely handle any difficult situation…until she discovers her husband, Sam, has been cheating on her. Furious and out of sensible solutions, Violet leaves her filter at the door and turns to her column to air her own frustrations. The new, brutally honest Dear Sweetie goes viral, sending more shock waves through Violet’s life. When she burns Sam’s belongings in a front-yard, late-night bonfire, a smoking-hot firefighter named Dez shows up to douse the flames, and an unexpected fling quickly shows potential to become something longer lasting.
A lot of people want to see the old polished Violet return—including her boss, who finds her unpredictability hard to manage, and Sam, who’s begging for another chance. But Dez appreciates Violet just the way she is—in fact, he can’t get enough of her. The right answers don’t come easily when Violet finds herself at her own personal crossroads. But maybe, by getting real, Violet can write her own happy ending.
About the Author
Libby Hubscher is a women’s fiction author and scientist. She studied biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and holds a doctor of philosophy in molecular toxicology from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared online and in textbooks, scientific journals, and literary journals. In 2018, her short story “The Unwelcome Guest” was long-listed for the Wigleaf Top 50. During the week, she is a coffee-fueled value communications writer for an innovative health economics outcomes research boutique. In her free time, she enjoys reading, painting, playing tennis, and watching Mandarin-language dramas. She lives just outside Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, two young children, and a menagerie of pets, including two dogs, two cats who believe they are dogs, two parakeets, and a bearded dragon named Bubbles. You can find her on Twitter @emhubscher and on Instagram @libbyhubscher.
Her debut novel MEET ME IN PARADISE, is forthcoming from Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in March 2021. She is represented by the amazing Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich and Bourret Literary Management. For publicity inquiries, please contact Brittanie Black: firstname.lastname@example.org.