Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve's heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.
So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she's an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience.
What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?
Somewhere between losing weight and losing her inhibitions, Neve’s lost her heart – but to who?
I really, really love Sarra Manning. I've only recently started reading her books, but every book of hers that I have read, I've loved. And You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is no exception. I knew that I was in for a treat when I read the product description - how dodgy is that premise? Losing weight in order to win a guy? Test-driving another guy until the guy you really want comes back? By that description, it sounds as though the main character, Neve, won't be likeable at all, and instead I was rooting for her all the way through. I think the concept of body image is something that a lot of us women struggle with, so I could relate to Neve's insecurities.
Neve used to be extremely overweight, but through years of hard exercise and a strict diet, she's dropped a shed-load of pounds but she's still conscious of her body shape and the way she looks. She's desperate for her long-term crush, William to fall in love with her when he returns after a three year absence to LA and she hopes to surprise him with her brand new body. But in order to gain some dating experience before William returns (so she doesn't mess things up with HIM), Neve believes her best choice is to start dating her sister Celia's colleage and womanizer, Max.
Early on in You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, Neve and Max share an absolutely humilating sexual experience, but it in turn led Neve to be really open with Max and share with him some of her fears and concerns about how she can maintain a healthy relationship with another person. I am glad that Neve and Max are open about their pretend-relationship right from the start, and I found them to be utterly adorable together. Despite Max's initial persona as a womanizing cad, he is actually quite lovely. He seems to really care about Neve and try to steer her towards having a better and more positive body-image.
Neve's transformation throughout the entire novel was really wonderful, if at times a little extreme. Her fixation on her diet and dress size leads her down a dangerous path, but it seemed believeable to the reader, if a little infuriating. I really wanted to shake some sense into Neve. Also, within her personal career, I thought the information about Neve's book about an unknown author to be utterly fascinating! I loved all of the secondary characters, from Neve's sister Celia to the WAGs to Neve's horrid sister-in-law! It also put a big smile on my face to see some reoccuring characters from Sarra Manning's previous adult novel, Unsticky.
All in all a truly wonderful reading experience. Despite being over 500 pages, I flew through this one. I hated the idea of putting it down! I will always eagerly anticipate Sarra Manning's new books. I love her and her books.