November 2, 2011

Review: To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

I’ve been meaning to read Mansell’s books for a while now. A couple of years ago someone gave me Millie’s Fling as a gift but it got buried under my huge TBR pile so I kind of forgot about it. Then my friend Jade over at Sort of Beautiful wrote a nice review of Miranda’s Big Mistake, and so I decided to finally read one of her books, but instead of reading the one I had or the one with the great review, I got this one because I absolutely hated the premise. Crazy, right? But to my way of thinking, if I like the book with the unappealing plot, then I’ll probably love the rest. I think that my weird logic worked because To the Moon and Back passed the test with flying colors, it wasn't  without flaws, but it was a fantastic read.

Ellie Kendall’s beloved husband, Jamie, died in a car accident almost two years ago. She was left devastated and struggling to figure out how to keep on going without the love of her life. She has managed fairly well in part because she still talks to him, she knows it’s a figment of her imagination and that he’s not really there, but those conversations keep the sorrow at bay.

Her father-in-law is Tony Weston, a famous actor who insists that Ellie moves to his house because the place she’s living at is a dump and he thinks that the change will help her move on, and since he spends most of his time in L.A. he needs someone to take care of his London place. Ellie agrees and this sets in motion a set of events that will forever alter her life.

Zack McLaren is a successful businessman. One day at a restaurant he sees Ellie from a distance and he immediately falls in love with her, but he is resigned to the fact that he won’t see the mystery woman again. The big surprise comes when one of the applicants to be his new assistant turns out to be the girl from the restaurant, and now he finds himself with a bit of a dilemma, if he hires her there’s no way he can pursue her because it would be unethical, but since she doesn’t seem interested in him, and he actually thinks she’s dating Tony, he decides to hire her because he’s afraid to lose her again. And so, poor Zack has his work cut out for him because he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t even seem to notice him.

My description doesn’t do the book justice. There’s a lot going on and different characters whose lives cross paths and end up interwoven in the overall story. And every single one of those stories is interesting and engaging. There’s Ellie dealing with her loss, Tony dealing with the death of his son and finding love in an unexpected place, Zach dealing with being hopelessly in love, Ellie’s neighbor Roo dealing with being the “other woman” and Jamie’s best friend Todd, who was in the car with Jamie the day of the accident, dealing with survivor’s guilt and trying to make amends with Ellie.

The reason I didn’t like the book’s description was because I hate the widow trope, and especially if the dead spouse was incredible and the widow can’t move on. I also hate infidelity, and the secondary character is sleeping with a married man. So I was ready to find all the characters unlikeable. What I got instead was a bunch of amazing people and a touching love story.

Ellie’s story was moving and her relationship with Jamie very touching and bittersweet. The first chapter was heartbreaking and all the conversations between them made me laugh and cry at the same time. To me her deep connection to Jamie didn’t take anything away from her relationship with Zach, first because their relationship develops slowly and they share a great friendship, and also because you can tell that Ellie is gradually learning to let go. By the end of the book I was sure that she loved him just as much as he loved her, and this is very tricky to pull off when using the widow trope.

Zack was my favorite character of the whole book. You know how in romantic comedies the heroine is slightly crazy and does strange thing to get near the hero, and how she always loves him from afar without him noticing? Well in this book the crazy heroine was Zack. The poor guy goes through the most hilarious torture I have ever seen but he never gave up. His almost-obsession wasn’t creepy at all, in fact, it was touching and endearing. His inner dialogue was laugh-out-loud funny and this book is worth reading just for him alone.

I did have some issues with the book, though. I never quite warmed up to Roo, she wasn’t a sympathetic character and I found her immature and obnoxious. Then there’s the recurring theme of love at first sight that got old pretty fast. The book does drag and it felt a bit long, mostly towards the end when I started to feel sorry for Zach and really impatient. But despite all this, I enjoyed the book and I was happy to see a book were I could finally believe and accept the fact that the heroine had two great loves that in no way meant that she loved one more than the other. This was a fantastic story about second chances and overcoming adversity, about finding love again and appreciating life, about friendship, making mistakes and finding forgiveness.

If you like romantic comedy and drama, then this one is for you because it’s perfectly well-balanced. It’s not a tearjerker but you will shed a tear or two, and you will definitely laugh. It has a feel-good happy ending and one of the funniest and dreamiest heroes I have read all year. I’m so happy I got this story and I can’t wait to read more of her books, luckily I already have two waiting to be read!

Review by Brie
Grade: 4
Sensuality: McDreamy
Purchase: Amazon


When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company...   

Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can’t stop thinking about won’t give him a second glance. If only she’d pay him the same attention she lavishes on his dog. 

Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbor Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...

Soucebooks Landmark; September 1, 2011.


  1. Aww, this sounds like it's going to be a lovely read :)

  2. Hi Alexa!

    This was a lovely read, very touching and funny. The hero was amazing and sweet, I fell in love with him!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. that sounds really great. i probably would have had the same reaction to the blurb. i actually have the same two books that you do on my nook but haven't gotten around to them. you've convinced me to give them & this one a go. thanks, brie! ~dixie

  4. Hi Dixie!

    Saw your comment yesterday and totally forgot to answer it. Sorry about that!

    Once you’re done we should compare notes. If you like Kristan Higgins you should love this author, her books are longer and, as far as I know, narrated in third person with multiple POV, but they are funny and full of heart. I really liked this book, and I can’t say enough good things about the hero.

  5. Interesting. I haven't read many romance by English authors and publishers, but I always found they had a different vibes. Not sure if it's the setting or the writing...

    Thanks for the review Brie! Will keep this one in mind :)

  6. Yes! You’re absolutely right, books by British authors do have a different feel. The setting is different (obviously), the tone and narration is also distinct, not so much because of some of the words are different but because of the pacing and how they describe things. The characters also behave and act different. Overall yes, it’s subtle but it’s there, maybe if I read the book without knowing where the author’s from I wouldn’t notice, but the differences are there and I’ve noticed this with contemporary romance, chick-lit, category romance and even m/m romance….

  7. I think you put the finger on it. It's the pacing. The setting, that's not a surprise, but then again, Harlequins often have different settings so that's not it. I guess it's what they're looking for...

  8. Oh Brie!! I'm still not convinced. It sounds like sooo much going on!! What to do...what to do...

  9. @nath: It’s definitely something about the narration because I’ve read other British authors like Sarah Morgan and Liz Fielding (I think Fielding is British, but I could be wrong) and even Sophie Kinsella, and they all have something in common, it’s a mix between the pacing and maybe their voices?! Is not that they write the same thing but reading their books make me feel like I’m taking a vacation or something, can’t really describe it. And it isn’t the genre either, because this happened with m/m books as well, so that’s not it…

    Anyway, I do love British authors!

    @Alexis: What about the library?! ;-D Don’t buy the book if you’re not sure, especially this book since it’s a bit more expensive than your average paperback.


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.