Set amongst the quirky residents of the quirkily named small town of Knockemout, Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score works hard to convince of its quirkiness. It’s a town where privacy or personal boundaries dissolve and one unfairly populous with handsome men, some of whom make spectacular coffee. It’s also, rather sweetly, a town where the local library still serves the community.
The plot hits so many familiar romantic comedy tropes it scarcely musters any suspense. It does, however, go a little something like this: our heroine, Naomi, fleeing her abortive wedding and a smarmy fiance, finds herself in crisis, under-caffeinated, and sleep-deprived in Knockemout, North Virginia.
Several residents of the town crash angrily into Naomi’s orbit through the novel’s open chapters, all mistaking her for her felonious ‘evil twin’ sister Tina, a woman who ‘gave her parents migraines’ through the girls’ childhood before breaking off all contact with her family.
Among those with reason to want Tina gone: one Knox Morgan, a blue-eyed ‘Viking’ short on words, charm and gainful employment. On paper, he is of course, the polar opposite of Naomi’s erstwhile fiancé, a controlling, Waspish ‘good guy’ whose contempt for Naomi bleeds through every scene of a bit of exposition he features in. Knox is presented in supposed direct contrast: ‘all man’, quick with his fists and only interested in any woman for a night or two.
We learn he isn’t entirely unfeeling: later chapters narrated from Knox’s point of view reveal his disdain for women who weep or need anything more than ‘a couple orgasms’ from him. Naomi, with her doe-eyed ‘Disney Princess’ looks, her penchant for order, and expansive vocabulary, seems poised to become an exception.
Naomi, an odd amalgam of ‘cool girl’ and clumsy-cute rom-com cliches, makes for an often irritating reader proxy. While, thankfully, she doesn’t lose her footing as often as classic fish-out-water heroines (see anything starring 90s-era Julia Roberts) she does manage to lose her car and all of her money. But, she wears her Lorelei-Gilmore-Cool Credentials like a big, shiny pop culture badge in her obsessive coffee consumption, minus the horrifying dietary habits, the 90s indie music and crucially, the quick-fire wit.
In the midst of her romantic crises, Naomi also has parenthood thrust on her, in the shape of her brisk, capable niece Waylay, a savvy 11-year-old abandoned by her mother Tina for the next man in her life and the next big score. Of all Things We Never Got Over’s ensemble cast, Waylay proves the most compelling and convincing.
Despite pre-teen in tow and robust interference from Knox’s brother and no-nonsense grandmother, the central romance here can’t be anything but a foregone conclusion, a staple of the genre. This comforting familiarity and a sprightly writing style (a few needle-scratch moments notwithstanding, like a jolt of lust described as feeling like ‘hot bacon grease’) renders Things We Never Got Over a passable diversion, if not an all-time classic book.