book love

book review: The One by Kaneana May

The One by Kaneana MayThe One by Kaneana May (Contemporary Women's Fiction), HarperCollins, $29.99, buy now

On the wrong side of thirty, Bonnie Yates wants a happily ever after. Problem is, she keeps choosing the wrong guys. When an ex returns to town with a fiancee in tow, history and temptation collide. Unable to shake her inappropriate feelings, Bonnie flees, becoming an unlikely contestant on popular dating show The One. Will she find what she's looking for?

Working behind the scenes, Darcy Reed is a driven young producer dealing with a tyrant of a boss. Despite being surrounded by love at work, her own love-life with long-term boyfriend Drew is floundering. Producing a flawless season is her best chance at a promotion. But with the unrelenting demands of the show, how will she save their relationship while making that shot?

Penelope Baker has relocated to a small seaside town to hide away with her secrets and nurse a broken heart. But with The One beaming across the nation's televisions, she can't seem to quite escape the life she left behind...

Before cameras roll on the final ceremony, all three women will discover just what they're willing to do in pursuit of the one...

Why I had to pick it up

There were three reasons why I had to read The One. First, I’m a sucker for the rom-com genre—in books, in movies, in DVD box sets and Netflix binges. This story had me hooked with the book blurb.

Second, the temptation to read a story set behind the scenes of reality television was too good to resist, because I’ve been there (sort of). I’ve seen it: the tricks, the twists, the artful editing. In 2015, my sister was a bride on Channel Nine’s Married At First Sight and I can tell you that the Simone-and-Xavier love story we saw on screen was a carefully put-together puppet show compared to what really happened. The One tantalises with promises to prove the truth of finding love on reality tv, so I was in.

And finally, Kaneana and I share a mutual friend, a woman I’ve adored for fifteen years and who Kaneana has known for even longer. Two degrees of separation later, and I’m cheering on this book (and its author) via our vicarious friendship with as much positive energy as I’d give to my very own childhood bestie.

Why I couldn’t put it down

It delivered on all three points. It’s a contemporary boys-meet-girls romantic story that hits all the notes of genre classics, with enough twists and tangles to keep you turning pages long after you should be asleep. The reality television stuff was spot on (in my opinion), with all the producer nudges and clever cuts intended to create the narratives most likely to get social media buzzing. And Kaneana didn’t let me down; her writing is a pleasure to devour: effortless, natural and engaging.

Why writers will want to read it

I had a few big takeaways, reading The One through the lens of an author. To start, Kaneana nails third person present tense point of view. I don’t find it easy to connect with this style (either as a writer or a reader) so I had to push past some initial discomfort, but it really wasn’t that hard because the measure and pulse of the writing is so well balanced.

Kaneana also masters the art of marrying together three separate plotlines. She connects them at all the right times with all the right scenes, demonstrating how an ensemble cast with parallel storylines can and should be woven together to craft a complete finale-ready picture.

And check out my interview with Kaneana here because, if you’re a writer and a parent, her words of wisdom will give you perspective—and her description of writing The One during nap times and Paw Patrol will give you hope.

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