If I Loved You Less
Author: Tamsen Parker
What I’m Talking About:
As a sucker for Austen adaptations (I still revisit Clueless when the need arises), I had high hopes for If I Loved You Less, a new consideration of Emma by Tamsen Parker. In many ways, I wasn’t disappointed. Filled with incredible scenery, interesting takes on recognizable characters, and an enjoyable ending, this retelling was both familiar and gleefully defiant, and ably holds its own in an already crowded field.
Although I liked If I Loved You Less as a whole, I had some reservations when it came to Theo herself. Whereas Emma’s often wince-worthy meddling is softened by her naïveté and (mostly) genuine goodwill, Theo’s manipulations seem far more self-serving. I also had to remind myself that Theo is twenty-five years old, her behavior and speech leading me to think of her as significantly younger much of the time. Additionally, Theo has outbursts that occasionally border on callousness, appearing once in an unfriendly ultimatum, and other too-frequent, unspoken threats of temper fits if she doesn’t get the answer/outcome she desires.
Despite these concerns, If I Loved You Less still has a lot going for it. The setting itself is sometimes magical, and I was repeatedly distracted by the scenes the author painted, straying for long stretches of time, looking up maps and photos to see if my imagination had done it any justice—it hadn’t. One welcome problem I had was the use of food throughout the book. If I Loved You Less should come with a warning not to read it when hungry. Nearly every formal gathering, casual get together, tête-à-tête, and pause for Theo to think things over involves food. Good food.
While I wasn’t fully won over by Theo, the other characters in If I Loved You Less go a long way towards restoring the balance. Kini, in particular, is absolutely wonderful as the counterpart to Emma’s Mr. Knightly. Though she isn’t Theo’s only source of support and affection, she is the only one who holds her accountable, and, as a result, is the only person who could ever win her heart. All of the other residents of Highbury are represented here, as well, and fans of the original should have no trouble identifying them among the vivid inhabitants of Hanalei Bay.
Another positive thing about If I Loved You Less is that Theo’s sexuality isn’t made into a major source of conflict in the narrative. She refers to herself as “queer,” and, while there are a few passages where her reasons for this are explained, they are brief and refreshingly unapologetic, allowing the full, destructive force of her machinations to shine in all their horrible glory.
Allowing for obvious alterations to accommodate modern sensibilities and the differences in setting, If I Loved You Less is a surprisingly accurate retelling of Emma. Settling somewhere between Clueless and Austen’s classic, it retains the spirit of the source material within a new and relatable framework that I enjoyed. While I couldn’t comfortably excuse the worst of Theo’s actions, I felt plenty swoony over her HEA, and Kini, in particular, will always be a character I’ll remember fondly. Rich in details of “island life,” If I Loved You Less would make a good addition to any Austen fans’ collection.
My Rating: B, Liked It
About the Book:
Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if.
Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.
One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.
However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.
Release Date: September 20, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, f/f
Book Source: Author