Monday, June 24, 2013

Must Read Monday: The Runaway Year

Title: The Runaway Year
Author: Shani Struthers
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars

The Runaway Year

From the book:

Bridget Jones meets The Holiday:

Dumped by her hotshot boyfriend and boss, Layla Lewis quits her job and heads to Trecastle in North Cornwall to house-sit for a friend-of-a-friend. Trecastle isn’t new to her; it's a place where she holidayed regularly with her now-estranged mother. It’s also the home of Hannah McKenzie, her childhood friend. Hannah has tempted her with a place to live and a job in the local pub. Needing time to nurse her battered heart and escape her “real life” for a year, Layla accepts.

Hannah is a talented artist as well as a barmaid. She lives in the village center with her boyfriend Jim, a singer in a local band. They are happy together, or as happy as they can be, considering. Hannah loves Jim, but there is someone she loves more and it’s pushing them to breaking point.

Meanwhile, back in Brighton, Layla’s fiery yet loyal friend Penny seeks revenge on her behalf, sending a forged email that could damage her ex’s business prospects. Penny wonders if she has gone too far but is soon preoccupied with her own problems: the sizzle has fizzled in her marriage, and she feels neglected. After getting frisky with Dylan one night, she confesses all to her husband—and he’s been like ice ever since.

Over the course of a year, there is laughter and heartache as all three endeavor to reign in their tumultuous love lives—discovering you can run all you like, but if it’s love you’re up against, true love, good things can only happen when you stand your ground.

My review:

Oh my, where to start?! Let's start with what could be problematic for American readers (okay, probably many others, too): Accent. This book takes place in Brighton and Trecastle, both in England (happy sigh) and the language reflects this; however, the accent isn't written out (if you read Scottish romances, you'll understand when I say painful doesn't begin to describe what too many "Och, laddie!"s can do). If you're completely unfamiliar with British English, some of the words might make you pause and say, "What's that mean?"

Cultural differences aside, you won't be taken out of the story; in fact, you'll probably be pulled even further into it, because the characters created are as real as they get. They are beautifully flawed, wonderfully sharp women who are trying to figure out what they want from what they've got. 

Love isn't easy, as the only married one, Penny, discovers. Her marriage is derailed after she snogs (that's "makes out" over this side of the Pond) Dylan. She accepts responsibility for it, but also hefts quite a bit of blame onto her husband, Richard, who works some crazy hours and neglects her. They had a hot and steamy romance before they were married...and it takes the entirety of the year for Penny to realize that Richard is in it for the long haul. They have to work hard to prove it to each other, though, and their story is a very well-crafted subplot.

Hannah has a man who is rare indeed - he loves and adores her enough to accept that he's her second-best. She feels guilty about that, but as Jim never makes a big deal out of it, Hannah tries to bury her feelings about her former boyfriend. The evolution of Hannah is drawn out in such a realistic way, that when she finally figures out what she wants from her life, you're cheering (literally out loud, in my case) for her to grab life by the horns and live it.

The main character, Layla, is probably the most flawed. She's in love with her boss, who's callously dumped her for a new intern. He's so slimy - everyone around her can see it, but she keeps her blinders on. He's an older man, and it's suggested by both Penny and Hannah that she looks to older men because of her daddy issues (her father died when she was young). While Layla doesn't blow that notion off completely, she does stand by her actions and decisions as her own - and I can really respect a character like that. When Layla meets Joe, the attraction is instant, and, for Layla, is scary. She's supposed to be getting over her love, but the feelings Joe stirs up make her question quite a bit about herself.

When Layla is (finally) ready to tell Joe how she feels, the poor girl is besieged by outside influences that fall into the story so naturally, even you start to get annoyed with the people around her (who, just pages earlier, you were laughing with and enjoying). The twists involving Joe and Layla, Joe and Hannah,Joe and Penny, Layla and Alex (her boss/ex), Layla and Mick (one of her friends, who's also friends with Joe and Hannah - oh yeah, the secondary characters aren't just fluff in this book!)....the misunderstandings are interesting, they're believable, and they are numerous. 

After a just-long-enough ride of emotional ups and downs, obstacles (internal and external) and miscommunications, the ending of this novel - for all characters - is just how it should be. Happy sigh, indeed.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased and truthful review. I also lived in England and, by default, am predisposed to loving British women's fiction. :) 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nancy, huge thanks for featuring The Runaway Year on your Must Read Monday slot - I'm so glad you liked it. Yep, Layla, she needed a good shaking at times but hey, don't we all on occasion?! I'm also glad the accent issues didn't alienate you but drew you further in to the story. I really am on cloud 9 that you liked it.