Book Review: Best Day Ever

BEST DAY EVER | Kaira Rouda
09.19.2017 | Graydon House (Harlequin)
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Paul Strom lives a picture perfect life: a high-profile advertising executive job, a gorgeous wife, two darling boys, a huge house in the best neighborhood suburbia can offer, and a vacation cottage in an exclusive lakeside area. On the outside looking in, any stranger would see a caring, loving, and providing husband in Paul, but something lurks beneath the surface that you can’t quite place your finger on. Is this marriage really what it seems?

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If she already knows the truth, then why isn’t she just coming out and asking me about it, demanding the information? This new, confident Mia certainly seems like she would just blurt it out. This is a surprising development, a stronger Mia. This is not my typical Mia – I know my wife.

BEST DAY EVER outlines the events of a 24-hour time period in which Paul has planned the “best day ever” to show his wife how much he loves and adores her. He has put together a picturesque weekend away at their lakeside cottage, fully equipped with a romantic playlist for the car ride and reservations at the fanciest restaurant the town has to offer. Lately things between Paul and his wife, Mia, have been on edge as Mia has suffered with health ailments that doctors cannot seem to find a cure for. Despite changing her diet to a restrictive organic, vegetarian lifestyle, Mia cannot stop her weight loss and constant illness.

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Rage lurks deep inside me, ready to lash out whenever it’s needed. But for those other, more feminine feelings, I have to fake my expressions. I taught myself how to imitate the look people have when they are feeling sad, for example. The corners of my mouth droop, the eyes fill with water.

Paul narrates this novel as we watch the events of the day unfold. Slowly, the reader is introduced to Paul’s backstory and the secret activities he’s engaging in behind his wife’s back. Paul is the epitome of a narcissistic and unreliable narrator. Never once does Paul take a moment to reflect on his actions except to praise himself for being smart, loving, or some other positive character trait. As time ticks away on the best day ever, Paul is met with the realization that perhaps he has underestimated Mia. She has learned bits and pieces about Paul’s life and reveals them to him as the day goes on. Rouda’s slow-building narration draws the reader to continue flipping through the pages to discover exactly what Paul and Mia have in store for each other.

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We agreed, it seemed, on everything. I am not revising history. I’m not. She dreamed of a husband. Check. Traveling the world. (I told her we would, but we wouldn’t) She dreamed of a home in the suburbs and children. Check. She dreamed of being a working mom. (No way) She dreamed of finding an older, more sophisticated man who could provide for her and teach her the meaning of love. Check.

Parts of Rouda’s novel seem forced, with what seems like an exaggerated narration by Paul at times. While I understood this was all in an attempt to drive the point of Paul’s narcissism home for the reader it became obnoxious and almost redundant at points. The choice to have a male narrator is uncommon for the psychological thriller genre, so I was excited to find Paul telling the tale. I would have rather had the over-the-tops bits of his personality toned down, as I found Paul to be just as creepy and unlikable without them. Overall, I found Rouda to have provided an intriguing, story in which I had a general understanding of what the main character’s motives were early on and how the situation might unravel. Despite the lack of huge plot twists, I was still interested in learning how the day would play out as Rouda slowly built the tension between Paul and Mia. BEST DAY EVER is suitable for a reader looking to give a male narrator a try, but should go in to the novel knowing that this is a slow-building reveal.

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It was as if I was bred with an extrasensory perception of people I can control. Specifically, women I can control. I can smell them, feel them. I know it the minute we bump into each other, the ones I can get. Just as I may be a type, so are they, only they don’t know it.

Thank you to Graydon House (Harlequin), Kaira Rouda, and NetGalley for providing me a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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