Harri Ryan has a panic attack and ends up at the hospital instead of at the altar. This is the second time she has missed her own wedding and fiance James can't take a third try, having packed his belongings and left before she even returns from the hospital. But Harri's panic attacks seem to be connected to something a lot deeper than just cold feet. What Harri learns when she confronts her parents changes her whole life and also that of her twin George. In full fledged retreat from her family, Harri must learn who she is and how she will go forward with the information they've given her.
Harri's story is interwoven with the diary of a young teenaged girl who lives with an abusive step-father and a broken mother. The connection between the two tales builds gradually, easily becoming clear to the reader early on. It is to McPartlin's credit that this transparency doesn't change the reader's desire to hear the outcome of both Harri and Liv's stories. And she still manages to give a neat and unexpected twist to the outcome.
For the most part, I was caught up in the story but it did run on a bit more than I would have liked. I'm also not certain that I think Harri's panic attacks could be traced back to this old scandal and the secretive way it was buried given her age when it occurred but I suppose the unconscious does some crazy, unexplainable things. Even if I don't buy the origins of Harri's panic attacks, I still think that McPartlin has managed to capture the essence of panic attacks and of debilitating depression. And it's hard not to root for Harri to overcome both in order to win back James. His character is not present enough in the book to feel complete but Harri's family and the way that they each react not only to the revelation but to her response is eminently believable. Each of them suffers and each of them deserves pity, just as she does, working through their shared new reality. The book is well-written and deals with a darker subject than the chick-lit cover would indicate and I liked it for the most part even though it took me longer than it should have to get through it.