The Theory of Happily Ever After (2018) by Kristin Billerbeck is a standalone Contemporary Christian Romance. This book comes in all forms including eBook, and is 288 pages in length. With a full-time job and a very busy six-year old at home, this novel took me two days to read. I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from Revell Publishing via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my opinion of the story. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give The Theory of Happily Ever After 3.5 STARS.
About the Book
According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious science, as serious as Maggie takes herself. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies–for instance, why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge.
Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.
Filled with memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, Kristin Billerbeck’s The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile–because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.
I am a bit torn with this book. On the one hand, I really love the concept — a happiness MD who is miserable. I mean, that screams hilarity. And, I absolutely love Maggie, the main character. I think she behaves EXACTLY like a person in her position would behave. She endeared herself to me almost immediately. I have been where Maggie is emotionally, so I completely get the sense of loss and exhaustion and depression that she experiences throughout this book. I get that desire to want to do something for yourself instead of doing what is expected of you. BUT, I do not like Maggie’s “best friend”, Haley, and Maggie’s mother. I actually had to put the book down to get away from those characters a couple of times. I also struggled some with the first-person narration. To me, it felt like Maggie is unreliable at times, and I don’t know if that was done on purpose or not.
What I LOVED…
- Sam Wellington is FANTASTIC. I would read any book with him in it. He is an excellent hero!!! He is swoon worthy to say the least.
- Maggie and how she deals with all the bad that is thrown at her. She is very realistic and funny and self-deprecating. If she were real, I would be her friend.
- The singles-cruise setting is fabulous. I found this premise refreshing, unique, and funny!
- The Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) costume scene is the BEST scene ever! I laughed so hard.
- The first KISS!!! I didn’t see it coming, but loved it so much when I realized it was going to happen. Again, I love Sam Wellington.
- The quotes from Maggie’s book that begin each chapter are excellent! I feel like I got to read two books in one.
Best Friend and Mother
- I am spoiled. One of the greatest humans on this earth just so happens to be my best friend. Lara is more than a friend to me. She is like my mother, my sister, and my best friend all rolled into one. She knows everything about me, but never uses that against me. She helped me through my first years of teaching, was with me the night I met the man who would be my husband, was at my wedding, got me through one of my lowest periods of life ever, and was the realtor when I bought my first home. I literally trust this lady with my life! She has been with me through highs and lows. She has listened patiently as I cried my guts out in front of her, and has always responded with the sagest of advice. I love Lara very much, and I thank God for blessing me with such a phenomenal friend.
- I’m telling you about my best friend so you know that I know what a best friend looks like. Haley is NOT a best friend. Haley is self-centered and selfish.
- Haley is supposed to be Maggie’s best friend, but she treats Maggie terribly. She is judgmental at almost every turn. I think, as the reader, I was supposed to get that Haley was speaking “truth” to Maggie, but it never came off that way to me. Several times, my feelings were hurt for Maggie because of the things Haley says. Not once did I actually get the vibe that Haley legitimately cared for Maggie. She never spoke to her respectfully. She never treated Maggie as anything other than a nuisance. Maggie had her whole life turned upside down and was reeling terribly. Instead of being a true friend and helping Maggie through everything, Haley seems to get irritated and offended. It didn’t make me feel like Haley was truly there for her BFF.
- Maggie’s mother is completely wretched. There is one phone call in particular that made me so mad, I wanted to throw my book across the room. If I had been reading a paperback copy of this book I would have! I get that in real life there are mean moms. I have a lot of experience with meanness in this area. So, as far as reality goes, the author completely captured a true-to-life mean mom. But for what purpose? All it did in this book was make me dislike Maggie’s mom intensely. It didn’t make me feel like, “Yes! Now the main character will pick herself up by her boot straps, stand up to her mother and her meanness, and make excellent life changes to prove her mother wrong!” Nope. It just made me hurt. And, it just devastated and embarrassed the main character.
First-Person Narration > Unreliable Narrator
- I am not a reader who has a problem with first-person narration. I prefer novels that allow me to see both the Heroine and Hero’s sides of things, but I don’t hate first-person. I’m not a fan of the first-person narration in this book though.
- The actions of Sam, and the words that came out of Haley’s mouth, many times contradict with what Maggie relays to the reader. I’m not sure if this contradiction was intended by the author or not. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to see Maggie as so emotionally fried she kept misinterpreting things, or if she is just too much a left-brained character that she can’t interpret people correctly. Maybe it’s a little of both? Also, she would put words into other characters’ mouths, but the actions of the other characters completely contradict what Maggie says. The use of first-person narration in this story made me feel like I couldn’t trust what Maggie said at times, and some of her reactions appear outlandish.
Overall, The Theory of Happily Ever After is an enjoyable book, it just had two aspects that I struggled with. I do recommend this novel. It’s engaging and fast-paced, and there are some really hilarious moments that had me laughing out loud. And, I could relate to a lot of what Maggie goes through and how she deals with it. If you are looking for a contemporary novel that’s quick, easy-to-read, and hilarious at times, check out The Theory of Happily Ever After.