Beautifully Unexpected

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Beautifully Unexpected is typical Lily Morton – and I mean that in a good way.  It’s well-written, warm, funny and sexy, boasting two intensely likeable leads with terrific chemistry, plenty of her trademark snark – and a real punch in the feels towards the end.

Magnus Carlsen QC is one of the most successful barristers in the country – and is well aware of that fact; modesty isn’t one of his defining qualities.  He’s the sort of man who commands attention whether he’s in a courtroom or a dining room; he’s attractive, intelligent and supremely confident, likes his life ‘just so’, his men young and the sex casual.

The book opens as Magnus is going through his morning routine – pleased to discover that last night’s bed partner has had the good manners to take himself off – and answers the door only to discover said bedmate clearly hadn’t got the message that the night before was a one off.  Worse, he’s standing naked on the doorstep insisting they’re in a relationship, wearing only a blue bow tied around his tackle.  As Magnus irritatedly attempts to put him straight, he notices a man getting out of the lift pulling a suitcase and watches as he stops outside the apartment opposite and seems to be looking for his keys.  Magnus doesn’t recognise the man, but he certainly seems to be quietly amused by the drama unfolding on Magnus’ doorstep.  The beribboned twink flounces off just as the other man manages to unlock his door and with a Parthian shot worthy of Magnus himself, goes inside.

Following a morning in court – and having chalked up another win – Magnus is at lunch with a colleague when he sees his new neighbour at another table, and goes over to introduce himself properly.  He’s surprised when the man tells him he’s having dinner with Judge Bannister– the very Judge whose courtroom Magnus had been in that morning – and Magnus commiserates with him over having lunch with such a frightful bore.  And then falls – metaphorically – flat on his face when the man tells him the judge is his stepfather.  Oops.

Renowned artist Laurie Gentry is around the same age as Magnus (he’s forty-eight to Magnus’ fifty-two), but that’s about the only thing they seem to have in common.  Laurie is creative, messy, witty, irreverent, something of a free spirit and just a little bit mysterious – and he’s absolutely not Magnus’ type.

And yet.

Well, it’s a romance novel, so we know where it’s going, but the getting there is a lot of fun!  I enjoyed reading these two characters who believe themselves to be completely set in their ways circling each other, working out that maybe a no-strings fling is in order, and then falling hard for each other, no matter that that’s not what they intended at all.  I loved how Laurie is completely up to Mags’ (he insists on calling him Mags) weight and won’t let him get away with any crap; he knows how to burst his bubble when he’s being a bit too arrogant and he’s overflowing with the sort of warmth and laughter Mags’ somewhat sterile life and environment has long been missing.  Watching Mags open up and let him in was just lovely; but what really shines through is the way these two come to truly know, understand and care for one another, and how they take care of one another, working out what the other needs and providing it. Their romance unfolds at a perfect pace; it’s tender and funny and sexy, and the depth of their affection for each other is palpable. These two really do bring out the best in each other as they come to realise how much better life can be when you have someone to share it with.

The one incongruous note in the book is the dog.  Laurie decides Mags should get a dog (“You don’t have to have a good personality for a dog to love you. Just a pulse.”) and for some strange reason Mags, a man who values order and tidiness, lives in a beautiful apartment with, no doubt, expensive furniture and fittings, chooses a dog who will almost certainly chew all of it to bits.  For one thing, I was surprised that an exclusive apartment block would actually allow animals, and for another, his decision was so completely out of character that it threw me out of the story.  If it was supposed to show me that Mags was unbending due to Laurie’s influence – it didn’t.  It just felt off.

And my other niggle is the overuse of the phrase “Ack!” by Magnus.  Maybe a Danish thing (Magnus is Danish but has lived most of his life in the UK), but it appears a lot and I found it rather irritating.

The fact that Magnus and Laurie are in mid-life kind of permeates the book insofar as these are men who’ve been around the block a few times, have plenty of life experience under their belts and know who they are, and that confidence and knowledge is present on the page.  That’s not to say things are smooth sailing; there is clearly something worrying Laurie, while Magnus is struggling to reconcile his previously uncomplicated existence with his emerging feelings – and I really appreciated that by the time we reach the end, they’re essentially the same men they always were – they’re just better together than they were apart.

The deadpan humour is spot on, the steam factor is just right and the moments of poignancy are superbly judged – I don’t think I’ve ever teared up reading a Lily Morton book before, but this one had me sniffling.  Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed Beautifully Unexpected very much and definitely recommend it to fans of the author’s or anyone looking for a heartfelt, superbly developed romance between a mature couple.

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Reviewed by Caz Owens

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date: 27/06/21

Publication Date: 06/2021

Recent Comments …

  1. excellent book: interesting, funny dialogs, deep understanding of each character, interesting secondary characters, and also sexy.

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Carrie G
Carrie G
Member
07/03/2021 7:27 pm

I finished this yesterday and loved it. Since I am definitely a dog person, that part of the story made me laugh more than anything. I do think it was a little surprising that Magnus got the dog, but I actually think it works really well for the story as a whole. Endof was a trial run at living in the moment for Mags. He had to throw out his rigid playbook and go with the flow, and that prepares him for his feelings for Laurie.

I noted a lot of reviews commented on the “Ack” phrase, but it didn’t feel out of place. It was a reminder that Mags wasn’t British. And I totally agree with you about how Laurie and Mags “got” each other and seems to fall into caring for, and actually taking care of, each other. Beautiful romance and nice, emotional read.

Maria Rose
Maria Rose
Guest
06/28/2021 8:50 pm

I haven’t read this author before but this sounds great so one-click!

Lisa Fernandes
Lisa Fernandes
Guest
06/28/2021 2:58 pm

I definitely need to read this soon!

DiscoDollyDeb
DiscoDollyDeb
Guest
06/27/2021 1:35 pm

I know it’s a small thing, but are we down with one person imposing their will on the other in something as significant as pet ownership, especially when that person has made it clear they’re not a pet person? That insistent “I know what’s best for you” would really turn me off. I was a dog mom for 30 years and, while pet ownership doesn’t require the same level of love, commitment, and responsibility as raising children, it certainly takes something more than just having a pulse!

WendyF
WendyF
Guest
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 2:43 pm

Yes, I agree with that. I also felt that it wasn’t really in character for Laurie to suggest it – he hardly knew Mags at the time.

Manjari
Manjari
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 4:10 pm

Mags did have a dog when he was a boy so it wasn’t that he didn’t like them. I felt it was a strange thing for Laurie to suggest at that stage in their relationship and especially knowing how much time Mags spent at work.

WendyF
WendyF
Guest
06/27/2021 1:12 pm

I enjoyed reading this for all the usual Lily Morton reasons – and I teared up too, but that’s not unusual for me!

The opening scene was hilarious and I loved the story when it got going, but I found some of the getting-to-know-yous/my mum knew your grandmas a bit laboured.

The ‘Ack’s didn’t bother me but I agree that the dog stuff didn’t feel right to me either, Caz.

Anyway, IMO this is a lovely romantic read with lots of humour but it doesn’t make it onto my list of Lily Morton favourites!

Next up: the two related short stories that she’s sent out on her newsletter today………..

Manjari
Manjari
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 4:12 pm

I agree that was beautiful and also Laurie’s letter to Mags

Manjari
Manjari
Reply to  WendyF
06/27/2021 4:12 pm

I liked the two short stories, especially Three Tries. I wish Visiting Hours had been part of the book (and maybe that whole part of their story more expanded).

Manjari
Manjari
06/27/2021 12:49 pm

Lily Morton is an auto-buy author for me and I read this book as soon as I got it last night. First of all, kudos to Ms. Morton for writing about protagonists that are a good 20 years older than the majority of the heroes of her previous books. It meant that Mags and Laurie had many years to develop their core personalities and and I didn’t feel that that core changed for either of them by the end of the book, which was nice to see. Mags was a forceful character and I loved how Laurie stood up to him. Their banter was witty and entertaining and I enjoyed watching the development of their relationship.

That being said, there were things I didn’t care for with this book. Like Caz, Mags’ frequent use of the word “Ack” bothered me. I know it must be some frequently used word in Danish but it unfortunately kept reminding me of the character Bill the Cat from the political cartoon Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed (trust me, this is a most unsexy comparison). I’m also not a pet person. I won’t seek out romances where pets play a large role, although I typically don’t mind if the characters have pets. In this book, I didn’t understand why Mags agreed to get a dog. I didn’t feel he and Laurie were far enough in their relationship that he would (even unconsciously) do it for Laurie and I didn’t feel Mags had a lifestyle where he could care for a dog properly. To me, the dog seemed just a way to inject comedy into the book. I also guessed Laurie’s secret about 45% of the way through the book so that seemed a little predictable.

So, overall, I liked the book but I didn’t love it. I would give it a B. I liked her last release (The Quiet House) better and really, really loved the release before that (Merry Measure) so she will continue to be an auto-buy author for me but I doubt I will re-read Beautifully Unexpected as much as several of her other books.

Carrie G
Carrie G
Member
06/27/2021 11:00 am

I’m downloading this as I type. I didn’t read your entire review,I stopped at “It’s typical Lily Morton.” I’ll read the rest later. She’s one I read and reread when I need happy and sweet with some snark and emotion on the side. I’m so glad this is “typical.” :-)

Carrie G
Carrie G
Member
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 11:21 am

Yes, exactly. Her books can start feeling like fantasies sort of if you read them in a rush. But for sweet, snarky, and emotionally satisfying reads, she’s extremely consistent. Because they are on KU, I’ve mostly read them. But I’m slowly going back through and listening to them if I have a chance because, well, Joel Leslie!

WendyF
WendyF
Guest
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 2:47 pm

I still really, really covert Misha’s flat from Charlie Sunshine! (Converted warehouse on Butler’s Wharf)

Last edited 2 years ago by WendyF
Manjari
Manjari
Reply to  Caz Owens
06/27/2021 4:19 pm

I like that for the most part, all of her main characters are employed. However, I think it is often that 1/2 of the couple is pretty well to do but the other has a more regular job (assistant/office worker, librarian, nurse, teacher).

Edna
Edna
Guest
Reply to  Carrie G
06/28/2021 12:29 am

She’s one I read and reread when I need happy and sweet with some snark and emotion on the side.

100%! I feel like today is Christmas because I didn’t know LM had a new book out. Oh happy day!!

edna
edna
Guest
Reply to  Edna
07/16/2021 2:51 am

I finished this over a week ago and have been sitting on my thoughts. I really like that MCs are older than the typical mid-twenties to mid-thirties protagonists. I deeply, deeply wish there were more books with over 40s MCs.

The one thing I just couldn’t swallow—and maybe it’s an unwritten romance novel rule that I don’t know about—was that they both were “one night is all I do with a guy” guys. Neither one of them had had a long-term relationship. Really? Early fifties and late forties and not a long-term relationship in sight? I don’t understand why. They are both men of mature years. Why couldn’t they have had one, or even two, long relationships under their belts? The endings of those could have been explained away in any number of ways that would not take away from the believability of their HEA.

I didn’t mind the dog, and I can’t tell what my reaction to “Ack” would have been had I not known it existed. And I think I must have a heart of stone because I was not even close to moved by the Epilogue.

I felt like this book was missing LM’s special sauce and fell a bit flat for me. I think I’d give it a B-. Of course, though, I’ll be reaching for her next one!

(One weird thing: for some reason, I imagined Martin Clunes’s face—from his Doc Martin days with that haircut—as Magnus’s….)

WendyF
WendyF
Guest
Reply to  edna
07/16/2021 6:10 am

I know what you mean about the flatness. For me, I think that came from following so soon after After Felix, Merry Measure and Playground Games which are three of my favourites of her books.

I’m not sure that I could have got through it if I’d been imagining Martin Clunes as Magnus – what a turn-off!!

edna
edna
Guest
Reply to  WendyF
07/16/2021 10:45 pm

Heh…yeah, besides not hitting the right notes, the Clunes thing makes this one a definite no repeat reading for me.

Carrie G
Carrie G
Member
Reply to  Caz Owens
07/17/2021 12:31 pm

I loved the book. In fact, I was surprised just how much I enjoyed the older protagonists. They felt so believable. I loved the dog, and felt Mags’ acceptance and his ability to make accommodations for Endof was what made his changes for Laurie believable for me. Endof was like a stepping stone in Mags’ character development that made the changes seem real. Lovely story.

edna
edna
Guest
Reply to  Caz Owens
07/17/2021 12:33 pm

Ahaha! I would have preferred Mikkelsen, no doubt! The funny thing is I never have images of famous people in my head when I’m reading, so that just made the whole experience even more random. It was distracting!

With the late forties/early fifties thing, that’s clearly my own blind spot. While I know plenty of singles in that age category, all of them have had at least one long-term relationship. Maybe I’ll read the book again at some point and check my blind spot (and Martin Clunes) at the door.