Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Hopeless Romantic, by Harriet Evans

I made my yearly trek to Arkansas last weekend to visit Sarah, a friend from HG and AHA that I keep in contact with most every day. We are both avid readers, so when I spied all the books on her shelves, we began talking about the ones she had read and loved. This book made it into my suitcase with the promise from Sarah "you will love her!". And of course, she was right! I'm not good at judging modern fiction, ie- I'll pick one and it's crap, so I scurry back to the period romances novels and my safe haven. This time, I trusted Sarah to know me well enough, and now I have another favorite author!

Laura is twenty-eight, and a hopeless romantic who accepted as she is by her friends and family. She lives for love and is swept off her feet quite easily. Her friends are used to this, and even tease her about it somewhat. Laura falls for Dan, a friend who she meets at the tube stop every morning. Dan has a girlfriend, but this doesn't stop him from spending more and more time with Laura. Laura falls for him, and it's easy to see why with Dan carrying on about how much he wants her, and for several months she becomes a different person. Her life revolves around Dan and when he can stop by to see her after being out at the pubs most of the night. This also affects her job and her friendships. She shares him with his girlfriend Amy, who is mostly out of the picture. Deep down Laura knows what she is doing is wrong, but Dan is so sweet to her, and tells her that he will end it with Amy as soon as he can, so she pushes her doubts aside. The shoe drops when Amy turns up pregnant, bringing their relationship to a screeching halt. Laura is devastated- not only is her personal life in shambles, she learns that she has been suspended from her job for her lack of performance- which is a direct result from her relationship with Dan. Laura makes a decision to turn her life around, and *gasp* throws out her romance movies and novels (including her Jane Austen collection, I had to stop reading for a moment to recover) intent on ending her wild romantic streak and becoming a responsible adult.

To start on her endeavor, she goes on holiday with her family to Norfolk for her grandmother's birthday. Laura's grandmother Mary is a spunky and elegant eighty-five year old with stories of her deceased husband and their exciting life. She is also very inquisitive when it comes to her granddaughter. Despite Laura swearing off men and romance, Mary always tells her to not give up completely. A trip to Chartley Hall changes things abruptly. Laura meets Nick, the estate manager, who just happens to be gorgeous and they hit it off. However, Laura is off romance, so she treads a little too carefully around Nick. Regardless of this, she begins to fall for him. Nick is not quite who he seems to be, and when Laura realizes who he is, she is convinced it could never work and runs. She spends several months pining away for Nick, doing exactly what she tried not to do. What she doesn't realize is that Nick is doing the same thing. Their lack of communication is frustrating at times!  At the risk of revealing everything, I will stop here.  All ends well, do not fret!

There are many characters in this book that make the story what it is- Yorky, her flatmate who is obsessed with the girl downstairs; Jo, her best friend who is happily married and can see right through her; Charles, Nick's friend and instigator; Simon, the traveling brother and her parents, along with several other family members and friends. They all play their own little part in getting Laura and Nick in together.

There were times as I was reading that I saw a little bit of Bridget Jones in Laura, and there is one scene near the end of the novel that resembles a scene from the movie. I absolutely loved the book, although the ending, while appropriate for Laura's story, left me wanting a bit more. I found myself laughing out loud at some parts and crying at others, which of course is why I would recommend this novel to everyone! Harriet Evans is a very real writer, and I could imagine all the scenes with clarity. You really get into the characters and their individual quirks, which made for a very enjoyable read!

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