I am so excited about this review because this book was a bit lighter than some of the previous reading I’ve done this summer. She Regrets Nothing is Andrea Dunlop’s second novel, and now I’m hoping to pick up a copy of her first soon. Her writing is captivating and fun and kept me turning pages so quickly. Usually I’m a slow reader, I like to absorb a story slowly, really enjoy the words, but this book kept me guessing I wanted so badly to know where the story was headed, that I blew through 20 or 40 pages during my morning reading session and 60 or 80 pages during my after work reading session.
I was seeing this book all over the Bookstagram corner of Instagram in February and March, but I was still on a book-buying freeze. Then, however, Alyssa of @sweptawaybybooks announced that she was giving away a signed copy of the novel. I entered, thinking I probably wouldn’t win and moved on. Then I got a DM that I’d won! Two days before I left for my DC summer, the book arrived at my home, signed with a little note from Dunlop. I had already purchased some other summer books, so decided to get through them first (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) before starting this one. Once I picked this novel up, I couldn’t put it down.
If you’re wondering what it’s about, the synopsis is as follows:
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.
Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.
In my words, it’s about a Laila Lawrence, a twenty-three year old who will do just about anything for security, belonging, and comfort. She strikes me as a more mature Jenny Humphrey (in season one of Gossip Girl, not the seasons when she lost it). Once the full cast of characters was introduced, I had so much fun with the story. I kept waiting to see who could be trusted, who was merely there to serve plot, and who was there to stand in for a stereotype. Though I really didn’t like Laila, she’s pretty cold-hearted, I found myself wanting her to redeem herself with her family and have some semblance of home. My favorite character, the one I found to be the most genuine, was Liberty, Laila’s older, literary agent cousin. Some characters made me roll my eyes and others made me want to yell “get over yourself!” but overall, the group was a fun one to follow.
Ultimately this is a story of ambition, sex, and upper-class wealth in New York City. While a lot of people are, for good reason, comparing this book to Gossip Girl, I was getting major Revenge vibes while reading. Laila has a card to play, but she soon realizes the table at which she’s playing is a bit big for her, a bit out of reach, and just slightly too secluded for her to really find her footing on her chair. She orchestrates her life around the fact that she knows a secret and wants to get to the bottom of why she was denied a life she thinks she should have had. In that way, it reminded me of Revenge.
This book is the perfect combination of light and fun while also discussing some really real issues. For example, the book discusses, in pretty good detail, the double standards for men and women and the age gap in relationships and who should hold what role. I liked Cameron and Liberty’s relationship because it felt so much like how this would actually go (up to a point). Liberty’s ambition and drive is what draws Cameron in, but later is what he expects her to tone down so as to not outshine him. This, and so many other moments, highlight that regardless of class the role women are expected to play is often one of the ambitious but willing-to-comprise woman.
This read was so much fun in that it felt like Gossip Girl for grown-ups with a heavy dose of Revenge. I kept wanting to find out people’s motivations and who, ultimately, was keeping the largest secret. I will say, some people had massive issues with the Act Three twist in this novel. While I was kind of like, “hmm seems random,” I didn’t feel it was completely out of left field. Given the already high stakes in the book, it seemed to fit. However, I will say the last few chapters kind of felt a bit disconnected as they shifted focus. I’d been concerned about Laila and her story for most the book, and suddenly I found myself hearing from one of the, previously seeming, lesser characters. I would have liked to experience the ending through Laila, but I understand why the last few chapters focused on a different character. Still, despite this twist, I loved the read and would recommend it!