The Happy Ever Playlist opens with a near-miss: Sloan almost hits a dog that runs out into the street. (No dogs were harmed in the production of this novel.) When a policeman pulls her over, she ends up taking in the obviously neglected dog to save him from the pound and then she tries to find the dog's real owner. Many phone calls later, she finally hears back from Jason, a singer-songwriter who's been on location in Australia and without cell service and left his dog, Tucker, with a person who turns out to be horrible and left after just a couple of days.
Sloan's fiancé died two years prior and she's never really come back to herself, but meeting Tucker (the dog) jolts her into action and during the month she has him, she starts to feel more like herself. I liked that she doesn't regain her happiness because of Jason, but because of a change in routine and a dog who forces her out of her house. Jason recently signed with a record label and is about to go on tour for several months, so as the relationship between the two main characters grows, the looming separation causes most of the romantic conflict. Sloan's late fiancé continues to be a good person in Sloan's memory and Jason never tries to replace him, another good thing.
Secondary characters, including the couple from Jimenez's The Friend Zone and Jason's close-knit family, keep the book from falling into the much-used angsty rockstar trap and Jimenez's authorial voice and humor throughout keep Sloan's grief from taking over her narrative. At one point, Sloan reflects on the fact that Jason's career requires him to be on the road constantly, while she, as a painter, needs to stand still. It's a quick moment, but it's reflective of so much of their trouble, in large part because after grieving the loss of one man for two years, Sloan doesn't want to build her life around a different man.
One note: there's an Evil Ex subplot and I was worried about how it would be resolved, but Jimenez flips it and I ended up happy instead of angry at the portrayal of this other character.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Happy Ever After Playlist and I plan to bump up The Friend Zone on my TBR list.
Suzanne received a digital audiobook copy of this book for review via the publisher and Libro.fm.
Content Warnings: grief, past: death of fiancé, stalking/harassment, pregnancy, secondary character with fertility issues (first book)