Okay, how much do I love this book?! The Happy Ever After Playlist begins with a meet-cute facilitated by an adorable dog jumping into the heroine’s car. As if that weren’t enough to make me melt, we then have the hero admitting that he loves his dog like his own child. As a cat mom myself, I absolutely fell in love with both Sloan and Jason within the first couple of chapters. As their long-distance flirtation deepened over their shared love for Tucker the dog, I very quickly found myself eager for them to find their happily ever after.
Sloan and Jason had the cutest chemistry together. I remember taking a while to warm up to Kristin and Josh in The Friend Zone — I hated the whole ‘not like other girls’ vibe, and their flirtation felt more snarky/angsty than flirty/swoony at times — but I fell in love with Sloan and Jason almost immediately. I’m still not too keen on their shared love for hunting, but that’s a personal bias rather than a book flaw.
I love that the will-they/won’t-they question of Sloan and Jason getting together was based on a very real predicament: Sloan was still grieving the death of her fiance, and struggled to be able to move on. Jason very quickly decided he wanted Sloan in his life, but was dealing with a major career shift and had to decide if being with him at this time would be best for Sloan. Despite some heavy issues to work through, the first half of the book was very much a fun and fluffy rom com that was just a pleasure to read.
The second half switched to a more serious exploration of how Sloan and Jason can actually fit into each other’s real lives, and the story became even stronger for it. I love that Jimenez explored both the swoony heart-racing aspects of falling in love and the harsh realities that real life goes beyond the swoon.
Jason is a singer on the verge of stardom, and Sloan is an artist who has to figure out if she can actually live with the touring rock star life style. Jimenez does a great job of showing the physical and psychological toll that touring takes on Sloan, and the immediate improvement when she takes a vacation to focus on her artwork. We also see Jason’s dilemma, how he quickly tires of the touring / stardom aspect of his career, but has worked too hard to give it up easily. Neither of them is a jerk about it — both are incredibly supportive of each other’s happiness and respective careers; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make a difficult situation work.
There was also a subplot about Jason being stalked and Sloan being targeted. The prime suspect is Jason’s ex Lola, whose flagging career could use a boost from Jason’s rise, but as this thread develops, it begins to move away from the jealous ex trope to a more expansive critique of celebrity culture and the superstardom industry. This was probably my least favourite part of the book — I’m meh on the jealous ex trope in general, though I did like how things eventually turned out. But I found this plot thread to be somewhat melodramatic and unnecessary, especially given all the very real issues that Sloan and Jason were already working through without it.
There’s also an author’s note where Jimenez explains that she’d written this before The Friend Zone, which I appreciated. I thought that Sloan’s fiance dying in The Friend Zone was totally random and unnecessary, and apparently some other readers felt the same, but the author’s note explained that because she’d written Playlist first but Friend Zone came first chronologically, that twist was necessary.
Overall, I loved The Happily Ever After Playlist. From the best ever meet-cute over a dog to a delightfully cheesy over-the-top resolution, this story was super sweet and cute and feel-good.
Thank you to Forever Romance for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.