Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Christina Hovland’s Rachel, Out of Office is a story that feels like a part of a woman’s soul. As women have taken on more of the work sphere, they’ve also taken on the anxieties of “having it all:” family, work, romance, etc. In this book that reads as more women’s fiction than romance, Hovland challenges readers to consider the idea of having it all along with living a perfectionistic life. She writes in her acknowledgments how much of her heroine’s life is hers. I think more importantly it’s a collective female “ours,” as Rachel, her heroine, navigates an ex-husband, single motherhood, owning a business, and a potential love interest. Over and over again, Hovland shows us that it isn’t living if we’re too worried about failing and not “being enough.”
For me, that message is the profundity of Hovland’s book. Rachel’s characterization is a difficult one to read because you see her “crazy-making” throughout the progression of the story, and you want to yell at her, as she acts as a doormat to her ex-husband, her clients, and her former mother-in-law. But the reality is she’s anyone of us who has strived to take more or be more in life. There is that great saying from Einstein: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different outcome,” and you see this played out in Hovland’s story as an admonishment for her readers. Rachel is your prototypical heroine in a book about women’s issues: she’s independent, stalwart, and strong. She takes on the complications of her life with a stiff backbone. You can’t help but be impressed with her, but you also become frustrated at her stubbornness, her unwillingness to be flexible even when it is to her advantage. It is in that place, however, where you can’t help but commiserate with her. Hovland has crafted a heroine who looks, acts, and sounds like many of us, and we easily find ourselves in her book.
Now, it’s the romance of this story that brings about Rachel’s changes. Travis, Hovland’s hero, is set up as a bit of “hate-to-love” even though the disdain is manufactured. As Travis and Rachel recognize their interest in each other, Rachel finds support that doesn’t exist fully from her baby daddy. You can’t help but fall for Travis as he is the first person to totally see Rachel and accept her as she is. Hovland gives him this intuition about Rachel that makes you fall for him as he seeks to make her life easier.
Overall, Christina Hovland’s Rachel, Out of Office is a story about finding a better version of yourself, one that isn’t so perfect or “everything.” It’s about letting people into your life to help you even if it isn’t handled by you. This book is a perfect reminder that women CAN have it all, but they can allow people into their lives to make a life of “all” more abundant.
In love and romance,