For Once In My Life (I bet you sang that, didn’t you?) is the debut novel by editor Marianne Kavanagh that toes the fine line of funny and heartbreaking. At times whimsical, at times downright depressing and frustrating, Kavanagh has created a story about two wonderfully lovely characters that have you cheering for them right until the final page.

Tess and George both live in London and are soul-mates. George is the pianist in a 1940s style jazz band, and Tess is obsessed with war-era vintage clothes. Their friends know they should be together, their interests show they should be together, but the only problem is, Tess and George have never actually met. And when they do, it’s almost too late. Life, love, and settling for second best comes in the way and makes them ask themselves the question: is it better to be comfortable than happy, or should we always continue to hope for our true love?

For Once In My Life is a feel-good book, that at times is frustrating (just meet each other already!), but is always endearing. Though both Tess and George have their flaws, and probably need a good shaking once or twice, they’re both exceedingly lovely and come across as genuinely nice people. As a result, despite the ups and downs on the plot, you always want them to succeed in their quest for love.

However, it does come across that Kavanagh is a first-time novelist. While her writing was fluid, sometimes sentences got a bit lost in translation. For example, she describes her character as ‘standing in the door, like a flower in a frame’. What?! Or there’s a sentence where the character, Ellie, admits that she wouldn’t know where to use a belt  if it weren’t for the loops, yet she becomes an editor at a fashion magazine.  And while I did like the characters, they were all a bit underdeveloped. George’s partner, Stephanie, is almost a caricature of a type A personality, and while I understood that we were meant to dislike her, Kavanagh has gone so overboard that I became to question what George saw in her in the first place.

The other occurring plot line throughout For Once In My Life was the belief that you can’t be your very best until you’re with the person you love. While that sounds good, it just didn’t translate well in the novel. Tess, who loves vintage fashion, collects it meticulously and hates her day job, has always wanted to own a clothing store. Yet, instead of this becoming a potential plot line that would have entertained and interested me, it doesn’t happen until the final chapter of the book – and only because she has finally found the person she should be with. While I’m all for the belief that your partner should encourage you in your dreams, I also found it unreasonable and a tad ridiculous that Tess needed George to open her vintage store, which I might add, was a roaring success and completely drama-free. Yawn.

Overall though, it is an entertaining light read and a feel-good novel. Though at times it is disheartening to see Tess and George stay with other people who are obviously NOT their soul mates, For Once In My Life showed a different kind of love story that while a bit silly, was also rather accurate. Many people have fallen in love with the wrong person, settled for second best, or been unable to be with their true love due to circumstance, distance or just bad timing. Though most of these stories may not end in a happily ever after, it leaves a nice, warm fuzzy feeling when Tess and George get theirs.


Have you read For Once In My Life? What’s your favourite love story? Let me know!

for once in my life by marianne kavanagh

For Once In My Life – (image taken from